Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Illinois trustees vote to retire Chief Illiniwek
URBANA, Ill. -- The University of Illinois swept aside the
last vestiges of Chief Illiniwek on Tuesday, voting to retire the
mascot's name, regalia and image.
The school will continue to call its sports teams the Fighting
Illini under the resolution. Chancellor Richard Herman is to decide
how and when Chief Illiniwek's name and image will stop being used
and licensed to apparel makers and others.
Activists and some American Indians have long complained the
chief is demeaning. Backers defend him as an honorable tradition.
The school decided in February to end performances of the chief,
leading the NCAA to lift sanctions that had barred Illinois from
hosting postseason sports since 2005. The NCAA had deemed Illiniwek
-- portrayed since 1926 by buckskin-clad students who danced at home
football and basketball games and other sports events -- an
offensive use of American Indian imagery.
Trustee David Dorris offered the only dissent Tuesday among the
10 voting members.
"When you look at Chief Illiniwek and you see hate,
shamefulness and embarrassment, perhaps you should sit down and
consider where those feelings come from," he said before the vote.
Board chairman Lawrence Eppley voted for the resolution but
said he agreed with Dorris' assessment that the chief had been a
proud tradition for many years.
"Certainly my vote is not intended to dishonor anybody's
memories or to deny the fact that it's been a great tradition,"
The board Tuesday also took the unusual step of ratifying the
February decision. The earlier decision came without a vote from
the board, which Eppley has said wasn't needed. Nonetheless, board
spokesman Thomas Hardy said voting now could blunt any legal action
claiming there should have been a vote.
A state lawmaker asked the attorney general's office whether
making the decision without a vote was legal.
Board members also voted down Dorris' resolution that would have
directed the university to join a lawsuit filed by the last two
students to portray the chief. The suit asks a judge to determine
whether the NCAA could sanction Illinois over the mascot.
Board member Robert pterling told Dorris his resolution would
only postpone the inevitable.
"The time has come," he said. "[The chief] bothered a whole
lot of people for a long time."
Graduate student Genevieve Tenoso, a Lakota Sioux, told the
board before the vote that by not doing away with the chief sooner,
they helped create an atmosphere in which she sometimes didn't feel
"I haven't had one single day on this campus when something didn't remind of the Indian you prefer me to be rather than the living, breathing native person that I am," she said.