Chief Illiniwek: Understanding the Issues

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 %u201Chostile and abusive%u201D to minorities.  The next winter, under the threat of losing the right to host post-season athletic events, trustees voted to retire Chief Illiniwek.

WILL has covered the issues and perspectives raised in the debate on Chief Illiniwek for many years.  Listen to the features and interviews below and explore links to other resources.


Last Dance

Chief Illiniwek at basketball game

February 22, 2007 - 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.

Listen to the story:


A Decision on Chief Illiniwek

Chief Illiniwek logo with red slash

February 16, 2007 - 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.

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Could Former Chiefs Take Over Illiniwek's Mantle?

old photo of Chief Illiniwek at football gameSeptember 22, 2006 - 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.

Listen to the interview:


Chief Illiniwek: What is "Consensus?"

Chief Illiniwek with marching bandJune 16, 2004 - 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.

Listen to the story:

AM 580's Tom Rogers reports from Chicago on the Trustees' vote and the reaction:


With No Decision, Campus Remains Divided

Students at Trustees meeting on Chief IlliniwekNovember 14, 2003 - 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%u2026students, faculty and staff are now left to deal with an underlying rancor.  AM 580's Tom Rogers reports.

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No Vote on Chief Illiniwek, Again

Chief Illiniwek supports and opponents at meetingNovember 13, 2003 - 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.

Listen to the story:

Listen to AM 580's broadcast of the Board of Trustees' November 13th meeting:


Interview with Suzan Shown Harjo

Suzan Shown HarjoMarch 14, 2002 - Focus 580 host David Inge interviewed Suzan Shown Harjo, founder and president of the Morning Star Foundation, on Issues Facing Native Peoples today

Listen to the interview:


The Plummer Report

Trustee Roger PlummerMarch 13, 2002 - 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.

Listen to the archive of WILL-AM's live broadcast of the meeting:


Generational differences in views of Chief Illiniwek

May 2, 2001 - AM 580's Dave Dickey examines generational differences in the issue of support for Chief Illiniwek

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Board of Trustees meeting on the Chief Dialogue

Chief Protester outside Foellinger Auditorium March 7, 2001 - The University of Illinois Board of Trustees met in open session at Foellenger Auditorium to respond to the University's Dialogue on Chief Illiniwek.

AM 580's Dave Dickey offers a retrospective of the Chief Illiniwek controversy through the AM 580 archives (aired March 7th, 2001):

AM 580's Dave Dickey offers a retrospective of the Chief Illiniwek controversy through the AM 580 archives (aired March 7th, 2001):

AM 580's Jim Meadows recaps Wednesday's conclusion to the UI's dialogue on Chief Illiniwek (aired March 8, 2001):


WILL-TV's Talking Point panel on Chief Illiniwek

The Chief Video imageFebruary 22, 2001 - WILL-TV's Talking Point host Amy Gadja moderated a panel of pro- and anti-Chief advocates following broadcast of the documentary The Chief

Listen to the broadcast archive:


Presentation of the Garippo Report

Judge Louis B. GarripoNovember 9, 2000 - Judge Louis B. Garippo presents his report to the Board of Trustees on the Dialogue on Chief Illiniwek.

Part One:

Part Two:

AM 580's Jim Meadows reports on Judge Garippo's report to the Board of Trustees on the Dialogue on Chief Illiniwek (aired November 9, 2000):


Focus 580 interview on the documentary The Chief

Chief IlliniwekSeptember 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

Listen to the interview:


Public Intake Session, April 14, 2000

Foellinger Auditorium Chief Intake SessionApril 14th, 2000 - Judge Louis Garippo presided over a Public Intake Session at Foellinger Auditorium.

Listen to the entire Intake Session (in four parts) or individual speakers by name

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


Focus 580 interview with Clyde Bellecourt

April 22, 1999 - Focus 580 host David Inge interviewed Clyde Bellecourt, Founder and Director of the American Indian Movement, on the topic of Indian Mascots in Sports

Listen to the interview:


Focus 580 interview with Students for Chief Illiniwek

Student portraying Chief Illiniwek March 18, 1998 - Focus 580 producer Jack Brighton interviewed members of Students for Chief Illiniwek John Mamminga, Ned Swanson, and Stephanie Tonnies

Listen to the interview:


Focus 580 interview with Jay Rosenstein on the film In Whose Honor?

Jay RosensteinMay 5, 1997 - Focus 580 producer Jack Brighton interviewed Jay Rosenstein, producer of the documentary In Whose Honor?

Listen to the interview:


Focus 580 interview with Vernon Bellcourt

February 26, 1990 - Focus 580 host David Inge interviewed Vernon Bellecourt, leader of the American Indian Movement, about Native American Rights and Indian Images in Sports

Listen to the interview: