Sweet Sioux trophy should be buried in Illinois soil

By Allyson Kloster

Northwestern shouldn’t have the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy. Quite frankly, the trophy shouldn’t have been retired in the first place. But since it was, no school should have it.

Instead, we should bury the hatchet … err … tomahawk.

Let me explain.

For 63 years, the winner of the Illinois-Northwestern football game brought the trophy home for the year. But before this season’s game, both schools determined Northwestern would take the trophy up Interstate 57 to Evanston. Not just for the year. For-ev-ver.

The decision was made by Illinois’ Board of Trustees, who, through the chancellor’s office, directed the athletic department to retire the trophy out of respect for the Native American community.

    Join Our Newsletter

    We’re bound to disagree on whether or not the tomahawk is offensive. But we should at least take a page from the Native Americans’ book in how we retire it.

    We should take page 283 of the Grolier Encyclopedia of Knowledge. It says that at the end of Native American hostilities, the tomahawk was frequently buried as part of the peace ceremony to indicate the end of a disagreement.

    I suggest we do the same.

    Instead of laying the tomahawk to rest behind a thin plane of Plexiglas in some Evanston building, it should be deep inside the state’s cold, choppy soil.

    This seems to be a fitting way to retire the tomahawk, since it will give supporters and detractors of the trophy a chance to bury the hatchet after clashing over the issue for years.

    (In case you were wondering, the term “bury the hatchet” stems from the Native American ritual of burying the tomahawk. So my cheesy pun is fitting as well.)

    Removing the trophy is not the issue. It’s understandable. The trustees probably wanted consistency in their NCAA-mandated stance against hostile and abusive Native American imagery. If they didn’t remove the tomahawk, it might look like they were picking and choosing what imagery to remove.

    But if the trophy isn’t buried – and Northwestern gets to keep it – the trustees and the NCAA will seem hypocritical.

    If the tomahawk is so offensive, and if Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips is truthful when he says, “Out of tremendous respect for the Native American community as well as for Illinois and Northwestern, this was the right thing to do,” why should any college under the jurisdiction of the NCAA be able to hold onto the trophy? What makes Northwestern the exception? Last time I checked, offensive is offensive.

    But I don’t think the tomahawk is offensive.

    Perhaps if we called the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk the Sweet European Commercially-Sold-Faux-Tomahawk, it’d be less offensive. Although tomahawks were created by Native Americans, the bladed weapon we have come to know and recognize is, in fact, a product of the Europeans, manufactured to sell to Native Americans. The trophy has a blade, not a stone ball used by early Native Americans. If we acknowledged that Native American weaponry was exploited by colonialists, would it be OK to still trade the trophy?

    In this day and age, anything can be offensive. It is impossible to find where the line is drawn. You could say that Illibuck, the trophy traded between Illinois and Ohio State, is offensive. It is now a wooden tortoise, but was originally a real turtle. Talk about ignorance. Where’s PETA?

    Although it’s good to be sensitive toward others’ feelings, I don’t understand how the tomahawk trophy is offensive. Nor do I understand why the line was drawn in Champaign, but not in Northwestern.

    Just because the trophy will no longer be hoisted above the head of an overzealous football player, doesn’t mean it’ll be taken off display. The only way to make sure no one is offended is to bury the hatchet under a patch of grass, out of sight.

    Allyson Kloster is a senior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]