Illinois History Minutes

February 21 Illinois History Minute


It’s February 21st, and on this day in 2007, Chief Illiniwek made his final sanctioned appearance at a University of Illinois sporting event.

Those fans were chanting for the Chief, a performer --- usually a student ---- dressed in Plains Indian ceremonial costume. The Chief began appearing at Illini games in the 1920s. But in later years, he faced criticism from Native Americans and others who condemned him as a demeaning stereotype. In 2007, facing N-C-double-A sanctions, University board chairman Lawrence Eppley ordered an end to the Chief. Graduate student Dan Maloney gave Chief Illiniwek’s last performance, during halftime at an Illinois-Michigan game, coming out after his dance for one last appearance before the cheering crowd, his eyes brimming with tears on the Assembly Hall’s giant video screens.

I’m Jim Meadows. Illinois Public Media.