Category Archives: Anthropology

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.

Talk at the Licking County Library, Newark, Ohio on March 12th

American Indians Return to the Newark Earthworks

7:00 PM – 7:45 PM
Downtown Newark
Meeting Room A

Event Details

Hundreds of federally recognized American Indians from across the country have traveled to Newark in recent years to visit our earthworks. In anticipation of the Spring Open House for the Octagon Earthworks, John Low and Richard Shiels will talk about the experience of Indians from Oklahoma and Michigan who have made the visit and the American Indian leaders who are active in the effort to inscribe the Newark Earthworks on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Richard Shiels, Associate Professor Emeritus, specializes in American religious history and has served as the Director of the Newark Earthworks Center, an interdisciplinary center of The Ohio State University for studying and teaching about ancient earthworks and Native American history and life.  He was the recipient of The Ohio State University-Newark Teaching Excellence Award in 1977, 1985, and 1988.
John N. Low, Associate Professor of Comparative Studies and citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, is the current Director of the Center.  He has previously served as Executive Director of the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, Illinois, and as a member of the Advisory Committee for the Indians of the Midwest Project at the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library.
Event Type(s): Adult
Age Group(s): Adult

Talk at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, March 5th

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Art & Artistry: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and Black Ash Basketry

Event Type: Lecture
Sponsor: American Indian Studies
Location: Davenport Hall, Room 109A
Date: Mar 5, 2020   3:30 pm  
Speaker: John N. Low, Associate Professor of Comparative Studies, Ohio State University – Newark
Originating Calendar
American Indian Studies Program
John N. Low received his Ph.D. in American Culture at the University of Michigan, and is an enrolled citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. He is also the recipient of a graduate certificate in Museum Studies and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan School of Law. He also earned a BA from Michigan State University, a second BA in American Indian Studies from the University of Minnesota, and an MA in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. His most recent manuscript is Imprints: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians & the City of Chicago (2016, Michigan State University Press). Since September, 2019, he has been the Director of the Newark Earthworks Center at the Ohio State University – Newark.

Dr. Low’s research interests and courses at the Ohio State University – Newark include American Indian histories, literatures, and cultures, Native identities, American Indian religions, Indigenous canoe cultures around the world, Urban American Indians, museums, material culture and representation, memory studies, American Indian law and treaty rights, Indigenous cross-cultural connections, critical landscape studies, and Native environmental perspectives and practices.

New Short Documentrary on YouTube: The Pokagon Band of Potowatomi

The Pokagon Band of Potowatomi

“Very few native tribes avoided removal to the West, but the Pokagons, led by Chief Leopold Pokagon, managed to do it. This short documentary, produced for The Region of Three Oaks Museum, tells that story and subsequent events that led to official recognition of the Pokagons by the US government 160 years later.”

Ohio Mounds Top USA’s UNESCO World Heritage Site Bid (With Audio)

Ohio Mounds Top USA’s UNESCO World Heritage Site Bid

“Not Just a Pile of Dirt” – OSUN – Faculty Talks Outside the Box Friday, November 15, 2019, 3:30 – 4:30pm

Faculty Talks Outside the Box | Not Just a Pile of Dirt

Facult Talks Outside the Box | Not Just a Pile of Dirt Lecture Flyer. PDF available.
November 15, 2019
3:30 PM
Free & Open to the Public!
Room 175
John L. & Christine Warner Library & Student Center
The Ohio State University at Newark
1219 University Drive
Newark, OH 43055
 

It is a story similar to hundreds told before — the destruction of historical land to make way for the growth of a booming city. Once encompassing more than four square miles, the Newark Earthworks were built by the people of the ancient Hopewell Culture between 100 B.C. and 500 A.D. All that remains today of the Earthworks are two major segments: the Great Circle Earthworks and the Octagon Earthworks. John Low, Associate Professor of Comparative Studies and the new Director of the Newark Earthworks Center, will discuss these incredible indigenous monuments in their former days and what remains today at an upcoming Faculty Talks Outside the Box lecture.

“It is important to be familiar with these ancestral sites not only because they will likely soon be a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site, but also because they represent a legacy of human achievement in architecture, astronomy, geometry and evidence of humankind’s ability to work together in collaborative undertakings,” said Dr. Low.

Dr. Low will discuss how the Newark Earthworks are an architectural wonder of ancient America, and how they are part cathedral, part cemetery and part astronomical observatory. He will note the work of the Newark Earthworks Center and the importance of the Earthworks as a potential UNESCO World Heritage site.

During Faculty Talks Outside the Box, Ohio State Newark professors discuss recent research in their fields as it relates to our community and answer questions. All talks are free and open to the public. The Warner Center is located at 1219 University Drive, Newark, Ohio.