Illinois Really Takes Fake Indian Chiefs Seriously

Remember Chief Illiniwek, the white kid who dressed up in full costume and did a big dance at halftime of every game at the University of Illinois? He was supposed to be gone and buried in 2007, when the school complied with the NCAA’s directive to end all potentially “abusive” imagery involving American Indians.

Chief Illiniwek

But not so fast. Seems that a group of Illini students with way too much time (and money, apparently) on their hands are bringing the Chief back, without university approval. However, the group of Chief enthusiasts will be using university property for their new unveiling. This is going to go over great with the NCAA.

ILLINI HQ says that “The Next Dance” is going to be taking place at the U of I’s Assembly Hall on November 15th, prior to the start of the Illini’s football game with Ohio State. The school is absolving itself of responsibility for the event, simply saying that student groups have the right to rent the arena and put on whatever show they want:

Citing the students’ right to freedom of speech, UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler has said the university has retired the Chief and is not supporting the event. Students or groups associated with the university can rent the Assembly Hall, according to Kaler. 

Of course, there’s mass outrage from opponents of such a display. Well, not really. But there is one guy who’s mad:

Standing about 10 feet from the press conference, Bill Cook of Champaign quietly held a sign of protest.

“The university says the students have freedom of speech, but allowing them to rent out the space and allow these antics to return to their points of origin is outrageous,” he said.

New Chief Logan Ponce (how American Indian can you get?) will be using a replica costume for the dance, presumably because the university owns the old one.

The NCAA hasn’t yet figured out what to do about this. Because this is a public school and the folks putting on the dance are a registered student group, it looks like it would be hard to hold the school accountable. But if this event is a success, it will probably lead to the dance being performed more often, perhaps even before every football game, so the mascot that the NCAA was trying to get rid of would still be alive and well:

When asked whether the event makes the university in or out of compliance, NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said, “We are currently in contact with the U of I to determine the facts associated with this issue.”

In some ways, I can identify with both sides of the issue, but I do think it’s kind of silly that the people at Illinois take a frat boy dancing around in war paint and feathers this seriously. But, to each their own.