Home > Uncategorized > In Memoriam: Chief Illiniwek

In Memoriam: Chief Illiniwek

March 14, 2007

Chief In memoriam to Chief Illiniwek. 

Download a copy of the current Three In One, performed by the Marching Illini.

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(downloads MP3 copy. By downloading this file, you agree to terms indicated in 17 U.S. Code § 107 "Fair Use" doctrine.)

The half-time tradition at U of Illinois athletic events is a set piece less than 5 minutes long.   

The dance performed by Chief Illiniwek is a celebratory dance that has no religious or war-time significance.  The dance is loosely patterned after Native American fancy dance.  The dance consists of two main parts, the downfield dance and the solo dance.   The Chief performs the dance with the Marching Illini during a performance known as the Three-in-One.  The Three in One consists of three traditional University of Illinois songs; "Pride of the Illini", "March of the Illini", and "Hail to the Orange".  This celebrated tradition has been performed at the conclusion of virtually every halftime show in Memorial Stadium for nearly 75 years.

The performance begins as the band gathers in the center of the field.  Marching toward the north endzone in block band formation, band members sing "Pride of the Illini" as thousands of onlookers clap in rhythm to the cadence of the snare drum. As the Marching Illini nears the North endzone, the Chief appears, bursts through the block band, and dances downfield toward the South endzone.

Chief_insideilliniwek    After the Chief reaches the south endzone, he returns to the center of the field for the Alma Mater. During the downfield portion of the dance, the Marching Illini, which has been marching in block band formation towards the North endzone, performs a difficult countermarch maneuver and marches back towards the center of the field spelling "ILLINI". As the band finishes spelling "ILLINI", the Chief returns to the center of the field.  The downfield portion of the dance is now complete.


"Three in One"

(Courtesy of the University of Illinois Marching Illini)

The Marching Illini and Chief Illiniwek perform "Three in One" at Homecoming 1999

"Three in One" is the basis for the ending of every halftime show that the MI performs at home and every pregame show performed at away games and bowls (where time is short). The drill is a marquee drill that involves individualized drill. No more than two people have the same drill for the countermarch portion of the drill. The drill ends in the signature Illini formation.

The music is the combination of three individual songs: "The Pride of the Illini", "The March of the Illini", and the Alma Mater, "Hail to the Orange". These three songs were combined in the form they are now, and the traditions of "Three in One" and Chief Illiniwek began in 1926. They have been mostly unchanged to this very day.

The drill for "Three in One" is also nearly the same today as it was when first performed. Minor changes have been made to allow for a bigger membership in the band as well as the addition of a Flag Corps and the Illinettes.

The Marching Illini was the first band to sing a capella on the field, and that fact is celebrated by singing the lyrics to "The Pride of the Illini" the first time through, and then playing it the second time. The music was written by Karl L. King and the lyrics by Raymond L. Dvorak.

The lyrics to "The Pride of the Illini" are:

We are marching for dear old Illini,
For the men who are fighting for you.
Here’s a cheer for our dear Alma Mater,
May our love for her ever be true!
While we’re marching along life’s pathway,
May the spirit of old Illinois
Keep us marching and singing, with true Illini spirit,
For our dear old Illinois.

The Alma Mater, "Hail to the Orange", was written by H. R. Green and Harold V. Hill and is the third part of "Three in One". The MI sings "Hail to the Orange" a capella in four parts to close out the afternoon after marching back to the Harding Band Building following the game and at most formal concerts. The words are as follows:

Hail to the Orange, Hail to the Blue,
Hail Alma Mater,
Ever so true (so true).
We love no other, so let our motto be
Victory, Illinois, Varsity!

As thousands of students, alumns, and fans sing the University of Illinois alma mater, the Chief stands at the center of the field with his arms extended towards the sky.  After the playing of alma mater, the Chief performs the second part of the dance, the solo dance.  While the downfield dance carries from endzone to endzone, the solo dance takes place around the center of the field.  During the solo dance the band remains in place, still in "ILLINI" formation and plays the refrain to "March of the Illini".  Throughout much of the both portions of the dance, the Chief performs what is called the "double-step".   

Chief_ph2006010401930 This double step is an adaptation of a traditional doublestep common to many Native American styles of dance. At the conclusion of the 3-in-1 the band marches off to Oskee-Wow-Wow, the Chief departs, and Illini fans prepare for an exciting 2nd half!

  1. Illini Marine
    June 2, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Thank you for your article. The PC crowd can kill the Chief, but they will never prevail over the Illini spirit.

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