Chief Illiniwek Group Pushes for Return of Mascot at Illinois Campus
The Council of Chiefs, a group made up of former University of Illinois (UI) students who had portrayed Chief Illiniwek, is pushing a plan that would return the mascot to campus. As UI Chancellor Phyllis Wise told ICTMN recently, though, the school has no intention of reinstating the mascot, which was retired in 2007 for being considered offensive by many Native Americans. As such, Chief John Froman, leader of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, who would have to agree to a return of Chief Illiniwek, says that he can't agree to the plan.
According to the Associated Press, the Council of Chiefs has asked UI to let the mascot return on-field to two campus events a year for two years as a trial. The group's president Steve Raquel says they are trying to get support from American Indians. "We've been working to come up with something that made sense, something that we felt was a win-win for the university, for alumni and for students," Raquel told The News-Gazette in Champaign, Illinois, home to the Big Ten university.
The Council of Chiefs had discussed options with the Peoria tribe, whose members are descendants of American Indians who once lived in Illinois.
Chief Froman said he told the Council of Chiefs "this is purely a University of Illinois decision, that if the university was supportive, the tribe would be willing to have some discussions."
Despite pressure from the NCAA to remove all Native nicknames, mascots and logos, several schools continue to do so with the support of relevant American Indian tribes. Florida State University, for example, has an agreement with the Seminole Tribe to call its sports teams the Seminoles. FSU also has a mascot consisting of a student dressing up as a Native, Chief Osceola.