Category Archives: Activism

The Arts Club of Chicago: The Path Toward Racial Equity: A Conversation about Land Acknowledgments (Online)

The Path Toward Racial Equity: A Conversation about Land Acknowledgments

Event Date: June 1
Time: 11:30 – 12:30
Location: Virtual Program

Register Here

Arts Club Board President Laura Washington engages artist Andrea Carlson, writer John N. Low, and artist/programmer Debra Yepa-Pappan about the tradition of acknowledging the indigenous peoples who lived on the lands in which cultural events now take place. They will also share aspects of their own creative production and consider the state of indigenous arts in Chicago. As the city with the third highest population of urban Indians in the US, Chicago is home to more than 65,000 from 175 different tribes.

Chicago Monuments Project, Speakers Series: Founding Myths, History, and Chicago Monuments, April 22, 2021

(DCASE) Monuments Project, April 22, 2021 from COC on Vimeo.

Chicago Monuments Project

Founding Myths, History, and Chicago Monuments

This session will explore Chicago’s founding myths, the history behind them, and the monuments that were created to illustrate them. This conversation will delve into how our monuments can tell false or incomplete narratives and reinforce harmful or distorted truths. It will also consider how new artworks can serve to better connect the past and present, as they speak to the future.

Panelists:

Adam Green, Associate Professor of American History & the College, University of Chicago;

Ann Durkin Keating, Dr. C Frederick Toenniges Professor of History, North Central College

John N. Low, Enrolled Citizen Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, Associate Professor, The Ohio State University

Exhibit: “Pokagon Potawatomi Black Ash Baskets: Our Storytellers” at The Field Museum in Chicago until February, 20 2022

Strawberries and blueberries are sacred fruits to the Pokagon Potawatomi people. This strawberry basket by Jamie Chapman is covered in curled spikes called curlicues, which require time and masterful skill to weave. (Michelle Kuo)

Link to Exhibit Page at the Field Museum: Pokagon Potawatomi Black Ash Baskets: Our Storytellers

Press Release:

New exhibit featuring Pokagon Potawatomi basket making to open at the Field Museum

This April, a new exhibit will open at the Field Museum that explores the artistry, tradition and the importance of basketmaking among the Pokagon band of the Potawatomi people. For the Pokagon Potawatomi, these baskets are regarded with the utmost honor, treated as living members of the community. However, over the past century, the practice of basket weaving has been threatened; first by the enforcement of oppressive government regulations and now by the ecological threat presented by the Emerald Ash Borer beetle. This exhibit tells a story of survival and resilience of the Pokagon Potawatomi. But it also contains a cautionary tale and a warning of environmental catastrophe.

For centuries, baskets have been an important part of Pokagon life. Historically they were used for storage, to contain food, fibers and collect berries. These baskets have always had important roles to play in their communities. However, as the Federal Government claimed lands from Native American tribes it also enforced a set of laws that stripped these communities of their rights to continue cultural practices. Communities had to be recognized as a tribe by the Federal Government which required much momentum and perseverance. The Pokagon sought federal
recognition in the 1930s, but the energy for this movement dwindled. For decades, the cultural identity of the Pokagon Potawatomi weakened. Basket weaving was nearly lost until Agnes Rapp and Julia Wesaw began a co-op that reintroduced the Pokagon to the art of basketmaking. Thanks to the co-op reinforcing the importance of maintaining these traditions, the movement for federal recognition was re-energized. Finally in 1994, the Pokagon Potawatomi won their fight for sovereignty.

Today, basketmaking remains an important part of the cultural heritage for the Pokagon Potawatomi. It is a tradition passed from one generation to another. “The Pokagon Potawatomi peoples are familiar with the traditions of our ancestors and know the multiplicity of stories within baskets. The baskets — assumed silent, static, and lifeless — speak to many of us,” says Dr. John Low, the exhibit’s co-curator and Pokagon Potawatomi tribal citizen.

Now Pokagon basketmaking faces a new threat, the Emerald Ash Borer. Black Ash trees
provide the wood needed to create these baskets. In the 1990s, the emerald ash borer, a beetle native to northeastern Asia that feeds on ash trees, found its way to the U.S aboard shipping crates. With no natural predators, the emerald ash borer is an invasive species, and highly destructive. Since it arrived, it has destroyed over 60 million ash trees. This begs the question, what will the Pokagon do without Black Ash trees? Will the tradition of basketmaking be lost as the trees perish?

