Chief Illiniwek keeps being resurrected from the dead. Why? Because he’s a tradition.
Similarly, the Tribune used to run a cartoon called “Injun Summer” every year until 1992. Here’s a section of an 1991 editorial written about it:
This year the objections about matched the praise from those in whom it stirs warm memories.
As sure as one writer would declare that the cartoon “never misses touching the heart with its nostalgic message of the ‘spirits’ of the season,” another would condemn it as “an embarrassing relic of a time when it was acceptable to use words and phrases like ‘heaps of Injuns’ and ‘redskins’ and ‘happy huntin’ ground.'”
That’s sort of how it’s been going these years. And it’s understandable.
“Injun Summer” is out of joint with its times. It is literally a museum piece, a relic of another age. The farther we get from 1907, the less meaning it has for the current generation.
The editorial does hasten to add that “current inappropriateness” is not enough in itself to stop running the cartoon. And that there is an “innocence of context.” (WTF?)
But it doesn’t matter anyway, because the cartoon is on the website right now, without any mention of the concerns. Roger Ebert recently tweeted how he “treasured it.” And you can buy copies of it from the Tribune store.
Racismese translation: Words are mightier than actions. We are not racists! We already said it was not acceptable to do these things! But we do them anyway. Hope you don’t mind. And that you’re just not paying attention.