The Chief controversy: A timeline

The Chief controversy: A timeline

An overview of the Chief Illiniwek controversy:


Oct. 30: Chief Illiniwek, portrayed by Lester Leutwiler, first appears at the University of Illinois during halftime of a football game at Memorial Stadium.


October: Two University of Illinois students, including graduate student Charlene Teters, member of the Spokane nation, begin protesting the Chief. Teters stands silently outside UI basketball games with a sign reading, "Indians are human beings."

November: Illinois House passes resolution supporting the Chief, co-sponsored by state Rep. Timothy Johnson, R-Urbana. U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., signs petition calling for elimination of the Chief, inspiring cries of "Keep the Chief, Dump Simon."

Nov. 14: Chancellor Morton Weir says Chief will stay, calling it a "dignified, respected" symbol.

December: UI orders department of agronomy to end its use of "Squanto" cartoon character on its publications.


March: Students for the Chief forms.

Oct. 11: After months of protests, UI Board of Trustees votes to retain Chief as official UI symbol by 7-1 vote, with one abstention.


September: New community group, Citizens for Chief Illiniwek, launches letter-writing campaign to support Chief.

Oct. 2: UI announces Chief no longer will appear in Homecoming parade or pep rally.

November: Johnson introduces resolution asking UI not to restrict use of Chief.


Teters and others form National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media, a campaign to ban Indian mascots and symbols.


January: American Indian activist Michael Haney files discrimination complaint against UI with Illinois Department of Human Rights, saying he and others were taunted and jeered for opposing the Chief at October 1992 UI football game. The complaint is later dismissed.


April 8: American Indian students, faculty and staff at the UI file civil rights complaint with U.S. Department of Education, alleging Chief creates "hostile" racial climate on campus."

Oct. 14: Campus committee on "inclusiveness," appointed by Chancellor Michael Aiken, recommends Chief be eliminated. Recommendation is left out of chancellor's final "Framework for the Future" report the next spring.


April-July: State legislators approve bill introduced by new state Rep. Rick Winkel, R-Champaign, making Chief official symbol of UI. But Gov. Jim Edgar uses amendatory veto to change wording so that decision rests with the university.

Dec. 1: Department of Education rules that Chief does not violate civil rights of American Indians but urges UI to take "proactive steps" to prevent hostile climate.


July 15: Jay Rosenstein's documentary "In Whose Honor?", featuring Teters, is aired on national television, bringing nationwide attention to the issue and accelerating anti-Chief movement.

July: Alumni Against Racist Mascots forms to show not all UI graduates support the Chief.

October: UI Homecoming king and queen make anti-Chief sentiments known during festivities. The next year, the UI ends its practice of crowning a homecoming king and queen.


March 9: Campus faculty-student senate approves resolution asking trustees to replace Chief with new symbol, saying it undermines academic mission; vote is 97-29. Eventually, more than 800 faculty sign petition calling for Chief's ouster.

March 30: Two new pro-Chief groups form, Students for Chief Illiniwek and the Chief Illiniwek Educational Foundation.

September: UI professor Stephen Kaufman files grievances against top university administrators, arguing Chief violates UI's own anti-discrimination policies. Trustees and state officials dismiss the complaints.

Sept. 30: NCAA's Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee calls for end to use of American Indian names and mascots for college sports teams. Statement comes as UI's athletic program undergoes its first certification review by NCAA.


May: NCAA evaluation team visits UI campus as part of certification review. During public input, NCAA team is asked to withhold full certification of UI until Chief is retired.


February: After a visit to campus, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits UI, issues report expressing concern about how UI is dealing with the negative effects of the Chief controversy.

Feb. 16: UI trustees announce plans for yearlong "dialogue" on Chief and hire former Cook County Judge Louis B. Garippo to oversee process, which costs more than $315,000.

April 14: Garippo presides over public comment session. After receiving more than 17,000 pieces of correspondence, he issues report in October 2000 that summarizes arguments on both sides but offers no recommendations.


March 1: Anti-Chief faculty consider contacting prospective athletic recruits and advising them they could be attending a school with a "racist symbol."

