April 04, 2014

Student contemplates suicide over Chief Illiniwek

Native American student writes letter to UI administration in an effort to ban the Chief

By Megan JonesAs depicted in a letter sent to University administration last week, Xochitl Sandoval, a Native American student, struggles everyday with the remnants of the University’s former mascot: Chief Illiniwek.

While administrators stopped supporting the Chief in 2007, students and the local community have continued to keep the mascot alive with apparel, accessories and unofficial appearances of the Chief at sporting events. Additionally, the Chief’s performance music, such as the “Three in One,” still plays at sporting events.

“I don’t go to sports events because I know that that is where pro-Chief people will be congregating at and where they will be playing the music,” Sandoval, a senior in LAS, said. “I see Chief T-shirts and even though the official symbol has been removed, there are still people who are able to get their hands on the official logo, and every year Unofficial always has some kind of spin on the Chief.”

Sandoval struggles with the lingering mascot, specifically in regard to the “disrespect and racism” the mascot represents to her.
Indigenous Student Discusses Public Suicide Over Chief Illiniwek Pain

By Vincent SchillingAn indigenous student has written an open letter to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign administrators and all indigenous and Native peoples of the world saying she wants to commit suicide. She says she would use a gun on the school’s quad because of the painful burden she experiences in dealing with the Chief Illiniwek mascot.

Xochitl Sandoval, an indigenous student at the university, posted the letter on Facebook and explains that the letter is very personal and sacred and about her life and the legacy of disrespect and racism towards herself and the indigenous people who lived on this land and who continue to bear the unbelievable burden of having to fight for respect.

In a conversation with Sandoval, she said she has no plans to harm herself, but she was at her last wit’s end and thought, “What else can I do? I will condense my lived experience in a letter since nothing else has changed.”

In the letter Sandoval states the following:

“On March 11, I had the thought that I should commit suicide. On March 11, 2014, I specifically thought ‘blow your brains out on the quad.’ My process was as follows: Write a letter to Mr. Jamie (the UIUC Director of the Native American House) and explain that this whole Chief situation was so unbearable, and the apathy on behalf of Administration so painful, that it was obvious that nothing was going to change. Maybe suicide was the way. I would then purchase a gun, load it, go onto the quad, stand facing Union, bring the gun up to my temple, and pull the trigger.

Maybe by committing suicide, you, Chancellor Phyllis Wise, the Board of Trustees, and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Administration will realize that no, I am not exaggerating about the emotional, physical and spiritual pain that seeing the former-yet-still-lingering Chief mascot has on me.”

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