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Book cover: Studies in Symbolic Interaction

Studies in Symbolic Interaction

ISSN: 0163-2396
Series editor(s): Professor Norman Denzin

Subject Area: Sociology and Public Policy

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“Leutwiler's Indian”: Creating the “Chief” tradition at the university of Illinois

Document Information:
Title:“Leutwiler's Indian”: Creating the “Chief” tradition at the university of Illinois
Author(s):Jennifer Guiliano
Volume:34 Editor(s): Norman K. Denzin ISBN: 978-1-84950-960-2 eISBN: 978-1-84950-961-9
Citation:Jennifer Guiliano (2010), “Leutwiler's Indian”: Creating the “Chief” tradition at the university of Illinois, in Norman K. Denzin (ed.) Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Volume 34), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.33-55
DOI:10.1108/S0163-2396(2010)0000034006 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item

At the core of Illinois’ alteration of the discursively embodied mascot is the vibrant nature of the historical memory of Pennsylvania's formation articulated following William Penn's death. Historian James Merrell has charted English and colonialists’ historical amnesia: “Beginning shortly after the Founder's death in 1718, medals struck in England depicted Penn shaking hands with some Indian or, seated beneath a tree on a sunny day, passing the native a peace pipe across a cheerful fire…” (Merrell, 1999, p. 29). Benjamin West's 1771 painting William Penn's Treaty with the Indians visually articulated similar historical amnesia associated with Indian-white relations. “On an autumn day in 1682, the legend goes, William Penn met leaders of the Lenapes to settle a unique treaty of peace and amity. According to the story told and retold during the subsequent centuries, the Native people quickly lost their initial fear when they met Penn and his unarmed company in the diffuse morning light” (Spady, 2004, p. 19; Jennings, 1964). Benjamin West believed that the “savages [were] brought into harmony and peace by justice and benevolence” and “a conquest that was made over native peoples without sword or dagger” (Spady, 2004, p. 18). His painting of Lenape Indians suggested strong classical European influences that elided the actual appearance and exchange between Lenape and William Penn's treaty party. Historian James O’Neil Spady writes, “the story of Pennsylvania's benevolent origins is an allegory of colonialism propagated by Penn and later colonists that has obscured the significance of both the severe disruption of Lenape [Indian] life that Pennsylvania created and the resistance of some Lenapes to that disruption” (Spady, 2004, p. 19). In historical memory, the effects of colonialism virtually disappear under the weight of the myth of the founding of Pennsylvania as a site of religious freedom with Penn as the icon of the compassionate father. “These fundamental contradictions in American identity and history – the tension between the ideal of a free and democratic nation and the reality of racial hierarchies, the discrepancy between the myth of peaceful expansion and the history of bloody conquest – reemerge again and again in the cultural imagination. It is, perhaps, for this reason that European Americans have always been obsessed with stories of the nation's origins, repeatedly retelling and reconfiguring their collective past in self-justifying ways” (Huhndorf, 2001, p. 11).

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