Peoria Tribe representatives travel to campus

The heads of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma are on campus to speak to the University community Tuesday.

Chief John Froman and Second Chief Jason Dollarhide will discuss the Peoria Nation’s history, culture, governmental structure and the programs it offers its citizens Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, 601 S. Lincoln Ave.

Robert Warrior, director of the Native American House, said their presentation will not only inform attendees about issues taking place in the Peoria Nation today, but also Froman and Dollarhide will connect the University to the Peoria Nation historically.

“We (the University campus) are on the homelands of the Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma. These are the historical homelands of the people that they represent,” Warrior said. “So their presence on campus provides an exceptionally rich opportunity for us not only to understand more about contemporary American-Indian life but also to consider the history of where we are.”

The Peoria Nation, which has around 2,900 citizens, is located roughly five hours away from the University in Miami, Okla. It is a confederation of Kaskaskia, Peoria, Piankeshaw and Wea Indians that united into one single tribe in 1854, according to its Web site.

The Peoria Nation has had a rocky relationship with the University. In April of 2000, the nation passed a resolution that requested the University to discontinue the use of Chief Illiniwek as its mascot.

However, Dollarhide said the Peoria Nation and University still kept the lines of communication open, though the relationship was lukewarm. Dollarhide said he does not know whether the retirement of Chief Illiniwek has made the campus more receptive to his visit. But he believes that just coming and talking about the Peoria Nation will be a good start. “A lot of the student body doesn’t even know that the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma even exists,” Dollarhide said. “We want to get our name out there and let these folks know that we do exist and we are striving as a tribe.”

Warrior said that Froman’s and Dollarhide’s visit will help combat what he describes as people’s misconceptions of American-Indian culture. He feels that their visit will foster a deeper dialogue about American Indian life beyond the University’s former mascot.

“It’s one thing to think of the Chief or a chief as being a romanticized ideal or a cartoon character, a caricature,” Warrior said. “It’s another to think about what does it mean that somebody who represents real people in real time who wakes up in the morning and has a job to do, which is to represent those people and to provide programs that look after their well-being, look after their social educational needs.”