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Subject:  [mascot_mini] Re: exerpts from the SSILA Bulletin
Date:  Wed, 04 Aug 1999 09:21:19 -0400
From: Ish <>


* SSILA Summer Meeting: SSILA's Chief Illiniwek resolution *


The Society held its 1999 Summer Meeting on the campus of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Friday and Saturday, July 9-10, in conjunction with the 1999 Linguistic Institute. A welcoming reception was held on Friday evening, and papers were read during morning and afternoon sessions on Saturday. (See SSILA Bulletin #90 for authors and titles).

At the conclusion of the afternoon session a Summer Business Meeting was held. The only topic on the agenda was discussion of the Society's position on the controversy surrounding the University of Illinois mascot, a caricature figure of a Plains Indian known as "Chief Illiniwek". For several years, Native Americans have been calling for the removal of this offensive symbol, along with similarly offensive mascots, team names, and logos used by college and professional sports teams across the US. In the weeks leading up to the meeting the SSILA Executive Committee was contacted by representatives of several Native American organizations, as well as by a number of individuals, asking us to cancel the meeting and boycott the University of Illinois until the issue was resolved. The Executive Committee, after lengthy deliberation -- which included discussing the matter with University of Illinois and Linguistic Institute faculty and administrative staff -- decided to proceed with the meeting, but to make open discussion of the mascot a major part of the conference. On Wednesday evening preceding the meeting approximately 30 Linguistic Institute faculty and students attending a showing of a film on "Chief Illiniwek", followed by a vigorous debate. This continued at the business meeting on Friday, resulting in the unanimous adoption of the following resolution:

We, the members of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas, urge the administration and trustees of the University of Illinois to replace their "Chief Illiniwek" symbol with one that does not promote inaccurate, anachronistic,  and damaging stereotypes of Native American people, or indeed members of any minority group.

Vice-President/President-Elect Sally Thomason, who chaired the meeting, added the following comments in her formal letter to the University of Illinois administration and trustees:

The "Chief Illiniwek" issue has already had a negative impact on this summer's Linguistic Institute, which is co-sponsored by the Linguistic Society of America and the University of Illinois.  After learning about this issue, one student left the Institute immediately, and several others said that they would not have come to this university if they had known in advance about the university's "chief" symbol. This is just one indication tha this issue is damaging the University of Illinois's reputation as a leading educational institution.

SSILA will not return to the University of Illinois campus as long as this symbol exists, and we will urge our professiona organizations, beginning with the Linguistic Society of America and the American Anthropological Association, to join us in this resolve.

Given that the University of Illinois is an official state institution, we will also encourage our professional organizations not to schedule future conferences in the state of Illinois.

SSILA's position on The Chief was the topic of a press conference on Tuesday July 13, was discussed in a radio interview the following day,  and received considerable newspaper coverage. In addition to Sally Thomason, the spokespersons for SSILA included Emmon Bach (Past President of the LSA), Katie Fraser (from the Nuuchanulh First Nation), Marianne Mithun, and Pat Shaw.