Former trustee speaks out

By Nate Allen

The recent retirement of the Chief will provide an opportunity to reinstate the true meaning of the word Illini. According to former trustee, Roger Plummer, the term Illini originated in 1896 when the school newspaper changed its name from The Student to The Illini. Illini was a variant on Illinois representing the students and alumni of the University of Illinois, not the Illiniweh confederation. Chief Illiniwek was conceived fifty years later. The addition of Chief Illiniwek transformed the term Illini from representing students and alumni to Native Americans.

Ironically enough, the Chief nearly jeopardized the term “Illini.’ In fact, most universities with Native American names and mascots have been forced to change both. The NCAA allowed the University to keep “Illini” because it referred to students and alumni and not Native Americans.

Since the Chief is a symbol and not a mascot, there is no need to add a mascot. The retirement of the chief enables the university to promote the original meaning of Illini, which encompasses all our students and alumni! One tradition has ended but an older, more legitimate tradition is restored. Go Illini!

Nate Allen

Board of Trustees-Student Member 2003-2004