Sports fans love to don paint and feathers to cheer on the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, the Florida State Seminoles, and the Warriors and Chiefs of their hometown high schools. But outside the stadiums, American Indians aren't cheering--they're yelling racism.
School boards and colleges are bombarded with emotional demands from both sides, while professional teams find themselves in court defending the right to trademark their Indian names and 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 and 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, and 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 and wild west shows, Edward Curtis photographs, Boy Scout handbooks, and faded football programs up to the light. Outside stadiums, while American Indian Movement protestors burn effigies, she listens to both activists and the fans who resent their attacks. Inside hearing rooms and high schools, she poses questions to linguists, lawyers, and university alumni.
A work of both persuasion and compassion, Dancing at Halftime reminds us that in America, where Pontiac is a car and Tecumseh a summer camp, Indians are often our symbolic servants, functioning as mascots and metaphors that express our longings to become "native" Americans, and to feel at home in our own land.
"Yesterday's racism we recognize and we are embarrassed by it. Today's racism we often do not recognize until we read something like Carol Spindel's clear and fascinating message in Dancing at Halftime."-Senator Paul Simon
"With clear and compelling language, Spindel shows us how the naive rituals of a previous era can become the insensitive orthodoxy of today. I can't imagine a more readable-or a more even-handed-exploration of the mascot issue. This should be required reading for anyone committed to building a new sense of community in the United States."-Frederick E. Hoxie,Swanlund Professor, University of Illinois, and editor of The Encyclopedia of North American Indians
"Spindel displays considerable courage in tackling a controversial subject. A very personal account of the twentieth-century phenomenon of American Indians used as sports mascots, Dancing at Halftime also contains some fascinating history of early college football. The whole is strongly and beautifully written."-Dee Brown,author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
"Honest, insightful, and a well balanced analysis of this complicated problem. Spindel has discovered the confusing reservoir of tangled emotions that underlie American attitudes towards Indians-and toward themselves. A 'must read'.”-Vine Deloria, Jr.,Professor of History Emeritus, University of Colorado and a Standing Rock Sioux tribal member
"I celebrate Dancing at Halftime, which brings Carol Spindel's wry and penetrating perception to this subject. As she well understands, it is a cipher through which one can read the deeper meanings not only of American history but of contemporary life today."-Susan Griffin,author of A Chorus of Stones