Oct. 27, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA; A general view of Memorial Stadium before the game between the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Indiana Hoosiers. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports

Chief Illiniwek May Return: Peoria Tribe Willing to Have Discussions


When one thinks of the history of Illinois athletics, its hard to ignore the image which is Chief Illiniwek. Since 1926, the symbol of Chief Illinwek electrified and brought audiences together at Illinois sporting events, but was banished six year ago from all Illinois athletic events.

It has been reported that the the Council of Chiefs, a group comprised of the men who once portrayed the university’s former symbol, proposed a new plan to the University of Illinois that would bring the Chief back for twice-a-year, on-field appearances for a two-year trial basis.

In this new plan, it states that a Chief portrayer would appear on the field of two campus events in a year and that there would be no dancing involved. Also, the costume would be developed by the group in consultation with the Peoria Tribe.

The proposal has been called a “three-legged-stool.” This name was created by president of the Council of Chiefs, Steve Raquel.

According to the Champaign News-Gazette, Raquel said:

We felt the tradition still had value to alumni, students and the community. 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.

However, the new proposal doesn’t mean Chief Illiniwek will be returning any sooner.

John Froman, chief of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, has mentioned that the tribe will not participate without endorsement of the university, but, at the same time, mentioned that the tribe would be willing to have some discussions.

When saying how the new portrayal was described to him, Forman said that it would be:

One that would be a respectful portrayal of the Peoria culture and obviously it was not the previous Chief. The previous Chief was not in any way representative of Peoria culture.

However, he also added that, “bringing back the Chief is not a way of respecting the Native American culture.”

Although, Forman has had discussions with Chancellor Phyllis Wise of the University of Illinois. Wise made a trip to Oklahoma this spring to meet with Forman and other tribe members. The goal of this trip was to establish a better relationship with the tribe as well as how that could lead to greater success of students from the tribe coming to the university.

According to the Champaign News-Gazette, Wise had this to say about her discussion with Forman and the tribe:

The tribe’s goals of education and bettering the environment overlap with those of the university.

In my opinion, I don’t see how some sort of proposal cannot be agreed on if both parties (the university and the Peoria tribe) want to make education their central point.

One of the issues the Peoria tribe had with Chief Illiniwek was his outfit. The Chief demonstrated garments that were typical of Plains Indians when the Peoria tribe were Woodland Indians.

All the fans and the Council of Chiefs want is their symbol back on the sidelines at Illinois athletic events.

I just think that there has to be some way to make everyone happy. There has to be a way to bring Chief Illiniwek back that would be 1)   respectful to the Peoria tribe and 2) educational for all.

Illinois should look at Florida State and the Seminole tribe as a possible example. Those two parties have worked something out and it seems as everyone (even the fans) are happy.

In college sports, tradition is everything. FSU has worked something out with the Seminole tribe and they have a symbol in Chief Osceola that the fans adore as well as a tradition that the fans adore. Illinois and the Peoria tribe can do the same with Chief Illiniwek, but it has to be done right.

What do you think, Illini nation? Should Chief Illiniwek be able to return to the sidelines in the future? What would be your ideas for a possible proposal?

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Tags: Basketball Chief Illiniwek Chief Osceola Florida State Seminoles Football Illinois Fighting Illini Peoria Tribe

  • http://www.facebook.com/ray.cosyn Ray Cosyn

    Bring back the Chief, the spirit of Illinois.

    • Ricky Widmer

      I’m with ya man. There has to be a way.

      Thanks for commenting!