March 2: Chancellor Michael Aiken sends e-mail to UI employees, saying any contacts with recruits must be approved first by Division of Intercollegiate Athletics to avoid violating NCAA rules. Four faculty members and one student sue UI and Aiken, alleging he violated their First Amendment rights, and a federal judge agrees. Plaintiffs are eventually awarded $1,000 each, and Aiken retracts the e-mail in June. Packets are mailed out to 100 prospective recruits.

March 7: Trustees respond to Chief dialogue, hiring Chicago public relations consulting firm to help craft their statements. Some trustees talk of working toward compromise.

April: Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma requests UI stop using Chief Illiniwek.

May: Board of Trustees asks Trustee Roger Plummer to explore Chief issue to determine if compromise is possible.

Spring: Businessman Roger Huddleston of Mahomet, who produced a film in honor of Chief Illiniwek, co-founds the Honor the Chief Society and pledges to raise $100,000.


January: William Cook (right) of rural Champaign is arrested at Assembly Hall while protesting Chief during UI basketball game. In an e-mail later made public, Chancellor Nancy Cantor says Cook's arrest violated UI policies on free speech. Cook is later convicted of resisting arrest. He and two other protesters file federal lawsuit against UI, claiming civil rights violations by UI police officers and security guards.

March: Plummer presents his report on the Chief to trustees, concluding there can be no compromise.

Fall: UI establishes a Native American House on campus.


August: NCAA Executive Committee recommends schools using Native American imagery do a "self-evaluation" to determine if it is offensive.

Nov. 13: Board of trustees is set to consider resolution by Trustee Frances Carroll to honorably retire Chief and maintain name "Fighting Illini" for athletic teams, but resolution is withdrawn.


April: Anti-Chief protesters occupy Swanlund Administration Building for 32 hours. To end sit-in, Cantor promises meetings with members of North Central Association during upcoming campus visit and with members of black and Latino caucuses of state Legislature, and that Chief's future will be put on trustees' agenda in June.

June: Trustees adopt resolution calling for "consensus conclusion" on the Chief issue. In later months, they adopt guidelines that include keeping names "Illini" and "Fighting Illini" and considering athletic programs and ability of its athletes to compete at the highest levels.

August: After an April campus visit, North Central Association issues report saying UI's failure to resolve Chief issue shows failure of leadership and expresses concerns about how controversy is affecting "educational effectiveness" of university.


August: NCAA announces policy to ban certain universities, including the UI, from hosting postseason competition because they use American Indian imagery.

November: In a three-month flurry of activity, UI appeals NCAA policy; NCAA agrees that names "Illini" and "Fighting Illini" are acceptable but keeps UI on sanctioned list because of Chief Illiniwek portrayal and logo. UI files second appeal, arguing NCAA exceeded its authority, violated UI's institutional autonomy and applied policy arbitrarily.


April: NCAA rejects UI's second appeal and says university will be subject to sanctions.

May: UI is turned down as host site for opening round of NCAA men's tennis championships, despite high ranking of UI men's team.

May: U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Yorkville, introduce bill that would allow UI or any other university to sue NCAA for lost revenue if barred from hosting a championship game.

December: Johnson hosts hearing at Parkland College.


Jan. 18: Executive committee of Oglala Sioux Tribal Nation asks UI to return buckskin costume and other regalia sold to the university in 1982 for Chief costume.

January: Officials discover threats posted by UI students on Facebook Web site against an American Indian student at the UI. One suggests throwing a tomahawk in her face; another says, "I hope all those casino-owning bums die." A separate posting on anti-Chief site talks of shooting Chief Illiniwek. UI police investigate, but state's attorney declines to file charges, saying postings are protected speech.

Feb. 15-16: Two students who portray Chief Illiniwek sue the NCAA, saying sanctions violate their rights to free expression and academic freedom, and go to court to stop the UI from retiring the Chief. A judge rejects their request for a temporary restraining order against the UI.

Feb. 16: UI announces Chief will no longer perform and use of name and logo will be discontinued. NCAA announces UI will be removed from list of sanctioned institutions.

Feb. 21: The Chief's last dance will be at halftime of the men's basketball game against Michigan at the Assembly Hall.

Sources: News-Gazette archives and University of Illinois files

Sections (2):News, Local
Topics (1):Education