Thursday, March 15, 2007

A shock to the system

Hello again readers. A quick pause from the business world, and the life of a staff writer for some personal shocking news…

A quick show of hands. How many of you know who Frank Fools Crow is? Well, I will just bet that not a lot of hands went up. But here is a brief synopsis.

(source: The New York Times)

Frank Fools Crow, a Sioux Tribal Leader
Associated press, November 29, 1989

Frank Fools Crow, a Sioux Indian spiritual leader who helped to negotiate the end of a 68-day insurrection at Wounded Knee, S.D., in 1973, died Monday at the home of his grandchildren. Mr. Fools Crow, whose exact age was not known, was believed to be 99 years old.

He was born near the Wounded Knee Indian Reservation, quitting school in the third grade to work to help his family. As he grew to manhood, he said, he traveled throughout the nation with the Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West show.

In 1973 members of the American Indian Movement seized the village of Wounded Knee, S.D., in an armed revolt to protest the Federal Government's policies on Indians. The seizure lasted 68 days, ending after an agreement was reached between Federal officials and a Sioux delegation of which Mr. Fools Crow was a prominent member. Thomas E. Mails,an artist and ethnologist, wrote his biography,"Fools Crow."

Mr. Fools Crow, a medicine man, had lived with grandchildren near Kyle after the death of his second wife, Kate, in October 1988. His first wife, Fannie Afraid, died in 1954.

Here is another one for you:

Frank Fools Crow, (died 1989) was a Lakota Sioux spiritual leader. He was the nephew of Black Elk. He was the subject of a biography written by James Welsh. In 1975 he was invited to offer a prayer before the United States Senate. In 1983, he presented the fifth and current Chief Illiniwek Indian regalia to the University of Illinois. (source:

Now what many of you do know, I am sure, is about sports teams and their penchant for degrading mascots - teams like “The Washington Redskins”. You may not know this particular mascot – Chief Illiniwek. Chief Illiniwek is the mascot, just retired, thankfully, after decades of pressure on the University of Illinois to do so. Every time I saw “Chief Illiniwek” appearing on the news, having appeared at some U of I sports event, it made me want to vomit on my shoes. Seeing a child prancing around as if he were break dancing on the streets of New York City in American Indian Spiritual clothing to cheer a football game, Something the University of Illinois used to insist was “honoring” American Indians, is nothing short of ludicrous. What it is, is an insult. Whether or not the feathers in the headdress are real is not the point. The regalia which each young man wore was reserved for great spiritual leaders, men of honor and valor. Not a child prancing at a football game.

Then this morning, in an associated press article, I found out that Frank Fools Crow presented the most recent “Chief Illiniwek” regalia to the University of Illinois.

First, I realize some may say that the reason may have been to get real eagle feathers, which are sacred, away from being degraded in such a matter. An article in the Chicago Tribune reports differently (below). The feathers in the regalia where real eagle feathers when they were sold by Frank Fools Crow:

"[Chief Anthony]Whirlwind Horse requested that rather than have an outfit made, we purchase one from Frank Fools Crow, who was destitute at the time and needed the money," Smith said [Gary Smith, director of the Marching Illini from 1976 to 1998]. Smith paid $3,500 for moccasins, a tunic, breastplate, leggings, peace pipe pouch and war bonnet with eagle feathers, according to a May 25, 1982, voucher and other documents.In fall 1982, local businessmen flew Fools Crow, Whirlwind Horse and a representative from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the U. of I. on their private plane. The regalia was presented during a halftime ceremony that included the smoking of a peace pipe, Smith said." - Chicago Tribune, "Illiniwek fight gets a twist" January 21, 2007

What is shocking is to think that someone like Frank Fools Crow would in any way support such a travesty as the mascot for U of I., let alone sell eagle feathers for such a use. I grew up admiring Frank Fools Crow for the great man he was. But it is like being African American, and growing up admiring Dr. Martin Luther King, only to find out that he made the sheets the KKK used for hoods -which is obviously ludicrous.

But, thankfully, the degrading habit that was Chief Illiniwek is soon to be no more.

Good Riddance to Chief Illiniwek

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