By Julie Wurth
UI freshman Ivan Dozier of Ivesdale was appointed this week to succeed Logan Ponce as the Chief portrayer at various events, including future "Next Dance" performances at the Assembly Hall. Katie Birkel was named assistant chief.
Ponce, who was the official assistant chief when the university retired Chief Illiniwek in 2007, will graduate in May.
Dozier, who said he is half Cherokee, said he hopes to educate people across campus about American Indian culture and perhaps bridge some of the gaps between Chief supporters and opponents.
Ultimately, he'd like to see the Chief returned as the UI symbol.
"I'm a very laid-back person, open-minded. I like to hear what other people have to say. My personal belief is I don't see anything wrong with the Chief," said Dozier, who was also named vice president of Students for Chief Illiniwek.
Ivan Dozier joins the long list of chiefs who came before him but the U of I freshman says he has something different to bring to this historic ritual. Dozier says he's half Cherokee on his fathers side and hopes to bridge the gap between those for and against the chief. He says stepping into the chief's shoes will give him an opportunity to use the role as an education tool on Native American culture. The Ivesdale, Illinois student says he has lots of support from his family but has had to deal with some family members who don't support his decision.
"I have one member of my family who graduated from here. He's kind of against me. Most everybody else is supportive but my cousin he's willing to talk to me at least and that's good at least to talk to me about what he thinks I should be doing and so it's good to have a little bit of tension there so that i can get a feel of what I should be doing," he says.
We spoke with the new director of the Native American House on campus who says he continues to support the retirement of the chief mascot that took place in 2007 but adds as a student organization the group has the right to continue the legacy.
In the midst of the corn belt, Ivan Dozier's seven wild acres of tallgrass are bringing back history.
Ivan Dozier, Assistant State Conservationist (Programs)
Another website lists Dozier and his father as "Southern Cherokee." There's no such tribe--at least no such tribe that's federally- or state-recognized. Must be one of the 200-plus Cherokee splinter vying to prove they're not wannabes.
Dozier still could be an Indian, and he looks like one. Being half Cherokee by blood should qualify him to join a legitimate Cherokee tribe. It's a bit odd that he's citing the Southern Cherokee, a tribe I've never heard of, as his heritage.
It's clear why the students chose Dozier. They can claim their phony Chief Illiniwek is a real Indian. Never mind that a "Southern Cherokee" has nothing to do with the Illini Indians, who have nothing to do with a stereotypical Plains chief.
It's not clear what Dozier's motivation is. How can someone be a bridge between the two sides when he doesn't think anything is wrong with the dancing clown? What's he going to say: "I'm an actual Indian, so ignore the clown suit and focus on me"? Most likely he'll say: "I'm an actual Indian, so don't complain about my stereotypical costume and dance."
Claiming that stereotypes are educational is a pathetic joke. When the first Chief Illiniwek says, "Here's your education: Real Indians don't look or act anything like me," then we'll have something to talk about. It hasn't happened yet.
Did I mention that Dozier is a sellout? The terms "Uncle Tomahawk" and "Indian apple" also come to mind. Sorry, but if the stereotype fits, wear it.
For the latest on Chief Illiniwek, see Trade In Chief Illiniwek and "Next Dance Is Educational?!
For why Chief Illiniwek is wrong, see Mascots Perceived as Real Indians and Chiefs Were Humble and Generous. Also see The Chief Illiniwek Dialogue: Intent and Tradition vs. Reaction and History.
For why wearing headdresses is wrong, see Headdresses = Fedoras?, Why Hipster Headdresses Aren't Okay, and What's So Wrong About Kesha?
Below: Dozier's new role as an Indian jumping bean.