The tradition of Chief Illiniwek was started on October 30, 1926, duringa football game against the University of Pennslyvania. Raymond Dvorak, who wasthe Marching Illini director of the time, chose the person, Lester Leutweiler,who portrayed the first Chief Illiniwek. Lester Leutweiler, a Caucasian, waschosen because he had studied Native American dance and leather work as a BoyScout. Leutweiler made the first Chief Illiniwek custom and created the firstdance. Another University of Illinois student who was dressed up as theUniversity of Pennsylvania Quaker joined Lester, in the first dance. During theperformance, both came out on the field together.
After they each puffed on apeace pipe briefly, Lester performed the dance for the first time. (Beckham 3). Since Lester Leutweiler, there have been 33 students to portray Chief Illiniwek,one of which was a female student. (Beckham 8). The second student who portrayedChief Illiniwek was Webber Borchers. Borchers was the first student, whoportrayed Chief Illiniwek, to wear an authentic Native American outfit.
Hetraveled to a South Dakota reservation, where he stayed for a couple months, andan elderly Native American woman and her apprentice handcrafted the outfit forhim. On September 25, 1982, Sioux Chief Frank Fools Crow traveled to theUniversity of Illinois with fellow Sioux elders Anthony Whirlwind Horse and JoeAmerican Horse. (Chief Illiniwek 5) Chief Frank Fools Crow was considered thegreatest Native American spiritual leader of the 19th century. (http://www.
chief. uiuc. edu/FoolsCrow/frank. htm). During halftime ceremony, Chief Fools Crow gave the University of Illinois theregalia that are currently worn by Chief Illiniwek.
(Chief Illiniwek). Theregalia were Chief Fools Crow’s own, which was handcrafted by his wife. Manysay Chief Fools Crow was proud to present the University of Illinois with thegift because his work and his wife’s would be shared and be seen by many. “The power and the ways are given to us to be passed on to others. To thinkanything else is pure selfishness. We get more by giving them away, and if we donot give them away, we lose them.
“-Fools Crow (http://www. chief. uiuc. edu/FoolsCrow/frank. htm).
Sadly enough Chief Frank Fools Crow passed away in 1989. The dance ChiefIlliniwek performs during halftime is a pow-wow dance, which is a way of meetingtogether, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships andmaking new ones. (Deleary and Dashner 4). More specifically Chief Illiniwek is atype of Oglala-Lakota Sioux dance called Fancy dance, which is celebratory innature, has no religious, war or ceremonial significance. (Tice 14). The originof Pow Wow (fancy dance) is believed to be the societies of the Poncha and otherSouthern Plains tribes.
These dances may have had different meaning in the pastbut today they are social dances. Although dance styles and content havechanged, their meaning and importance has not. (Deleary and Dashner 4). Thedance consists of two main parts, the downfield dance and the solo dance.
TheChief performs the dance with the Marching Illini during what is called theThree in One. The Three in One consists of three traditional University ofIllinois songs; “Pride of the Illini”, “March of the Illini”,and “Hail to the Orange”. This celebrated tradition has been performedat the conclusion of every halftime show in Memorial Stadium for nearly 75years. (http://www. chief.
uiuc. edu/tradition/performance/dance. htm). Theperformance begins as the band gathers in the center of the field. Marchingtoward the north endzone in block band formation, band members sing “Prideof the Illini” as thousands of onlookers clap in rhythm to the cadence ofthe snare drum.
As the Marching Illini nears the North endzone, the Chiefappears, bursts through the block band, and dances downfield toward the Southendzone. After the Chief reaches the south endzone, he returns to the center ofthe field for the Alma Mater. During the downfield portion of the dance, theMarching Illini, which has been marching in block band formation towards theNorth endzone, performs a difficult countermarch maneuver and marches backtowards the center of the field spelling “ILLINI”. As the bandfinishes spelling “ILLINI”, the Chief returns to the center of thefield. The downfield portion of the dance is now complete.
(http://www. chief. uiuc. edu/tradition/performance/dance.
htm). On October 16,1998 I heard Charlene Teters, founder of anti-Chief movement,speak at the University YMCA. The majority of those who intended were whitemales and Latinos. She was one of three Native American students recruited tothe University of Illinois, to pursue her bachelor’s degree in art, from theArt Institute of Native American. She is the mother of two children, a wife,Senior Editor for Indian Artist Magazine and a Spokane Indian.
When she firstarrived to the University of Illinois, she and the other two Native Americansrecruited walked around campus. What she, along with the other two students,discovered was that the campus was insensitive to Native American students. Theyfound degrading images of the Chief; such as a bar, which was called home of theDrinking Illini, with a falling intoxicated Indian, toilet paper with theChief’s face on every sheet, and a door mat with the Chief’s face on itwhich was worn out. But at the time they had no support system to protestagainst the issue.
The reason she started the anti-Chief movement was for herkids. She did not say in what year, but she took her two kids to a basketballgame and during the halftime show she noticed her kids slouch into their chairlike they wanted to disappear. What they saw was the Chief, which they hadalways been taught to hold in high honor, making a fool of himself and thusembarrassing Native Americans. At the following home game she, by herself,decided to protest and she was treated without any respect. People spit on her,kicked her, and the media tried to ridicule her.
All this backfired and she wonsupport that she needed to start and continue to fight against the Chief. Attractive, articulate and eloquent Ms. Teters is very often on-camera,describing lucidly how and why she and many others feel that the Illiniwek typeof activities, symbols, logos, regalia, mascots –plus many inauthenticities–areblows to Indian pride and self-esteem since they constitute non-respect ofimportant rituals. (http://fantasia. ncsa. uiuc.
edu/~jayr/NG. HTML). Another wayshe protests against Chief Illiniwek is through her art and educating otherabout the cons- of Chief Illiniwek. The most interesting form of her protest wasthrough her art.
For example, she has drawn a caricature of Abraham Lincoln,which completely ridicules him, but she calls it a symbol of pride honoring him”since we are in the Land of Lincoln. ” So basically she uses it as acomparison to the way the anti-Chief supporters view the Chief.