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HONOR the Names, RESPECT the Traditions, EDUCATE the Community

A Not for Profit Organization

Dedicated to the Preservation of Positive Native American Symbolism

News Archives for 2017-10

The Squanto Symbol: Another History Forgotten at Illinois

  I am a graduate of what was then called the College of Agriculture when I attended the University of Illinois back in the early eighties.  Early in my college career, I remember attending an event sponsored by the Agronomy Club where they had T-shirts for sale featuring a cartoon image of a stereotypical Indian: beak nose, bare chest puffed out, a single feather sprouting from the back of a headband.  He was standing next to a stalk of corn and leaning on a soil auger.  I assumed the image had some sort of connection with the Fighting Illini and the Chief Illiniwek imagery. 


  As a person of mixed American Indian and European ancestry, I had actually had a positive feeling about how Chief Illiniwek was portrayed, but conversely this little cartoon Indian didn’t hold much appeal to me…that is until the Agronomy Club advisor explained to me what the image was all about.  Turns out, the image didn’t have anything to do with the Illini tradition, but was meant to be a depiction of Squanto. 


  Although some of the facts have been lost to time, many American schoolchildren have heard the story of the Wampanoag man who helped the Pilgrims weather their first years in the New World.  Squanto had been a captive of earlier settlers and learned English very well.  He was sent to converse with these strangers and help them to understand what wild flora and fauna were edible in the unfamiliar world that they had come to settle.  Perhaps more importantly, he taught them how to grow the now all-American staple crop: corn.  The story goes that Squanto even taught these pilgrims early agriculture technologies like bio-solid fertilization using dead fish and crop rotation with beans and squash. 


  What the School of Agriculture was trying to convey with the image on the T-shirt was the American Indian contribution to modern agriculture; honoring Squanto as the country’s first agronomist.  Admittedly, I still didn’t like the picture, but I gained a much greater appreciation of what the Agronomy Club was doing.  I thought it was pretty cool to see the one of the nation’s premier agricultural colleges acknowledging the role American Indians played in not only introducing the settlers to the crop that is still king throughout the Midwest, but also the skill in cultivating it in a sustainable manner to increase yields. 


  To be honest I didn’t buy the shirt, and even though I was impressed by the meaning at the time, I didn’t give the image much more thought.  Years later, when I returned to the area for a homecoming event, I learned the club had given up the Squanto symbolism and replaced it with entirely with the moldboard plow (a technology that was perfected in Illinois by John Deere) as a symbol of the club.  As an agronomist, I could appreciate the contribution of John Deere to modern agriculture, too…but as an environmentalist, I also have a little pang of angst when I think about all of that native prairie that was turned under by the plow and all of the erosion from those bare soils. 


  When I asked why they ditched Squanto for the plow, I was told that Squanto had become a victim of a handful of complaints over the use of American Indian imagery (the same sort of complaints that would later lead to the official retirement of the Chief).  I couldn’t get a good answer as to why there wasn’t more of an attempt to replace the cartoonish picture with something more acceptable. 

I realize now that nothing short of the total removal of any American Indian symbolism would satisfy the complainers.   Still, I think all cultures involved have truly lost something here at the University of Illinois.  Maybe I’m still naïve after all of these years, but I still can’t help but think there must be a way we can share elements of our cultures.


  To this day, the Agronomy Club, now “Field & Furrow”, utilizes the plow as their ultimate symbol of American Agriculture.  The Squanto imagery is completely expunged, save a few retro stickers that still adorn the windows of Turner Hall.  For our modern generations unlucky enough not to have learned the contributions of Squanto in childhood, Illinois continues to ignore the opportunity for that cultural and historical education.  Corn remains king in Illinois, but the contributions of America’s first agronomist who helped crown that wonder-crop are completely ignored…lost forever in the effort of student enlightenment.  If Illinois emerges as a producer in something other than corn, it may be irony.

October Update

Along with showing honor and support to the tradition of the Chief, education is one of the primary goals of the Honor The Chief Society. It is our hope to provide our members and the public at large with information about the Native American peoples that once inhabited the lands of modern Illinois (Peoria, Tamaroa, Cahokia, Kickapoo, etc.) and the greater Midwest region. We cannot change the history that occurred here but we all can and should learn about the full history of this great state and region, especially after reflecting on some of the activities that have occurred in the last few days, weeks.


