Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reese Response to Schmitt Letter in DI

[UPDATE, OCT 1, 2009: The wrote and posted the entry below yesterday. As you read it now, you will see several lines crossed out. Explanation is at the end of the post, in red font.]

The Daily Illini printed a letter today, written by Paul Schmitt.  My responses to his remarks are in bold.

Schmitt wrote:

"Beyond all the yelling, intimidation, and name-calling associated with the protests of Students for Chief Illiniwek's "the Next Dance", the Friday, Oct. 2nd event promises to deliver to all students one thing: an opportunity to learn about University of Illinois traditions and more importantly the restoration of a culture that is likely not their own."
Will you tell students all you know about the "tradition" you revere? 

Will you tell students that at the time during which the "tradition" started, it was illegal for American Indians to engage in their spiritual and religious practices? 

Will you tell students that Frank Fools Crow did not approve of the way the university was using the regalia it purchased from him?

Will you tell students that his family went before the Executive Committee of the Oglala Tribal Council (Fools Crow was Oglala) and asked them to request the regalia be returned?

Will you tell students that the tribe passed a resolution, delivered to the campus administrators, asking that it be returned?

Will you tell students that a few weeks after that request, the "chief" was officially retired?

Schmitt wrote:
"As an alumnus, former president of SFCI, and former, cloutless member of the Board of Trustees, I encourage all students, regardless of perspective, to attend the free event at the Assembly Hall to expand their perspectives on what once was considered a stagnant debate. The keynote speaker, Mr. Glenn Barnhill, also known as Red Knife, will be speaking on his efforts to restore his own cultural heritage through the Grand Village of the Kickapoo project."
What is this event about, Schmitt? Education? About American Indians? 

There are courses offered by which students can learn that information. Courses taught by Robert Warrior, LeAnne Howe, Jodi Byrd, Matthew Gilbert, John Lowe, and myself, all of whom are tribally enrolled in our respective tribes. Each one of us is active in our tribal nations. Each one of us has a PhD in our area of study. 

Do you, Schmitt, really think that students can learn much from a man who is trying to regain his heritage through participation in a HOBBYIST movement? Goings-on at the "Grand Village of the Kickapoo" were, a few years ago, attended by Kickapoo Indians who no longer live in Illinois. Hobbyist Indians out numbered them, and they quit coming to the Grand Village. Glenn Barnhill's intent may be good, but aligning himself with pro-chief organizations is a step in the wrong direction. How much is Barnhill being paid to attend? 

Remember the Shoshone guy who helped your groups a few years ago? Remember how his tribe sanctioned him for doing that? 

Schmitt wrote:
"If you attend this event you are not a racist, you are not a bigot, and you don't have a closed mind—quite the opposite actually. Student for Chief Illiniwek is offering the UI community an opportunity to look into a different, legitimate cultural perspective and celebrate the University's rich heritage. If you're looking for indoctrinization and closed mindedness, you're better off joining the people who will be picketing outside."
What "different, legitimate cultural perspective" is that, Schmitt? 

Students may not be racist or bigoted or close-minded, but they are definitely ignorant of the history and present-day concerns of American Indians. 

There is a history of people looking for Indians who will validate their positions, their goals, etc. 

Mr. Barnhill may not realize who the students who've invited him are, and what their goals are. 

Government agents looking for an Indian man who would sign a treaty, and today, people looking for Indians to bring on board to projects that benefit from having a Native face. Or, in the case of mascot issues, looking for an Indian to say "this is a good thing." 

One of the former trustees, David Doris, was looking pretty hard for a Native person to validate UIUC's mascot. Doris is tied to the Kickapoo group in some way. When the Kickapoo grounds were purchased, Doris wanted students (he implied he meant Native students) to use the grounds for ceremonial purposes. He was determined, it seemed, to find a way to get UIUC an endorsement from an Indian organization.

For me to blast Barnhill is unfair. I do not know him. 

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