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    Seminoles - Heroic Symbol At Florida State

    By Dr. Dale W. Lick
    Former President, Florida State University

    The history of the Seminole Indians in Florida is the story of a noble, brave, courageous, strong and determined people who, against great odds, struggled successfully to preserve their heritage and live their lives according to their traditions and preferences.

    From its earliest days as a university, Florida State has proudly identified its athletic teams with these heroic people because they represent the traits we want our athletes to have. Other athletic teams are called Patriots or Volunteers in the same way -- they use a symbol that represents qualities they admire.

    Recent critics have complained that the use of Indian symbolism is derogatory. Any symbol can be misused and become derogatory. This, however, has never been the intention at Florida State.

    Over the years, we have worked closely with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to ensure the dignity and propriety of the various Seminole symbols we use. Chief Osceola, astride his appaloosa when he plants a flaming spear on the 50-yard line, ignites a furious enthusiasm and loyalty in thousands of football fans, but also salutes a people who have proven that perseverance with integrity prevails.

    Some traditions we cannot control. For instance, in the early 1980s, when our band, the Marching Chiefs, began the now-famous arm motion while singing the "war chant," who knew that a few years later the gesture would be picked up by other team's fans and named the "tomahawk chop?" It's a term we did not choose and officially do not use.

    Our university's goal is to be a model community that treats all cultures with dignity while celebrating diversity.

    I have appointed a task force to review our use of Seminole Indian symbols and traditions. This study group will identify what might be offensive and determine what needs to be done.

    Our good relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida is one we have cultivated carefully and one we hope to maintain, to the benefit of both the Seminoles of our state and university.

    Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman James E. Billie expressed this point in these words: "We are proud to be Seminoles, and we are proud of the Florida State University Seminoles. We are all winners."

    -- This column ran in USA Today on Tuesday, May 18, 1993.

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