War Chant Banned

August 28, 2017

The University of Illinois recently decided to ban its “war chant” during sporting events, in response to requests by Native American groups.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the chant was tied to the Native American theme of the university's former mascot, Chief Illiniwek, a mascot that was banned in 2007, and played when opponents faced third down. The university dropped the chant in order to be more “inclusive” and because it was not as appealing to fans.

Charlene Teters, a Native American and Illinois alumna who has protested the Chief mascot since 1989, said she welcomed the change.

"I've been saying for many decades (these sports traditions) were race-based, and everything associated with it and the antics of the fans mimicked and trivialized the cultural traditions of our people," she said. "Whatever steps it takes, they're stepping in the right direction, and we should applaud that."

The Students for Chief Illiniwek and the Council of Chiefs are seeking to bring back the Chief mascot. Members play as the chief, but since the mascot's name and image are the university's trademarks, student groups cannot officially use them.

Ivan “Alex” Dozier, a part-Cherokee Illini fan who unofficially portrayed the Chief from 2010-15, said he was disgusted and angry at the decision, and was ashamed to have degrees from the university.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "If that's what it takes to lose part of our culture, to lose part of our history, we need to re-evaluate our motives. Students react passionately to the game-day environment. They're trying to chip away at our culture and history, university and Native alike."

Jay Rosenstein, an Illinois professor and the creator of "In Whose Honor? American Indian Mascots in Sports," said that the chant was originally called “Indian,” and said he approved of banning it.

"To be clear, it's a song meant to be a white stereotype of Native Americans," he said. "If you're going to be a university that respects all people, this (ban) is something that had to be done."

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