Native American tribe demands return of Chief Illiniwek regalia



By Jenette Sturges

If Chief Illiniwek will continue to dance, he will probably not be wearing quite the same garb.

On Wednesday, the Executive Committee of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Nation passed a resolution addressed to the University President B. Joseph White and the Board of Trustees demanding the return of Chief Illiniwek’s regalia and the original eagle feathers to Mel Lone Hill, descendent of spiritual leader Frank Fools Crow. Fools Crow presented the regalia to the University 23 years ago.

According to the resolution, Lone Hill asserts that Fools Crow was disappointed in how the University made use of the regalia.

The resolution also demanded that the University cease using Lakota regalia for Chief Illiniwek, and further supports a Peoria Tribe resolution from 2000 that requests the University “recognizes the demeaning nature of the characterization of ‘Chief Illiniwek'” and retires the figure.

According to Wanda Pillow, director of the Native American House and American Indian Studies program, the resolution is not a reaction to the recent Facebook controversy in which a wall post made by a University student on a pro-Chief group threatened an American Indian graduate student.

The resolution cited a number of reasons for the demands, calling Chief Illiniwek a “disrespectful representation of the Kaskaskia, Peoria, Piankeshuw and Wea nations” – traditional Illinois tribes the Chief is supposed to honor. The document also accuses the “antics” of those portraying the Chief of perpetuating “a degrading racial stereotype that reflects negatively on all American Indian people.”

The resolution also included that the original eagle feathers have not been returned to the family of Fools Crow as they have previously requested. Those feathers have been replaced on the regalia by painted turkey feathers.