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


Sports fans love to don paint & feathers to cheer on the Washington Redskins & the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, the Florida State Seminoles, & the Warriors & Chiefs of their hometown high schools. But outside the stadiums, American Indians aren't cheering--they're yelling racism. School boards & colleges are bombarded with emotional demands from both sides, while professional teams find themselves in court defending the right to trademark their Indian names & logos. In the face of opposition by a national anti-mascot movement, why are fans so determined to retain the fictional chiefs who plant flaming spears & dance on the fifty-yard line? To answer this question, Dancing at Halftime takes the reader on a journey through the American imagination where our thinking about American Indians has been, & is still being, shaped. Dancing at Halftime is the story of Carol Spindel's determination to understand why her adopted town is so passionately attached to Chief Illiniwek, the American Indian mascot of the University of Illinois. She rummages through our national attic, holding dusty souvenirs from world's fairs & wild west shows, Edward Curtis photographs, Boy Scout handbooks, & faded football programs up to the light. Outside stadiums, while American Indian Movement protestors burn effigies, she listens to both activists & the fans who resent their attacks. Inside hearing rooms & high schools, she poses questions to linguists, lawyers, & university alumni. A work of both persuasion & compassion, Dancing at Halftime reminds us that in America, where Pontiac is a car & Tecumseh a summer camp, Indians are often our symbolic servants, functioning as mascots & metaphors that express our longings to become "native" Americans, & to feel at home in our own land.


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