University Retires Native American ‘War Chant’ From All Events

The decision follows the retirement of mascot Chief Illiniwek 10 years ago.

The University of Illinois' former mascot Chief Illiniwek. Photo by Soundfromwayout/Flickr.

The University of Illinois war chant, a divisive reminder of the school’s former mascot Chief Illiniwek, will no longer be played during any school events, per the school’s athletic department. While attention has been turned to such previously tolerated relics of racism and insensitivity after the Charlottesville violence, the school has stated that the decision to do away with the tradition was finalized at the end of the last football season, but is only now being made public.

Speaking to ESPN, Illinois athletic department spokesperson Kent Brown revealed the decision received public attention only last Thursday when a department employee asked the student spirit group Illini Pride to stop playing it on drums during a soccer game. The school band and other official groups had received notice they were to cease playing the song last year.

"There are people who felt that was an offensive Native American chant or music," said Brown. "Another big part of that was that we had used it on third-down situations and our fan reaction to that was not as good as when we used our video board to prompt our fans."

In 2005, the school faced NCAA sanctions for its continued representation of Chief Illiniwek, a Native American caricature portrayed by students in war paint at sporting events. The school did away with the character in 2007, but the war chant remained a fixture at sporting events, evocative of the insensitive representation.

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