Earlier in October


An Honor The Chief Society officer registered the organization to march in the University of Illinois Homecoming Parade and later received confirmation. The confirmation also reminded the Board of the 2013 UI/HTCS settlement related to the Chief and various logos and words. The confirmation message noted that the organization’s float intended to include the Chief in regalia and a blue car (which happens to have the Davis symbol, classic circle chief head logo, on the hood) and that the settlement required a few stipulations. The Board acknowledged the confirmation and that we would abide by the settlement.


As an aside, the Honor The Chief Society has been in the Homecoming Parade for several years prior with the Chief and sometimes the car. In other years, Students For Chief Illiniwek would also use a similar arrangement.



Wednesday October 25th


The online magazine Smile Politely published a blog post about the Chief’s intended appearance in Friday’s Homecoming Parade, after someone leaked it to the media. If you read the article, it uses some accusatory language that may have inspired the actions that later followed. You can find the article here: https://smilepolitely.com/splog/it_is_time_to_put_an_end_to_this_minstrel_show_once_and_for_all/#disqus_thread


Also on this day, the Illinois Student Government voted to boycott the Homecoming Parade due to the Chief’s intended presence. A coalition of other groups joined in this decision and ISG encouraged “… students, faculty & community members to similarly boycott this event unless Chief Illiniwek is removed.” Quote taken from link provided: https://www.facebook.com/ILstudentgov/photos/a.10150538063769657.464215.239183064656/10156964480879657/?type=3&theater



Thursday October 26th night


Alex Dozier (Our Chief #38 and an HTCS Advisor) gave a presentation to the Illini Republicans about the tradition of the Chief and the history of the Native peoples of Illinois. During Alex’s presentation, a member of the crowd, with an opposing viewpoint on the Chief, became disruptive and was asked to leave. During this person’s disruption, the presentation was halted and a number of promotional fliers, drawings, and other personal items were torn up or damaged. The disruptor was eventually escorted from the room by a campus police officer and the presentation resumed. Research after the presentation pointed toward the disruptive individual being a University of Illinois civil service employee but this has not been independently confirmed.


For a video and more information about the disruption, please feel free to follow the link provided below: https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=10056



Friday October 27th night


Members of the Honor The Chief Society, their supporters, and the current portrayer of the Chief marched in the University of Illinois Homecoming Parade. The public reception for this peaceful support of the former University symbol was very positive for the majority of the event.


That being said, members of a number of student organizations (Illinois Student Government, Native American House, Graduate Employees’ Organization, …) planned to hold a counter demonstration in opposition to our organization and did not only protest us. When the car transporting Urbana Campus’ Chancellor Jones reached the Alma Mater the group, rumored to be around 100 strong, descended on his vehicle to voice their opposition to HTCS being allowed in the parade. This altercation eventually led to Chan. Jones and his wife leaving the vehicle and being escorted away in a campus police car and parade being cancelled.


It has also been discussed that members of the Marching Illini and the Alumni Band were disrupted by a group of protesters near the Alma Mater, where they were forced into an early dismissal. The band was then followed to the Krannert Center by a group of protestors. The Krannert Center staff were said to have turned the protestors away after the band had entered the building.


With the road eventually cleared and the subsequent groups not fully notified, the parade continued forward until the HTCS group met with the remaining members of the earlier protest, now numbering around 30 to 50. Our group stood firm initially, then after police advisement, attempted to walk around the protesters before being blocked again. The protestors then moved in and pushed against our supporters, in some cases physically. Subsequent by-pass attempts did not succeed, resulting in the police requesting HTCS to formally leave the parade. We first walked towards the Union as the opposition desired us to leave the parade altogether, however the protesters were not satisfied with us just leaving the parade route. Eventually we made our way into Campustown where the police kept the protestors on one side of the road and the Chief was then escorted from the area in a police car.


This stoppage resulted in some members of the public joining HTCS to protect the Chief and we thank them for their support and assistance. We would also like to thank the policemen and women for staying neutral in the event and providing safe passage for the Chancellor and Chief to leave the area.


3 HTCS group members and supporters were known to have been slightly injured in this event including bruised ribs and a push towards the ground which resulted in a broken cell phone. The author of this message is proud of how our members and supporters kept their cool in this situation and attempted to protect the Chief without escalating the situation.


