RetireTheChief logo image A forum for discussion on retiring Chief Illiniwek
Welcome to RetireTheChief Mar. 2, 2005 Vol. 4, No. 3
What honor?
Not a mascot
Media n/a

Tournament Play Raises Chief Awareness
National attention on the team - and the chief
Congratulations to Illinois for a terrific season and a hard-fought tournament final

Illinois enters Final Four; Chief's absence is news

The U.I. basketball team are having a great run, entering the final four after a stunning comeback win against Arizona.

The high profile of the team, and by extension the school, has brought a surprising amount of publicity to the chief, and the chief's absence at the NCAA tournament games. With the increased attention to the chief has come increasingly vocal arguments for or against him, including a deluge of letters.

A sampling from the last week:

  • Final Four notes - Mascot matters - Kansas City Star (article link)
    "Over the last few years, the mascot has rarely ventured away from home games, and school officials don't want to court controversy by bringing Chief Illiniwek to St. Louis."
  • Final Four Notebook: Illiniwek Stays Home - New York Times (article link)
    "Illinois will not bring Chief Illiniwek to the Final Four with the cheerleaders and the pep band. But this is not a change of policy, a spokesman for the athletic department said."
  • The Illini should fight without Chief Illiniwek - George Benge, Gannett News Service (article link)
    "Where's Chief Illiniwek? He's missing in action, and that's a good thing."
  • Indian mascot remains benched for Final Four - USA Today (article link)
    "Chief Illiniwek, a student in Native American garb who performs a five-minute halftime show at Illinois home games, has not been at the NCAA tournament and will be absent from the Final Four."
  • Illini Fever - WTHI-TV (article link)
    "Chief Illiniwek has been the school mascot at Illinois for decades, but the NCAA says the Chief isn't welcome on the sidelines for the season's biggest game."
  • Three Cheers for Illinois not bringing its outdated, racist mascot to the Final Four - - King Kaufman's Sports Daily (article link)
    "Chief Illiniwek, the native American "symbol" of the University of Illinois, won't be attending the Final Four. Let's hear a cheer for that."
  • A guide to St. Louis and the Final Four - Dan O'Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (article link)
    "Where the Final Four is concerned, I stands for Illiniwek, as in Chief Illiniwek, who has been sidelined because of the political controversy over the use of the Indian mascot by the University of Illinois."
  • Illini mascot will miss Final Four - Detroit News (article link)
    "Chief Illiniwek, a student in Native American garb who performs a five-minute halftime show at Illinois home games, has not been at the NCAA Tournament and will be absent from the Final Four."
(continued in right column)

Final four profit?

A significant but perhaps less obvious benefit to the presence of the chief is the merchandise profit realized by the University from licensing of the logo. This is likely significant this year with the basketball team's advancement to the final four (and now the tournament final).

Pictures courtesy Carol Spindel

Such clothing and other likenesses of chief illiniwek are inevitably mentioned by those addressing the stereotypical nature of the chief (see Prof. Gone's lecture, right column) and by Native Americans opposed to the chief. RetireTheChief hopes that the University will, one day, retire the chief, and his likeness.

Last issue: Chief debate moves to the courts

Protestors harassed at
Edward Jones Dome

Anti-chief protestors reported being harassed Saturday outside the Edward Jones Dome at the UIUC-Louisville game. Common statements included disbelief that alumni were among them, being told to "get a job," and that the minimum wage "was too much for them." It seems a sad counterpart to a great team and great team performance.

"Cloud hangs
over Illinois team"

The Illinois Chapter of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media (NCRSM) issued a statement last week calling attention to a "Dark cloud of racism" over the school as the basketball team advances to the Final Four. "A team this good deserves better," the statement says.

The press release addresses several points:

  • Calls from Native American organizations for the chief to be retired;
  • Arguments from national civil rights organizations;
  • Concern expressed by the accreditation organization, the North Central Association;
  • Profit from sales of Illinois merchandise featuring the chief;
  • Recent legal action (see also "Chief debate moves to the courts," last issue).

The NCRSM congratulates the team while expressing regret that they must play "under this dark cloud of racial stereotyping."

The full statement is available as html or PDF.

Should He Stay
or Should he Go?

Prof. Joseph Gone spoke at the UIUC Law School on Thursday, March 17 on the topic "Should he stay or should he go? Retiring the chief." Dr. Gone, a UIUC graduate and Assistant Professor of Psychology and American Culture at the University of Michigan, discussed the chief in the context of stereotypes in the media and elsewhere.

"Indian mascots continue the long tradition of 'Playing Indian'" - Prof. Joseph Gone

Chief Illiniwek "a racial stereotype in an era in which no other racial stereotypes are publically tolerated."

For excerpts of Prof. Gone's talk, please select from the following movies and audio clips:

(continued from left column)
  • 'Chief Illiniwek' to miss Final Four trip - (article link)
    "Trouble seems to find the Chief, as Illinois has been the target of protests, demonstrations and lawsuits, which claim the figure perpetuates a racial stereotype and demeans Native Americans."
  • Controversial mascot staying in Illinois during Final Four - Elizabethe Holland, Kansas City Star (article link)
    "Often, where there's the chief, there's trouble ... the chief remains Illinois' official symbol - the university prefers he not be called a mascot - but one that causes discomfort for the athletic program and university as a whole."
  • Illini mascot forced from tournament - S. Shaw, Free N. Mexican (link)
    "The root of the controversy is Chief Illiniwek, a 78-year-old tradition in which a student dresses in buckskins and a fake war bonnet and dances at halftime shows for basketball games and other university sporting events."
  • Mascot is Illinois' "Chief problem" - Newark Star-Ledger (article link)
    "Whatever you call Chief Illiniwek, you will not be able to call it to his face this weekend when the Fighting Illini competes in the Final Four. The Chief attracts too much attention these days when he travels, mostly from protest groups and the media. So he will stay home in Champaign, Ill., presumably in his teepee."

"The list of institutions which have dealt successfully with similar issues is long ... the list of those institutions still attempting to defer or avoid the obvious solution is very short." - NCA report

Remember?      March 15, 2004      Native Americans protest at the University of Illinois

Ten Reasons to Retire The Chief
  • 1. Diversity. We do want a diverse, inclusive atmosphere welcoming of all cultures.
  • 2. Stereotypes. The Chief perpetuates harmful, insulting stereotypes of Native people in a big way.
  • 3. Publicity. The presence of the Chief has brought national disapproval to an outstanding University.
  • 4. Racism. It was not the intention, and no one likes the "R" word, but Native Americans are very upset by the presence of Chief Illiniwek.
  • 5. Children. Powerful stereotypes are particularly harmful to children - their self esteem and school performance.
  • 6. Accuracy. Let's be honest - the Chief isn't the real thing. The dance is part of half-time entertainment.
  • 7. Honor. Native Americans are not honored. Quite the contrary, they have made it clear they are offended by the Chief.
  • 8. NCAA. In case you missed it, the NCAA has made it clear they are unhappy with American Indian mascots.
  • 9. Choices. Potential faculty and students have chosen not to teach or attend the University because of the Chief.
  • 10. Image. Call the Chief a symbol or a mascot - he is a public figure that harms the University's image.

WELCOME This site exists to give a voice to those who believe Chief Illiniwek should be retired, to promote discussion between those who are pro- and anti-Chief, and to encourage a change in policy - to retire the Chief. We want to turn up the volume on the Chief debate. Regardless of your stand on this divisive issue, welcome .