Dancing at Halftime: Sports and the Controversy Over American Indian Mascots

Carol Spindel, Author New York University Press $70 (308p) ISBN 978-0-8147-8126-5
""For starters, I simply wanted to understand why, at the university where I taught, a student dressed up as an Indian named Chief Illiniwek and danced at sports events."" It wasn't long, however, before Spindel broadened her inquiry, tackling the history of the real Illiniwek tribe, the role of Indian mascots in American sporting events and the reasons why non-Indian-Americans are so attached to an image of Indians that exists only in mythology. An English professor at the University of Illinois, Spindel began by asking her students to write essays on the chief, only to find that they knew next to nothing about the history of the real Illiniweks. Deftly mixing descriptions of the chief's halftime performances with her own historical argument, Spindel shows how the university mascot derives from the turn-of-the-century Wild West Shows that brought such notable figures as Buffalo Bill around the country. She also observes how prevalent Indian figures remain in both college (Florida Seminoles) and professional sports (Atlanta Braves, Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians). Avoiding academic jargon, Spindel writes convincingly about how her research has helped her to understand attitudes toward American Indians. While many fans of professional sports would benefit by reading this book--as a way to understand why many find it offensive to do tomahawk chops--the book's focus on only one university may limit its appeal. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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Paperback - 308 pages - 978-0-8147-8127-2
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