Chief Illiniwek: An Unlikely Solution

Racial and minority tensions have spiraled across the country in recent months. These tensions can be attributed to many different factors, but one thing is for sure, its played in a pivotal role in causing riots, un-peaceful protests and simple animosity towards one another. Workplaces, schools and especially college campuses are faced with the challenge of working together to unite all kinds in a peaceful format. Many diverse campuses, like the University of Illinois, have released statements in efforts to unify everyone. While these efforts have its impact, the Illini might have an unlikely solution: Chief Illiniwek.

In the past, Chief Illiniwek has caused some friction between native americans and other groups, which has made it difficult to every bring up the option of a Chief Illiniwek return. In the film In Whose Honor? individuals take a critical look at how Native American mascots have had an impact on racism, stereotypes, minority representation and the powerful effects of mass media imagery.

Now, this may seem as if the Chief can cause friction instead of end it. But the unofficial Chief Illiniwek Bennett Kamps as well as other’s feel it not only doesn’t cause friction, but can work to unite all different kinds of individuals together.

Kamps has been working as the Chief for a little over a year now. “Working” as in he attends functions to speak on behalf of what the Chief is all about, appeared on many different news outlets like ESPN defending the case to bring Chief Illiniwek back, and going to U of I athletic events dressed up as the Chief to make his presence still felt.

The history of the Chief has always been controversial, but what Kamps and other sources believe is that this is a time when a unifying symbol of all races and minorities could be beneficial, whether it come from an unlikely source, like Chief Illiniwek.

Courtesy of Bennett Kamps. Chief Illiniwek at a U of I sporting event.


For me, this was one of the most interesting and difficult stories I’ve done. I was put into contact with Bennett Kamps through a friend of mine, but had no idea on what I wanted to surround the story on. Stories on the Chief had been done before, I knew that and I didn’t want this to be a generic story like the rest of them. Professor Collins really helped me out on this part. She suggested asking Bennett questions related to ethnicity and his ethnicity and if certain races or minorities shouldn’t or should be able to portray Chief Illiniwek. I immediately correlated this with what’s been going on in this country with racial tensions, President Trumps efforts on an immigration ban, and just the turmoil I had seen throughout this country.

Now, my initial thought was I was going to sort of perceive the Chief in a negative light. I was put into contact with the Head of Native American Studies and she had given me sources and stories about the Chief that had been done in the past. To keep it short and simple, they were all against Chief Illiniwek.

But after my three interviews (albeit, I should have gotten an interview of an opposing viewpoint), the Chief was portrayed in a positive, unifying light. The interview that really tied this whole story together was the one with Omar Cruz-Aranda. Omar works very closely with Bennett and he really summed up well how Chief llliniwek can be unifying. Omar is of mexican descent and he talked about how with everything going on in this county (he specifically referenced Trump), the Chief can unify us all here at U of I. He also gave a specific example of that when he first came here and witnessed the Three in One, where everyone puts there arms around each other for the Chief’s official song.

In conclusion, I was proud of what I was able to accomplish with the interviewing and audio package, but I also feel like I could have tied it all together better and even made a better story. I look forward to continuing to better myself and become the best journalist I possibly can.

Thanks for reading!


You can view my stellar script here. Chief Illiniwek Story script- Griffin.pages



2 thoughts on “Chief Illiniwek: An Unlikely Solution”

  1. Hey Tim! Great story! Chief Illiniwek is a really interesting topic. I find it incredible you found that documentary and it was a good choice to include that in your story. It was very cool that you got a hold of Bennett Kamps. I have been curious about who he was. I love your writing style. It’s very informational without being over the top. Overall, you did a great job!

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