Prof encourages activism by example

Laura Kennedy

Educating by example, an ISU instructor is teaching students to look deeper into issues to defend for their beliefs.

Devery Fairbanks, temporary instructor of sociology and American Indian studies, has spoken out against negative portrayals of Native Americans in sports.

Fairbanks and other members of the American Indian Movement protested in front of the Twin Cities Metrodome Sept. 30 before the football game between the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The group was protesting the University of Illinois’ mascot, Chief Illiniwek.

Roughly 25 members came to protest the use of the university mascot as part of a movement to pressure the university to change it, Fairbanks said, who is also a member of the National Coalition on Racism and Sports.

“It is a situation that is still occurring, and I think it would be good for the public to be educated and knowledgeable on this issue to discontinue Chief Illiniwek who has been around since the 1920s,” Fairbanks said. “I think there are plenty of names to give mascots without singling out certain racial groups or minority groups. There are no mascots of African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Latinos or Caucasians, but there are for Native Americans.”

Fairbanks said he has been involved with protests to stop the racism against American Indians since 1973 when he went to a prison in South Dakota to protest the assault of Indian prisoners.

“I was doing my best to educate the people on this issue,” Fairbanks said of his recent protest activity. “When you look at the Big 10 and see all of the other universities’ animal mascots and then a human being, Chief Illiniwek, it doesn’t look right. It’s like they are grouping Native Americans with a bunch of animals.”

Jared Noelting, sophomore in community and regional planning, said he thinks his teacher’s activism has a positive influence on his students. “It’s cool that he feels strongly about this issue and takes a active role to try to change peoples views,” he said.

Fairbanks said he teaches over 330 ISU students in three American Indian studies classes.

“I tell people they need to educate themselves,” he said. “When you hear about this mascot issue, look more into it, rather than just letting go. Go closer and deeper, and maybe you will understand what it’s all about.”