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Chief Illiniwek Still a Controversial Figure at U of I

There’s another new effort to honor the memory of Chief Illiniwek during this week’s University of Illinois homecoming celebration -- a decade after the U of I retired the Chief. However, it's meeting opposition from Native American groups on the Urbana campus.

Once again, the Honor the Chief Society has entered the U of I homecoming parade. Their entry includes a person dressed in Native American regalia, like the Chief, but will not include any official Chief Illiniwek logos.

A group of Native American Students plan to protest the parade entry.

Ivan Dozier with the Honor the Chief Society says some on campus won’t rest until Native American imagery disappears.

“Now as a Native American myself, that is very scary to me," Dozier said. It’s very disturbing that the university continues to support people who want to eliminate all traces of Native American culture.”

That’s not how Lauren Kirby sees it. She’s Vice President of the Native American and Indigenous Students organization on the Urbana campus. She calls this latest attempt to honor the chief one more example of how people have stolen and whitewashed her culture.

“We do not need your honor. And I do not need somebody telling me how I should honor my people and my culture," Kirby said.

The U of I retired Chief Illiniwek in 2007, in part because the NCAA imposed sanctions on the university for continuing to use potentially offensive Native American imagery.

Despite retiring the Chief, and retiring the Marching Illini’s war chant music this fall, Kirby says the university needs to adopt a new mascot to truly move on and end the controversy.