February 02, 2007

How wrong is Chief Illiniwek?

School Hears Calls to End Mascot's ActIn 1982, during a trip to the Pine Ridge reservation, the school's former band director purchased the outfit from tribal elder Frank Fools Crow for $3,500. Fools Crow later presented the costume and smoked a peace pipe with school officials during a homecoming game.

"This was a 93-year-old man, who was destitute, and these people offer him the equivalent of probably a year's average income on the Pine Ridge reservation at the time," said Fontana, 51. "This was a priceless artifact; they ripped him off."

Critics of the chief mascot also note that local Native American tribes would not have worn the feathers and buckskin more typical of Plains tribes like the Sioux.

"The people who were here had full body tattoos and scalp locks," a mostly shaved head with a tail, said Debbie Reese, a professor of American Indian studies at the university. "If they were going to do an authentic representation, no one would have wanted to be the mascot."

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