Dialogue on Chief helpful

By Lydia Khuri

I appreciate the resurgent debate about the Chief and the variety of proposed solutions to the dilemma. Although I believe in the need for long-standing traditions, we squarely have to face the contradiction of continuing to use an image of an Indian to unite our campus. I actually do understand the depth of feeling associated with the Chief and the desire to represent qualities that we admire. These community needs are not the problem. It’s the symbol, yet the symbol is not accidental nor is Illinois unique in projecting physical and spiritual superiority onto Indians. However, the symbol also perpetuates a stereotypical image of “the Indian.” It does not do any good for those on whom it is based and it miseducates all of us. In this regard, it does not matter whether Chief Illiniwek is meant to honor or demean. In “honoring the Chief,” we are actually honoring certain qualities that we project onto the symbol and believe are reflected back onto us by being a part of this institution. Even though it feels like it, getting rid of the Chief does not mean getting rid of those qualities we need to have represented on a community level. It just means we may be afloat for a little while until another symbol can take root as deeply as this one had. It may feel forced, but this one could be arrived at with much more conscientious and conscious consideration.

Lydia Khuri

program coordinator Intersections and Global Crossroads Living Learning Communities