RIGHTING A WRONG IN WHOSE HONOR? DIRECTED BY JAY ROSENSTEIN; JULY 15, 10 P.M., PBS

July 13, 1997

Rosenstein's poignant, hour-long documentary makes clear the
lunacy of sports teams' appropriating Native American names and
symbols. In taking up the battle against nicknames like Braves
and Chiefs, Rosenstein uses footage of mascots and white fans
inanely dancing around dressed as Indians. He also exposes the
arguments of people like Rich Winkel, an Illinois state
representative who in 1995 sponsored a bill that would keep
Chief Illiniwek as the University of Illinois's mascot. "We have
a rich heritage in this country, especially over the past few
decades, of protecting minority rights," Winkel says. "But
minority rights aren't always right."

Not all defenders of the Fighting Illini are so diplomatic.
"This school," says a tailgater, "shouldn't cave in to
out-of-state foreigners."

The star of the film is Charlene Teters, a Spokane Indian who in
1989, while a student at Illinois, had the misfortune of taking
her two children to an Illini basketball game. At halftime she
first witnessed Illiniwek, a man costumed in a gaudy feather
headdress, leather skins and a year's supply of facial paint.
His dance--sort of M.C. Hammer meets Richard Simmons meets Biff
the town idiot--was supposed to recall an Indian ritual. It
failed miserably. "My kids just sank in their seats," Teters
says in a tearful interview. "I saw my daughter trying to become
invisible."

The rest of the documentary zooms in on Teters's stirring rise
from neophyte protester to, as an ally puts it, "the Rosa Parks
of Native Americans." That may be hyperbole, but there is
powerful footage of Teters facing fellow Illinois students as
they chant, "Pick another school!" Rosenstein, a novice
filmmaker who began the project while studying at Illinois,
deftly mixes such charged moments with evocative black-and-white
photographs of Native Americans.

Since 1989, due in part to Teters's persistence, at least six
colleges have changed their nicknames, and now even nonbelievers
are hard-pressed to rebut Teters's point--though they try. "We
don't do any kind of mascot antics," says Jeff Beckham, who wore
the Illiniwek get-up in '94. "We keep everything very honorable
and dignified."

--JEFF PEARLMAN

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
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