The Native American Student Association hosted Chief John P. Froman, head of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, at International House last Tuesday. In his talk, entitled “Cultural Identity, Sovereignty, and Politics: Tribal Leading,” Froman spoke about the challenges of tribe leadership.
Froman focused the discussion on the controversial use of American Indian tribe symbols as sports team mascots.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has traditionally used the Fighting Illini nickname for its sports teams, and Chief Illiniwek as its mascot. The cheerleader-like performance of the mascot, however, does not resemble any traditional cultural events of the Peoria Tribe. Throughout his term as chief, Froman has urged UIUC to stop using Chief Illiniwek as a mascot, saying the university’s representation grossly misrepresents the tribe and its cultural traditions.
NCAA policy was recently amended to ban the use of Native American symbols as athletic logos and mascots, and according to the News-Gazette, a newspaper based in Champaign-Urbana, “UI athletic teams are not allowed to host postseason competitions unless the university gets rid of Chief Illiniwek.” UIUC is currently discussing whether to change the mascot.
The Peoria Tribe is part of a confederation of four tribes originally from the Illinois area that were forced to migrate first to Missouri, then to Kansas, and which finally settled in northeastern Oklahoma.