The group, known as the Council of Chiefs, has asked the university to let the mascot return to two campus events a year for two trial years and is trying to get support from American Indians for the idea, according to Steve Raquel. He's a past chief and president of the group.
"We've been working to come up with something that made sense, something that we felt was a win-win for the university, for alumni and for students," Raquel told The News-Gazette in Champaign (http://bit.ly/12P1nzS) on Monday.
Phyllis Wise, chancellor at the university's Urbana-Champaign campus, met with the group in April and told them she can't support the plan.
"I'm seeking to find ways that we can memorialize and respect the (university's) past history and culture that included the Chief while we focus on the future. And bringing back the Chief is not in the future," she said.
By Christine Des Garennes
"Without endorsement of the university, the tribe is not willing to participate," said John Froman, chief of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma on Tuesday morning.
Froman, who has been chief of the 3,000-member tribe since 2001, said he has informed former Chief portrayers that "this is purely a University of Illinois decision, that if the university was supportive, the tribe would be willing to have some discussions."
Members of the Council of Chiefs, a group of UI alumni who once danced to the "Three-In-One" music in front of Illini fans, have submitted a plan to campus leaders that asks for the university to restore parts of the tradition. It calls for twice-a-year, on-field appearances, for a two-year trial basis.
Froman said the new portrayal was described to him by the Council of Chiefs as "one that would be a respectful portrayal of the Peoria culture and obviously it was not the previous Chief. The previous Chief was not in any way representative of Peoria culture," he said, adding that the Peoria and Illini confederacy were Woodland Indians, not Plains Indians and the Chief's outfit was representative of a Plains Indian.
"Bringing back the Chief is not a way of respecting the Native American culture," Froman said.
The Council of Chiefs proposal calls for a Chief portrayer to appear on the field of two campus events in a year. There would be no dancing involved, and the costume would be developed by the group in consultation with the Peoria Tribe, according to the group.
Wisch: Return Of Chief Illiniwek Proposed--And Ignored?
By Dave Wischnowsky
In March, the university held a student referendum about Chief Illiniwek in which more than 11,500 students showed up and voted 4-to-1 in support of the Chief as the official school symbol. On Facebook, the Chief Illiniwek page has more than 57,000 followers, over half as many as the university itself. Thousands of fans still bellow the Chief’s name at halftime of every Illini football and basketball home game. And this morning, a campus group originally organized to keep Chief Illiniwek from being replaced by a new mascot began rallying students to email school officials with their support for the symbol’s potential return.
Based on all that, I’m quite certain that there are a great many Illinois students, alums and fans who would be very interested in hearing if Chief Illiniwek indeed can be part of the university’s future–especially if the Chief had the support of the Peoria Tribe, and if the Peoria Tribe also could benefit from the Chief.
My hope is that Chancellor Wise will wise up and start listening to alumni and students, rather than dictating to them. Because from my vantage point, the door to the Chief’s return appears to have been opened in a highly positive way for everyone involved, so why should the chancellor be the one allowed to slam it shut?
But the Peoria Tribe will agree to the mascot's return only if he doesn't dance and doesn't wear the phony costume. I'm confident that the poll didn't address that requirement. And that students would be much less enthusiastic if they got a brand new Chief Illiniwek. One who didn't resemble the old Chief Illiniwek in the slightest.
For more on Chief Illiniwek, see UIUC Still Plays "Illini" Songs and Rob = Gatekeeper for Chief Illiniwek?!