If anyone would like to see the Illinois Student Government’s video on the event, please feel free to check out their Facebook page at the link below: https://www.facebook.com/ILstudentgov/?fref=ts



Saturday October 28th


With the previous nights in mind, thankfully Saturday was more of a celebratory time as our organization and some new friends came together to celebrate Native American culture and the interest in history that it can foster.


The Native American Guardians Association (an organization that supports the Fighting Illini name and the “…positive, honorable imagery as well as tributes to Native American culture in the American mainstream”), Illinois Pride (“The mission of Illinois Pride USA is to celebrate and promote awareness of the proud history, customs, and traditions of the Illinois Confederated Tribes.”), and members of the Spirit Lake Sioux arranged for a number of supportive Native Americans from North Dakota to perform a few songs and dances for the public that assembled at the corner of First and Kirby in Lot 31 of the tailgates. The group first marched through the tailgates before arriving at the performance location set aside by an HTCS member.


NAGA, Illinois Pride, and Spirit Lake Sioux representatives spoke in support of the Fighting Illini and the symbolism that it represents. They performed welcome, honor, and celebration songs before inviting the public to join in a circle dance. The crowd was very supportive of the performances and HTCS hopes to work with these organizations going forward.


Following the event, some members of NAGA joined HTCS in the Chief’s halftime horseshoe section appearance. There were thankfully no protests during the game and the crowd and fans showed their support as loudly as ever.


For more information about Illinois Pride and NAGA, please see the links provided below. There are/will be pictures and videos of the performance shared on the different pages in the near future.


Illinois Pride Website: https://illinoispride.org/

IL Pride Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IllinoisPrideUSA/?fref=ts

NAGA Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Native-American-Guardians-Association-118431615517537/?fref=ts



After reading about the events of this weekend, what does this have to do with providing and spreading education related to Native American history and heritage? It shows that we need to provide a positive Native American image, a symbol, that will spark the public’s curiosity and lead them to research further. We must come together to share our mutual support for a symbol that will lead the public to research the Native peoples formerly of this land so as to better understand our collective history.


The next question will be, how do we do this? Please consider supporting groups like HTCS, NAGA, and Illinois Pride with your membership and support. You can join the Honor The Chief Society by visiting our website and clicking the “Join The Movement” tab, submitting the initial membership form, and filling out the official form sent to you from the organization’s secretary. You can find the membership form and contact for the Native American Guardians Association through their Facebook page under the “About” tab. You can contact Illinois Pride through the “Contact” tab on their website.


Additionally, consider requesting that the University of Illinois join in advocating for more Native American history education, heritage celebrations, and open discussions in and around the Champaign-Urbana area and Illinois. We have provided the contact information for the University of Illinois leadership at the end of this passage so that you can join us in this mission together.


We hope that you will join us not only in honoring the Chief and respecting the tradition for which he stands but also educating the community. The Chief has always stood as a symbol of unity, only together can we properly honor that heritage. Thank you.


Honor The Chief Society Website: https://honorthechief.org/

Honor The Chief Society Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/honorthechief/?fref=ts

Illinois Pride Website: https://illinoispride.org/

Illinois Pride Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IllinoisPrideUSA/?fref=ts

Native American Guardians Assoc. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Native-American-Guardians-Association-118431615517537/



President Timothy Killeen:


Timothy L. Killeen

President’s Office – University Administration

364 Henry Administration Building, MC-346

506 South Wright Street

Urbana, IL 61801


Chancellor Robert Jones:



Robert J. Jones

Office of the Chancellor

Swanlund Admin. Build.

601 E. John Street

M/C 304

Champaign, IL 61820


BOT Chair Tim Koritz:



Timothy N. Koritz

Board of Trustees Office

352 Henry Administration Building, MC-350

506 South Wright Street

Urbana, IL 61801


HTCS Web Design Committee

Special thanks to all of those who made this website possible.  We are still looking to advance and improve, so let us know any suggestions you may have for the website.  


HTCS Website Committee:


Committee Chairs:

David Shier, Co-Chair

Alex Dozier, Co-Chair

Judi Edwards Smith, Senior Webmaster


Committee Members:

Omar Cruz

Bree Mehrtens

Beau Wilson


Technical Adviors:

Brandon Burton

Mike Greifenkamp




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