Illiniwek, 80, was pronounced dead 10 months ago in Champaign.
One of the few remaining costumed American Indian figures to dance around at big-time sporting events, the fictional Chief succumbed to a long illness that some diagnosed as chronic political correctness but that looked to me and others more like malignant cultural insensitivity.
“A lot of Chief apparel is seen on campus and at Memorial Stadium or Assembly Hall on game days,” Hardy wrote. “At halftime when the Marching Illini perform the three-in-one medley [of school songs], fans offer a rousing ‘Chief!’ cheer at the conclusion, as if they have just witnessed the Chief dance.”
There was also a flurry of indignation and counter-indignation in October when the university, citing students’ rights to free expression, allowed Illiniwek imagery to appear in the school’s homecoming parade.
Paul Schmitt, the U. of I. junior who heads up Students for Chief Illiniwek, told me not to be fooled by the lack of protests or Web activism.
“We’ve been trying to stay under the radar,” he said. “We’re getting ready for our big push.”
Nearly 100 supporters attend meetings, Schmitt said, and they’re planning to use “the element of surprise” in upcoming efforts (about which he would not be specific) to “bring back the Chief and restore his legacy as one of honor, not shame.”
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