Chief Illiniwek Event To Go Ahead

UPDATED: Oct. 15, 2010 12:38 p.m.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (CBS) – University of Illinois students are going ahead with plans to hold a dance celebrating the school’s former mascot, Chief Illiniwek, going back on an earlier decision to call the event off.

Plans for a third annual unofficial performance in Assembly Hall the weekend of Oct. 23, were initially scrapped after the school threatened legal action.

The dance is sponsored by the Honor the Chief Society.

Ivan Dozier is a sophomore majoring in crop science who is known as the “current chief.” He said Friday the event was canceled because the university, which owns the rights to Chief Illiniwek, is threatening to pursue a cease and desist order.

Dozier added that although the society doesn’t have the money for both a legal fight and the dance, the organization decided late Thursday to ago ahead with the dance.

The U of I, under pressure from the NCAA, stopped using the mascot in 2007.

Two years before that, responding to widespread complaints from Native Americans and others, the NCAA deemed Illiniwek a “hostile and abusive” use of American Indian imagery and barred the university from hosting postseason sporting events. Native American groups also came forward in protest on several occasions.

The punishment was part of the sanctions imposed against the university after official initially refused to get rid of the mascot. Because of the penalty, the U of I was barred from hosting two postseason events, both in low-profile sports.

The tradition on the Urbana-Champaign campus of having a student dress as Chief Illiniwek began in 1926. Clad in buckskins and headdress, Illiniwek danced at halftimes of home football, basketball and volleyball games on the school’s flagship 39,000-student campus.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Mark, Sterling

    So sad what they’ve done to this Illinois Tradition. Florida State still has their damn indian riding around on a horse tossing spears in the ground…why can’t Illinois have the Chief back?

  • Jimmy

    Chief will be back once people realize how silly it was to ban it. It is respectful and was started by a man who studied Native American culture back in the 20’s, I believe.

  • cyndi

    I can’t believe this is going on in 2010. Why are these people so ignorant? Is it ok for them to dress up as an African American, or an Asian or a Mexican and do this?
    As a Native, my children and I do not find this “respectful” but find it very sad.

    • Kelly

      I’m guessing you’ve never actually seen Chief Illiniwek perform at a halftime show. If you had, you would see the reverence with which he was paid by the entire student body and alumni. He did not run around on the sideline during the game and engage in ridiculous behavior, but only emerged at halftime, performing a dance that was choreographed by a Native American specifically for him. His buckskin suit and headdress were hand made by Native Americans and everything about them is authentic.
      The Fighting Illini pays tribute to a tribe that is long extinct, and for which the state of Illinois is named. Unfortunately, they are not around anymore to give their stamp of approval to the depiction, as the Seminole tribe of Florida has. If you would do some research, you would find that the University of Illinois has never portrayed Chief Illiniwek in an unflattering light, and the tribe for which he stands is forever silenced. He is not the mascot of the University of Illinois, he is the symbol, and should be regarded as such.

      • Kelly

        The last costume worn by Chief Illiniwek was procured in 1982 from Chief Frank Fools Crow of the Oglala Sioux, and was made by his wife.
        I’m not sure of the origin of the dance, but I know it is based on tradition. I’m sure it has evolved over the years.
        As for who portrays the Chief, when I was at the University, there was a very rigorous try-out process among students to determine him. It was a great honor to represent the University as Chief Illiniwek.

      • cyndi

        Really? I had no idea. Thanks for the correction. Who exactly choreographed it and who made the suit and headdress? What kind of dancer is Cheif Illiniwek?

  • Jim


    Thanks for pointing out the history of this. Growing up just an hour away, I was unaware of this. It’s sad when any group is portrayed negatively, but even sadder still when people get outraged before they have the facts about something. This society is becoming over-sensitive.

  • cyndi

    I have seen the halftime show. Guess I missed the reverence part.

  • Clint Eastwood

    Bring back the Chief. And to all the people who object to the Chief, you’re all a bunch of politically corrrect morons who were probably picked last in gym class.

    • cyndi

      Wow. Let me guess…..white Catholic?

  • Kelly

    I think we can all agree that there is never going to be anything that doesn’t offend someone, but going around banning everything is not the solution. I only wish the Native activists who demanded the Chief’s demise had instead considered asking the University to establish a curriculum for incoming freshman that addressed the rich Native history in Illinois, perhaps even setting up scholarships for Native students. Instead, their solution to what they considered a problem was to get rid of it altogether, creating nothing but resentment in the process. It did nothing to increase awareness of the plight of Natives in this country, such as the incredibly high rate of poverty and alcoholism among the Native population, problems that have no connection to the existence of sports mascots.
    In fact, people are even less likely, now that the Chief is gone, to understand the history behind him. Ignorance is not bliss. The only way to ensure real change is through education, not censorship. Have a nice day…

    • cyndi

      Good points, Kelly. All I know is what I know and that is the Native People I know don’t find it respectful in any way.
      Guess we can agree to disagree.
      Have a great weekend!

      p.s. I am really a white girl!!

  • Clint Eastwood

    cyndi is really a piece of work. First she claims to be a “Native” and how her and her children don’t find this “respectful”. Then she ends the discussion
    p.s. I am really a white girl!!! hehe

    Oh you had me fooled. Talk about your white guilt. You gotta be a liberal with your attitude.

    Free speech for everybody except for who the looney liberals disagree with. Bunch of hypocrites.

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