The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Jay Rosenstein, director of ‘In Whose Honor?’ talks native mascots in sports

Aidan Miller-Hisgen

Jay Rosenstein, Professor Emeritus and Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, spoke about the creation and legacy of his documentary, “In Whose Honor?,” at the University YMCA Friday.

The talk was a part of the University YMCA’s Friday Forum + Conversation Café, a weekly forum in which members of the public are invited to learn about and discuss a selected issue. 

Released in 1997, “In Whose Honor?” explores the harms of using Native mascots in sports, focusing on the University of Illinois’ Chief Illiniwek. The film highlights the experiences of Charlene Teters, a Native American artist and former graduate student at the University, in her efforts to protest Chief Illiniwek. 

The film is widely regarded as being significant in the push to remove Native mascots, including Chief Illiniwek, from sports.

Rosenstein began the forum by talking about his understanding of Native people, both as a child and through adulthood. Rosenstein, a University alum himself, shared how growing up, his understanding of Native people was based solely on popular culture, including Chief Illiniwek, and he had no real experiences with them. 

“I’d been to many football games, many basketball games, and I’d seen Chief Illiniwek many times, and I really never thought about it anyway or another,” Rosenstein said.

This changed, however, when Rosenstein, while at the YMCA, heard a group of Native people, including Teters, speaking about their experiences on campus. According to Rosenstein, that talk was the inspiration for his documentary. 

“This is the room where ‘In Whose Honor?’ began in 1989 or 90 … and the trajectory of my life changed forever,” Rosenstein said. “After hearing (Teters) talk, I was really stunned, and at that time, I was just starting to study documentary, and so I had this idea, which was, ‘This might make for a great film.’”

Rosenstein then spoke about the process by which he filmed the documentary, some of the issues he encountered and how it felt in the week before its official release, when he realized the impact the documentary would have. 

“All through that week, every newspaper, magazine, every periodical that I picked up had something about this film; it was like the whole country was talking about it,” Rosenstein said. 

PBS officially aired the documentary on July 15, 1997, as a part of its POV series. 

Next, Rosenstein spoke about the national support and backlash for the film. Since its release, “In Whose Honor?” has won several awards and has become an educational resource nationwide for teaching about race in America. 

Showing an image of the University’s 2007 decision to officially retire Chief Illiniwek, Rosenstein spoke about the wider movement to remove Native mascots from sports. 

“I played a small role in this,” Rosenstein said. “I do not want to over-inflate what my role was, but I did play a role, and I am very proud of it. This is a national movement that has gained a huge amount of traction, and the bottom line is we’re winning.”

Rosenstein ended the forum by discussing, in his eyes, the future of the University of Illinois’ mascots and the recent Kingfisher movement. Seeing a connection between what he did with “In Whose Honor?” and the Kingfisher, Rosenstein voiced his support for the new mascot. 

“What they’ve done is proven how hungry people are for a mascot … I am so proud of what they’ve done,” Rosenstein said. “This is becoming, without any official anything, the mascot of U of I.”


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About the Contributor
Aidan Miller-Hisgen
Aidan Miller-Hisgen, Senior Copy Editor
Hi everyone, my name is Aidan Miller-Hisgen and I’m a junior studying Political Science with minors in History and Spanish. I’ve been with The Daily Illini since Fall 2023 working as a news writer before joining the copy team. Outside of school and The DI, I love playing sports, trying out new restaurants and listening to podcasts. Please feel free to reach out to me at any point!
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