Chief Illiniwek: Understanding the Issues

Defaced billboard saying Honor the Chief with graffiti changing the meaning

photo by Jack Brighton

To some, Chief Illiniwek is an honored symbol of the University of Illinois which should be preserved. To others, he is a race-based sports mascot that had to go.For parts of three decades, opponents demanded that the University of Illinois Board of Trustees retire the Chief. The Board voted to affirm their support of the Chief in 1990, and the Illinois General Assembly gave its backing several years later. Amid continued protest, UI administrators launched a campus-wide dialogue to better understand the conflicting perspectives.Several more years passed until the NCAA ruled in 2006 that certain Native American-based college mascots and symbols were "hostile and abusive" to minorities. The next winter, under the threat of losing the right to host post-season athletic events, trustees voted to retire Chief Illiniwek.

From WILL - News Local/State - February 22, 2007

Last Dance

For the sellout crowd at the Assembly Hall in Champaign February 21, the big highlight wasn't Illinois' victory over Michigan, but the last appearance of Chief Illiniwek. The Chief has plenty of critics -- but at the game, supporters showed how much they loved him. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.

From WILL - News Local/State - February 16, 2007

A Decision on Chief Illiniwek

The chair of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees has retired the tradition of Chief Illiniwek. The last halftime dance for the Chief will be Wednesday, February 21st, during the final men's basketball home game of the season. Larry Eppley says he is a fan of the Chief, but his decision was in the university's best interest. AM 580's Jim Meadows talked to him, along with Ted Land from the student-run television channel UI-7.

From WILL - News Local/State - September 22, 2006

Could Former Chiefs Take Over Illiniwek’s Mantle?

A recent newspaper report said the University of Illinois had made tentative plans to transfer ownership of the Chief Illiniwek symbol to a group of alumni who had portrayed the Chief. All sides deny that any agreement is in place but confirm that "informal" talks have occurred.  The former student quoted in the report, Steve Raquel, remains hopeful that Chief supporters and opponents alike can find a way to see beyond their differences.  AM 580's Jeff Bossert spoke with him.

From WILL - News Local/State - June 16, 2004

Chief Illiniwek: What is ‘Consensus?

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees votes on a resolution that neither retires nor specifically preserves the controversial symbol, but calls for all sides to come to a consensus. As AM 580's Jim Meadows reports, it will be very difficult to find an outcome that would end such a polarized debate.

From WILL - News Local/State - November 14, 2003

With No Decision, Campus Remains Divided on Chief Illiniwek

With the lack of a vote, many people are beginning to wonder if the status of Chief Illiniwek will ever be completely settled. And now that the TV news crews from Chicago and St. Louis have left the U of I campus in Urbana...students, faculty and staff are now left to deal with an underlying rancor. AM 580's Tom Rogers reports.

From WILL - News Local/State - November 13, 2003

No Vote on Chief Illiniwek, Again

UI trustees tabled a resolution to retire the controversial symbol, which some consider a racist mascot. The resolution's author decided to delay a vote until a meeting in July. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports on the decision and the contentious atmosphere at the meeting.

From WILL - Media Archives - March 13, 2002 ~ Comment (0)

The Plummer Report on Chief Illiniwek

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees met to hear the report of Trustee Roger Plummer on the Chief Illiniwek Dialogue. WILL-AM aired the meeting live from 11 am to noon.

From WILL - Focus - September 21, 2000


Focus 580 producer Jack Brighton interviewed Chief Illiniwek supporters Roger Huddleston, Jean Edwards, and Julie Herman on the making of their documentary The Chief

From WILL - News Local/State - April 15, 2000

Intake Session on Chief Illiniwek

AM 580's Dave Dickey reports on the April 14th Intake Session on Chief Illiniwek, held at Foellinger Audiorium (aired April 15, 2000).

From WILL - Focus - April 22, 1999

Focus 580 interview with Clyde Bellecourt

Focus 580 host David Inge interviewed Clyde Bellecourt, Founder and Director of the American Indian Movement, on the topic of Indian Mascots in Sports.

From WILL - Focus - October 16, 1998


Tim Giago, publisher, Indian Country Today, and Charlene Teters, Native American graduate student at the University of Illinois