For the Pokagon Potawatomi people, these baskets have souls and stories to tell. “The hands heard weaving are the same hands that make bread and plant seeds for food. Seeds of knowledge and wisdom are also planted with those busy hands,” says Dr. John Low. “Stories emanate from the baskets. Like the songs, prayers, and plantings of our grandmothers, we hear those stories. Because we know to listen. We know the songs the baskets sing. We listen, and smile, and say a prayer of gratitude.”

Pokagon Potawatomi Black Ash Baskets: Our Storytellers opens to the public on Friday, April 16 in the Marae Gallery at the Field Museum. The exhibit will feature handmade baskets by prominent members of the Pokagon Potawatomi tribe, a media piece that features Agnes Rapp and other basket makers at work and Emerald Ash Borer specimens. This exhibit is free with the cost of museum admission and open to visitors of all ages. It will be on display for the public until February 20, 2022.

“Native Pathways to Democracy: Collaborations, Histories, and Pedagogies of Place in the Greater Chicago Region” at the Organization of American Historians (OAH) annual conference on Friday April 16th, 2021

I am presenting as part of a panel of scholars at the Organization of American Historians (OAH) annual conference on Friday April 16 at noon ET. For Native Pathways to Democracy: Collaborations, Histories, and Pedagogies of Place in the Greater Chicago Region, I am focusing on Potawatomi activism in Chicago.  The other panelists are Drs. Philip Deloria, Kelly Wisecup, Aaron Luedtke, and Blaire Topash-Caldwell. 

Here
is a link to the conference panel.

 

Petition: Savage Bros. Candy uses American Indian head logo. It’s time to remove that racist image.

Savage Bros. Candy uses American Indian head logo. It’s time to remove that racist image.

 

Savage Bros. Company is a candy making machine company headquartered in Elk Grove Village, IL. Their name – Savage – was the family name of the company founder. Since the 1800’s, The company has, and continues to use the stereotypical head of an American Indian to convey “savage” in its company logo despite complaints about the racism of connecting American Indians with “savage”. The president of the company claims their customers love the logo. I have complained to them and asked they replace the human head with an image of a lion, shark, etc. Please tell the owners of Savage Bros. Co. to find another image and quit using people as an advertising gimmick. Say no to racist advertising!

NEC Blog: Removing Confederate Monuments on “All Sides with Ann Fisher” 6.29.20

Removing Confederate Monuments on “All Sides with Ann Fisher”

All Sides with Ann Fisher, WOSU 89.7 npr news

June 29, 2020.
 Columbus City Councilmember Elizabeth Brown, Director of Cultural Resources at the Ohio History Connection Megan Wood, Columbus Historian at the Columbus Landmarks Foundation Rita Fuller Yates, and Associate Professor of Comparative Studies at The Ohio State University Newark Dr. John Low [Pokagon Band of Potawatomi] are guests on All Sides with Ann Fisher. This hour long podcast is focused toward “public statuary, what it means, when it should endure and how we decide when it’s time to put it away.”
To listen to the entire podcastclick here.
For more information,
Visit:

MAPPING CHICAGOU/CHICAGO: The Settler Colonial City Project

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I was honored to have the opportunity to write the foreword to a publication for Decolonizing the Chicago Cultural Center at the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial by the research collective The Settler Colonial City Project.

You can read and download the entire publication here.

Foreword

This booklet is an important step toward acknowledging the colonial project we now call Chicago. Frankly, I was unfamiliar with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and was surprised when members began contacting me about “an Indigenous perspective” and “de-colonizing” the biennial to clear a space for native voices. Who knew? Since then, I have had the pleasure of making a small contribution to these efforts by consulting with Andrew Herscher, Ana Maria Leon and Paulo Tavares. Now, I am honored with providing a foreword to their document. This is significant – when individuals from distinctly different backgrounds, disciplines, and professions can organize and ally around a theme or issue, common understandings and common ground.

I am a citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians of southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana. I grew up in that community and know that Chicago is a part of our ancestral lands. I had the opportunity to write about our connections to the city in Imprints, The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi & the City of Chicago (Michigan State University Press, 2016). I love Chicago. Our tribal nation is less than one hundred miles from the Loop – we are the closest Native nation to the city. I have fond memories of visiting the city as a child, going to the museums, planetarium, aquarium, and sporting events, including my beloved Bears, Cubs, Bulls, and Blackhawks.  Later, I would earn an MA from the University of Chicago, lived in Hyde Park, Lincoln Park, and Bucktown. I taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University, and finished my dissertation while a scholar in residence at the Newberry Library. Yes, I love Chicago.

