Thousands of years ago, the Great Illini Chief Ouatoga once battled and severely wounded the dreaded “Piasa”, the Illini name for "The Bird That Devours Men" (aka “Stormbird”, “Thunderer” or more commonly, “Thunderbird”). This creature, thought to be a rare fire breathing breed of Pterosaur which managed to survive the cataclysmic disaster which killed the dinosaurs, is known in certain scientific circles as the “Illinosaur” - named after the Illinois geological region in which it primarily resides.
In The legend of the Piasa, it was originally reported that the Illinosaur was killed by Chief Ouatoga, but it is now actually revealed to have merely been trapped in its cave in the bluffs of the Mississippi River, near Alton, Illinois, just between the connections to both the Illinois and Missouri rivers. The Illinosaur, referred to by some as “Saury” had been secretly guarded by an elite Illini Indian guard for thousands of years until very recently, when the last of the Illini guard abandoned their posts and left with Chief Illiniwek, when he was forced to leave his position at the University of Illinois, leaving the Illinosaur free to ravage the earth once again.
In this cave drawing, the Great Illini Chief Ouatoga is shown in battle with Saury, the Illinosaur,
Many want the present day Chief Illiniwek to return to the University of Illinois, but others feel that Chief Illiniwek is not truly representative of the original Illini Indians who inhabited the state of Illinois and the surrounding region and are ready for a completely new symbol to replace Chief Illiniwek. Meanwhile, as this debate continues, one thing is certain, and that is that Saury, the Illinosaur (aka. “Saury Illini”) is now freely roaming the midwestern region once again, occasionally taking flight, to breath fire, roar thunder, and cause general mayhem across the Midwest.
Some say that the Illinosaur creature is truly representative of the Fighting Illini spirit – that it is even somewhat apologetic for its earlier transgressions, and that it is begging for the chance to fight for the Illini. Others decry this beast and wish for a return to the more civilized days which were goverened by Chief Illiniwek. Click here to vote on the new spiritual guide and mascot for the University of Illinois.