Welcome to the Honor the Chief Society

HONOR the Names, RESPECT the Traditions, EDUCATE the Community

A Not for Profit Organization

Dedicated to the Preservation of Positive Native American Symbolism

In Memoriam…

Some of our members fought until the very end in support of the chief and the tradition of honor.  We’d like to take a moment to recognize these community members and thank them for a lifetime of dedication and respect.

A University of Illinois graduate who painted, sang Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, rarely missed an Illini game and fought for her beloved Chief Illiniwek for two decades. "She was '89 going on 50'," said Roger Huddleston of Mahomet, who co-founded the Honor the Chief Society with her. "Chief Illiniwek kept her alive for years," Huddleston said of the Chief, who was described as racist or revered in a battle that still has strong adherents on both sides. "She was effervescent, always fun to be around," said family friend John Hecker. "She had a wonderful way about herself. Even late in life, when she was not feeling well, she put on a tremendous front." Hecker last saw her at "The Next Dance" Chief performance Oct. 23, and she was "beaming" and "holding court." Mrs. Edwards was "outgoing, vivacious and had a good sense of humor," said her son, Jeff Edwards, now of Milwaukee. "She loved people and she loved the Champaign-Urbana community," he said. "She was active in the arts, theater, sports and religious community. "She loved it and said it was a symbol, not a mascot," the younger Edwards said, saying she felt Chief Illiniwek "transcended mascots like Bucky Badger of the University of Wisconsin." Huddleston and Mrs. Edwards both had cancer while they waged their fight to keep Chief Illiniwek, and he said "the chief kept her alive." "I'm not ready to go" with the battle unwon, she said, according to Huddleston.  



Jean was a true Illini fan. She was a proud member of the Quarterback Club, Rebounders, Courtsiders, Networkers, and of course the Honor the Chief Society. Jean was on the board of directors of both the Quarterback Club and Courtsiders. She was honored to be an Honorary Varsity I in 2005, and was a lifetime member of the Alumni Association, I Fund, Friends of the Library, U of I Foundation, Presidents Council and also the Chancellors Circle. Jean Bender fought to the very end to keep the chief alive in her community.  As she was battling severe health issues, she requested a chief appearance in her home community of Tuscola.  The chief had done a number of high school appearances, and so it seemed Tuscola would be the next on the list.  However, when anti-chief protestors caught wind of the event, threats over social media caused the event to be shut down.  With the high school out of the picture, the chief was able to appear at the Jarmin Center where Jean resided, so that she could see the chief one last time.


Co-Founder and Past President

First Portrayer and Co-Creator of the Chief tradition

Former Chief Portrayer

Former Chief Portrayer

Former Chief Portrayer

Former Chief Portrayer

Former Chief Portrayer and First Female Chief

Former Chief Portrayer

Former Chief Portrayer

Former Chief Portrayer

Former Chief Portrayer

Honor the Chief Society