Chicago has been ancestral home for many native peoples; Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, Meskwaki, Fox, and others. It didn’t become an urban cosmopolitan place after the settler-colonists arrived. That is a false narrative. It has been a bustling place of interaction, trade, and habitation for thousands of years. But after 1833 and the last treaty of Chicago, American Indians were not expected to be included in “the American dream.” We were cultural patrimony, relics of the past. Modern America had no time for modern Indians. Pokagon Potawatomi author and activist, Simon Pokagon “talked back” to that notion with his oration at the World’s Columbian Exposition and his raising a birch bark tipi on the Midway during that event. Pokagon spoke before 70,000 people on Chicago Day in September of 1893; his booklet “The Red Man’s Greeting” was sold at the Fair and expressed his thoughts about the celebration.

On behalf of my people, the American Indians, I hereby declare to you, the pale-faced race that has usurped our lands and homes, that we have no spirit to celebrate with you the great Columbian Fair now being held in this Chicago city, the wonder of the world. No; sooner would we hold the high joy day over the graves of our departed than to celebrate our own funeral, the discovery of America. And while . . . your hearts in admiration rejoice over the beauty and grandeur of this young republic and you say, ‘behold the wonders wrought by our children in this foreign land,’ do not forget that this success has been at the sacrifice of our homes and a once happy race.

Clearly, it was difficult for him to celebrate this new Chicago. As he rode the Ferris Wheel at the Fair, Pokagon described his thoughts on how the place of his youth had changed.

As we were lifted up a strange sensation came over me, and I thought, the dominant race will yet invent a way for their sinners to reach heaven. For some cause, while our car was at its highest point, the monstrous wheel stood still. My companion said, “Pokagon, it stopped for you to view Chicago.” I surveyed the White City, stretching along the lake beneath me. Then, casting my eyes northward, I surveyed the white man’s Chicago. But how unlike the Chi-Kog-Ong of the red man! The shoreline of the lake, with its fleet of canoes; the marsh and winding river, with flags and rushes fringed, the scattering wigwams and the red men were nowhere to be seen. But in place rose roof o roof, steeples tall, smoking towers and masts of ships as far as eye could see. All had changed, except the sun and sky above, they had not, because the Great Spirit, in his wisdom, hung them beyond the white man’s reach.[i]

In large part, due to the U.S. governments plan of Indian relocation in the 1950’s, a new intertribal Indigenous community has emerged in Chicago. Simon Pokagon’s “talking back” against the erasure of Indigenous presence in Chicago has continued – reflected in the creation of Indigenous monuments including the bricolage at Wilson Avenue under Lakeshore Drive, and the historical marker and naming of “Battle of Fort Dearborn Park”.

Migwetch (thank you) to the authors of this booklet and to the reader as well. It tells an important story about Chicago that you usually don’t learn in school; one that is too often ignored. This little booklet, like Simon Pokagon’s little booklet of 130 years ago, is evidence that things are changing – not only in Chicago but around the world. Indigenous peoples are not just talking back; we are being heard.

[i] Simon Pokagon, “The Chi-Kog-Ong of the Red Man,” The New York Times, The Sunday Magazine, December 5, 1897; 7-10, 10.

Article from the alumni magazine of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan, Spring 2020: The Place of Wild Onions

The Place of Wild Onions is an excerpt from a multi-part story on the recent Settler Colonial City Project (SCCP) exhibit at the Yates Gallery at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Pages 41-43)

I am honored that my book, Imprints: the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians & the City of Chicago, was one of the inspirations for this impressive work and exhibit.

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You can read the Story on the LSA Magazine Website

You can also download the issue as a PDF or read the E-zine.

Link to an Indigenous Tour of Northwestern (Virtual Reality)

Here is a link to a wonderful mapping of the Indigenous presence in the greater Chicago area created by students at Northwestern University. Dr Patty Loew was kind enough to include me in the series of interviews. Very impressive interactive website. Migwetch Patty!

Indigenous Tour of  Northwestern

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Talk at the University of Dayton November 19th, 2019

NPAC 2019_Poster copy 2

I will be presenting a talk about the history of land acknowledgements at the University of Dayton during this colloquium.

 

Warrior Women

Warrior Women Project

We at Ohio State University – Newark had the opportunity to screen the film Warrior Women on September 19th, and we were joined by Madonna Thunder Hawk, her daughter Marcy Gilbert and the film’s co-producer/Director Beth Castle. The movie is about the American Indian Red Power Movement from it’s inception to today. It focuses on the essential contributions of women, including Madonna and Marcy, to that movement. I was honored to introduce our esteemed guests and secured a photo with Madonna and Marcy during their visit. They are inspiring leaders and I highly recommend the film. It is excellent.

Warrior Women Visit Cropped
L to R: Madonna Thunder Hawk, me, Marcy Gilbert.