“It means a lot to me personally that you took your time to be here. This issue isn’t about me. This issue is about the Chief.”
URBANA — A Native American student, Xochitl Sandoval, who recently wrote about the anguish bought on by still seeing images of the retired, but not gone, Chief Illiniwek, told a group of community members about her concerns about the Chief.
“It means a lot to me personally that you took your time to be here,” she said. “This issue isn’t about me. This issue is about the Chief.”
She was among 77 people who took part in “Walk with Xochitl” on Tuesday evening on the University of Illinois Quad. Participants walked around the Quad for about an hour.
Sandoval gathered the walkers in a circle and sang a song during the event.
The event was organized by the Native American Indigenous Student Organization to show support for Sandoval.
University of Illinois Professor Emeritus Stephen Kaufman called on the campus administration to eliminate the playing of music associated with Chief Illiniwek at athletic events.
“The job is not done,” Kaufman said. “Chief Illiniwek is your swastika.”
Chris Castle, the president of the Native American Indigenous Student Organization, said he organized the event in response to Sandoval’s open letter to Chancellor Phyllis Wise in an effort to bring about what he called a “better campus climate.”
“We feel it is important to show solidarity for everyone who does not feel included in the community at the University of Illinois, or has been underrepresented or has experienced prejudice here on the campus,” Castle said.
Members of the UI’s transgender community also took part in the walk.
“I don’t think the university should be using the Chief any more. It’s a prejudiced mascot. It’s a racist mascot,” said Stephanie Skora of Palatine.
“It’s high time the university take that extra step and get rid of all the other uses of it. The indigenous community and the Native American community supported the transgender community when we were protesting for health care. So we are here to honor the bonds that were built and to participate in the coalition of minority groups to make sure that everybody has a voice.”