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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Stupid white guy tries to make a point.

Mark Risley writes a column, Deep Post, for CollegeFootballNews.com. Under the section titled"The Ten Most Thought-Provoking Events within the Past Eight Months..." he lists the following as number 8.

8) The Chief Illiniwek controversy - Some interest groups think that having an Indian Chief as a mascot is an inappropriate way to represent the university and the American Indian population. Alrighty, then. Not to take sides, here, but isn't the state name derived from a Native American (Algonquin) term, which means "warrior"? As a good friend once suggested, maybe we should just rename the "University of Illinois", and call it "The University of 40 degrees, 6 minutes and 47 seconds North latitude, and 88 degrees 15 minutes 40 seconds West longitude". In other words, let's keep everything in the proper perspective, folks.


Notice how he states that "some interest groups think that having an Indian Chief as a mascot is an inappropriate way to represent the university and the American Indian Population." This is the language used by those who want to diminish Native Peoples as Nations and would rather characterize them as "interest groups." The author has no idea that Native Peoples come from nations that have their own languages, territories, customs, traditions, spirituality etc. He instead believes them to be the equivalent of the College Republicans.

Next, he states that the name Illinois is derived from an Algonquin word for "warrior." A quick visit to the Illinois State Museum website would have informed him of the following.
The Illinois or Illiniwek Nation consisted of several independent American Indian tribes that spoke a common language, had similar ways of life, and shared a large territory in the central Mississippi River valley. The Illinois called themselves "inoca." French explorers and missionaries generally referred to them as "Illinois," but also used some other terms (Eriniouai, Liniouek, Aliniouek, Iliniouek, Ilinois, and Ilinoués).

According to Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit missionary who visited them in 1673, the word "Illinois" meant "the men." However, recent studies of the Illinois language indicate that "Illinois" may have instead come indirectly from the Illinois word "irenweewa," which means "he speaks in the ordinary way." Objibwa Indians of the eastern Great Lakes evidently borrowed this term from the Illinois and used it as a name for them, but in their language irenweewa became ilinwe. French explorers learned the name from the Ojibwa and spelled it "Ilinois" or "Illinois."

I'm not going to claim that the Illinois State Museum is the final authority on the matter, but their explanation should have caused the author to study the origin of the word further.

Risley finishes with As a good friend once suggested, maybe we should just rename the "University of Illinois", and call it "The University of 40 degrees, 6 minutes and 47 seconds North latitude, and 88 degrees 15 minutes 40 seconds West longitude". In other words, let's keep everything in the proper perspective, folks.

Actually, if he were to believe that the word Illinois means "warrior," wouldn't he simply call it the University of Warriors instead of using a geographic description for the state? Also, the issue isn't with the name of the Univesity, it's with the mascot. It seems like such a simple concept to grasp, but it's one that completely passes Risley by.

I do agree that we should keep everything in it's proper perspective. I took Risley's admonishment to heart and, after rereading his column, I changed the original titile from "Mark Risley ruminates about the Illiniwek Controversy" to the one that now appears on the blog.



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