Supporters want to start new tradition this fall at Illinois football games

Supporters want to start new tradition this fall at Illinois football games

CHAMPAIGN — It wouldn't be football season in Illinois without Chief Illiniwek activity.

With Lovie Smith's Illini opening practice a week from Friday, a group of Native American advocates have announced a two-part plan to (1) commemorate the 2007 passing of Chief Illiniwek with a parting ceremony at Memorial Stadium and (2) start a new tradition by bringing in authentic pow wow dancers.

"We need a new identity to bring the fans together," said Tony Henson, an activist member of the Native American Guardians Association. "The university retired Chief Illiniwek because he wasn't authentic. We need a new tradition honoring the Native American origins of the Fighting Illini. We want to keep the culture alive."

Four Sioux "fancy dancers" from North Dakota took part in a pow wow directly west of Grange Grove prior to the homecoming game with Wisconsin last October. There are plans to repeat this in 2018 inside Grange Grove, with the ultimate goal of making it part of the halftime show.

The UI administration denied a similar request in 2017, and the Illini "war chant" music was banned last August.

The UI Board of Trustees, under pressure from the NCAA, banned Chief Illiniwek in 2007.

Loren Tate

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