Live and let go of the Chief

I found the “piece by Kevin Kaplan”: “With 5-year anniversary of Chief’s last dance comes a change of heart” to be both thoughtful and informative.

As a student at the University of Illinois in the late ‘60s, I loved the Chief. I wanted to be the Chief. I went to pre-tryouts to learn the Chief’s dance and quickly figured out I wasn’t nearly a good enough athlete to ever pull it off. That dance takes a great deal of stamina, athleticism and some artistry.

In the ‘80s, I lived in another state near several Native American reservations. I often spotted bumper stickers which said, “Save a deer, shoot an Indian” because many of the area residents resented Native Americans having hunting rights out of season on their reservations. The hostility was pretty open. That’s when I first realized the level of racism. I quickly began to change my attitude about the Chief. That attitude change was firmly established once I did some research.

I remember well the chills at watching the Chief dance. I understand how a figure like the Chief helps create a very cohesive, exciting and yes, fun, atmosphere for fans. Losing that is hard, especially when nothing really exists to replace it. However, as I’ve aged, I’ve had to give up a number of things which were exciting and fun once I figured out the down side.

We’ve moved on literally in terms of retiring the Chief. Now we need to gradually move on in terms of the more emotional part. Hopefully we can do that without resorting to name-calling or finger pointing from either position. I feel like I’ve lived both sides of the issue, but ultimately we must allow the Chief to go. It’s the only honorable thing to do.

Thanks for the article. It does a nice job encouraging an unemotional dialog.

_Jim Watkins, University of Illinois alumnus_