Kingfisher mascot discussions continue in committee


Jacob Slabosz

Boneyard Area Mural !nitiative presents their mural Kingfisher located on 3rd Street. Since the University has retired Chief Illiniwek in 2007, many support the idea of having kingfisher as the new mascot.

By Jessie Wang, Staff Writer

A University committee is working to identify new traditions that don’t rely on depictions of Native Americans, and supporters of the kingfisher mascot are hoping that their pick will be included in the discussion.
The committee is one part of Chancellor Robert Jones’ announcement in 2020 on the University’s Implementation Plan on Native Imagery.
In 2020, the University Senate passed a resolution in favor of an orange and blue kingfisher designed by University alum Spencer Hulsey. The resolution called on Chancellor Jones to approve the new mascot and consider the kingfisher as a possible successor to Chief Illniwek.
Since the resolution was passed, there have not been any significant updates to the status of the kingfisher as the University mascot, said Robin Kaler, spokesperson for the University.
The University retired Chief Illiniwek in 2007 and has been without a mascot for 15 years. The retirement of the Chief came after the NCAA cited the mascot as “hostile and abusive” in 2005, after decades of controversy surrounding the mascot.
According to Dana Yun, a former University student senator who graduated this year, the Chancellor’s committee “discussed a new infrastructure” for how to vet a new mascot.
Yun is part of the Kingfisher Alumni Organization, an organization that promotes the proposed mascot by selling merchandise, working with campus RSOs to adopt the kingfisher and collaborating with Native American communities.
“It’s really amazing to see this shift, and we’re trying to gain more formal support,” Yun said. “We’re actually in communication with the Embassy of Tribal Nations … and working closely with their mascot task force to make sure that we’re aligning our goals with members of that group.”

According to the organization’s website, their efforts “send a strong signal that University of Illinois alumni are ready to see our alma mater unify school spirit and create new traditions.”

The kingfisher is also present in murals created by the Boneyard Area Mural !nitiative, or BAM!.

Murals of the kingfisher can be spotted at South Third Street and in the top right corner of the new mural on the side of Skyline Tower on Green Street.
Jacqueline Carrillo, a graduate student studying public health, said she remembered seeing the Chief on merchandise worn by students and talks about “bringing back the chief” when she began as an undergraduate at the University in 2018.
“When I did my own research about what the Chief was … I deemed (that) to be disrespectful,” she said.
Carrillo said she is happy the University no longer uses the Chief as a mascot, but is unsure about the kingfisher because of the University’s reputation as the Fighting Illini.
“When it comes to bringing in the new mascot, I think that (the University) is fine without a mascot,” she said. “I don’t think it would be a great idea to bring in a new mascot when we are already known as the Fighting Illini.”
However, the 2020 senate resolution stated that this mascot proposal is not intended to serve as a team name change but rather create new and inclusive traditions for the entire campus community.
Yun notes that although many people have strong ties to the old mascot, the creation of new symbols can bring a larger sense of unity and community.
“A mascot brings together a community more than any other marketing technique, so we’re just trying to give students a bigger sense of community,” Yun said.


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