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The Chattanooga Times
Wednesday, January 17, 1996

Bill Casteel

Kunesh speaks for whom?

There are so many ponderous issues worthy of public debate that it is difficult to know where to commence. For example:

Did President Clinton look commanderly-in-chief in his flight jacket and beret during his visit with the troops in Bosnia?

Will New York Times columnist William Safire accept the president's challenge to a duel in the latter's effort to uphold the good name of the first lady whom Safire called a congenital fabricator?

Will "Bubba" stick to his vow to never again call in on a now part-talk, part-rock radio station to protest the station's pink-slipping of Parker Smith and Max Hackett?

There are countless other topics equally deserving of meaningful dialogue -- the alarming increase in the number of television meteorologists comes to mind -- but none as significant as the UTC mascot.

I know enough has been said about this senseless squabble between UTC and Tom Kunesh, a self-proclaimed spokesman for the Chattanooga Inter-Tribal Association, over Chief Mocanooga.

And I, having recently put in my second two-cents worth on the debate, had no plans to revisit the topic, not even after receiving a couple of calls and a letter that in effect said there's more smoke than fire in Kunesh's signals.

But then I read in the UTC student newspaper, The Echo, that Kunesh is continuing to insist there is something racist in using Mocanooga as a mascot. So, I thought it ought to be noted that, according to Nancy and Alva Crowe, there no longer exists a Chattanooga Inter-Tribal Association, for which Mr. Kunesh claims to speak, and that when it did exist, Mr. Kunesh was not a spokesman.

They say they have been unable to ascertain if Kunesh is, as he claims, a Lakota Sioux. "In fact," the Crowes said, "they (the Sioux) have never heard of him."

The Crowes go on to say that they have no problem with Mocanooga "other than finding him a bit silly and totally out of character if he is representing the Cherokees."

They don't, however, see the chief as a racist, and are "far more offended by (Kunesh) portraying himself as our spokesman than by the portrayal of Chief Mocanooga as a mascot."

That's about as much as I care to say about this subject, except to suggest that, after sitting through that silly simulated sumo wrestling show during halftime of the UTC-Western Carolina game Monday, UTC worry less about offending Native Americans and worry more about insulting the Japanese, not to mention the fans' intelligence.

Oh, and I do have a recommendation for solving once and for all the earlier alluded to problem. Change the team's nickname to the Orangutans and invite Chantek to serve as mascot.

Since he's an alumnus of sort of UTC, Chantek would surely be flattered by the invitation and would welcome the opportunity to return to his alma mater. And we could forget about the university being beset by angry hyphenated American groups.

We could also forget about the flag-wielding Indian bringing the team onto the court at the start of the game. Chantek could lead the charge.

I can hear the howling crowd's response right now as PA announcer Randy Price introduces the home team's starting lineup:

"And now YOUR omnipotent UTC O-rang-utans!!"

Why, just seeing Randy's words in print sends a chill up my spine.

Bill Casteel's Byline column appears Monday, Wednesday and Fnday.

The Chattanooga Times
Tuesday, 23 January 1996, p A2

Chattanooga Today

  • Bill Casteel's Byline column on Jan. 17 contained some incorrect information. According to Linda Riddle of the leadership council of the Chattanooga Intertribal Association, that group continues to meet and has named Tom Kunesh its spokesman on the appropriateness of Chief Moccanooga as a UTC mascot. Mr. Kunesh is a Lakota Sioux.

    Ronald Smith, editor
    The Chattanooga Times
    po box 951
    Chattanooga TN 37401

  • The Chattanooga Times
    Metro, Saturday, 27 January 1996, p B1

    Editor's Note
    Paul Neely

    Setting records straight

    The policy of The Times is to publish corrections about factual errors. Recently, we've had three unusual ones that may have raised an eyebrow or two.

    A good journalist hates mistakes, but one thing worse is not owning up to them. Here are three lengthier owning-ups.

  • In the second case, a column repeated allegations by two other persons about Tom Kunesh, a leader in the debate over the UTC mascot, concerning his role in that debate and his own background. Kunesh quite naturally objected. A telephone call to an acknowledged leader of the Chattanooga InterTribal Association quickly made it clear that the allegations were substantially in error. We then published a correction on Page A-2, where we regularly publish corrections. (lt's at the top of the daily calendar of events, next to the weather, probably one of the best-read locations in the paper.)

    In retrospect, at the very least the allegations should not have been published without giving Kunesh a chance to respond in the same article.

    This was a mistake not just of substance, but also of process. It shouid not have happened.

    Publisher Paul Neely's Editor's Note column appears on Saturday.

  • nothingness on a field of maroon    Linda Riddle's response

    TO: Editor, Chattanooga Times
    In Reference to:
    1/17/96 Metro Section

    Again I stand in support of Tom Kunesh in his fight for respect for Native Americans. I was in attendance at the December 5, 1995 meeting of CITA. A vote was taken and passed in supporting Tom Kunesh in trying to change the minds of UTC in the Chief Moccanooga Issue. So in a way on this particular issue, Kunesh is speaking for CITA.

    Contrary to Casteel's conflicting reports, there certainly is a Chattanooga Intertribal Association. The address is P.O. Box 1063, Chattanooga TN 37401. The voicemail number is 954-2376, for meeting locations, dates and times.

    Chattanooga Intertribal Association is recognized by:

      The City of Chattanooga, Mayors Office
      The Internal Revenue Service
      The State of Tennessee
      The Tennessee Indian Commission
      People of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation
      All local Native American groups and Organizations,
    CITA is also a member and supports the local Human Rights Coalition.

    I hope Mr. Casteel sticks by his word when he says: "This is about as much as I care to say on this". I feel his opinions are extremely racist and he NEVER has his facts, some of his remarks border very closely on slander. I'm sure members of CITA could help Mr. Casteel in finding facts, if he could refrain from asking for pedigree papers. I have never heard a Native American ask a fellow Native for his pedigree, its a silly question and very insulting, besides its not important to anyone.

    Mr. Casteel has an open invitation to the next meeting of CITA, to decide for himself if it exists of not, but I hope he comes with a better attitude than he is portraying in his column.

    Linda Riddle - Chattanooga