Category Archives: Migwetch

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.

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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Announcement of My New Role: Director of the Newark Earthworks Center

Newark Earthworks Center Welcomes New Director

John N. Low, PhD, associate professor at The Ohio State University at Newark, has been appointed as director of the Newark Earthworks Center (NEC). His term will begin on September 1, 2019, and run through August 31, 2022.

“Since arriving at Ohio State, John has put together not only a strong scholarly record, but an equally impressive record of outreach and engagement” said William L. MacDonald, PhD, dean/director at Ohio State Newark. “I am very happy to announce his new role with the Newark Earthworks Center.”

The NEC is an interdisciplinary academic center of The Ohio State University that is focused on advancing the understanding of the cultural and scientific achievements of American Indians through projects and research about the cultures that produced monumental Midwestern earthen architecture. The center started as the Newark Earthworks Initiative in 2005 and became the Newark Earthworks Center in 2006 after receiving official approval from The Ohio State University Board of Trustees.

According to Low, who is a member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and also coordinator of the American Studies minor program at the Newark campus, “I am very excited to join a small but passionate team at the Newark Earthworks Center, as we build upon the foundations laid by former director Dick Shiels and interim director Marti Chaatsmith (Comanche Nation Citizen/Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma descendant). The Center will continue to grow and evolve. As a center for The Ohio State University we have a unique opportunity to promote scholarly engagement and research as well as contribute to the efforts of World Heritage Ohio to have the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the future we will also expand our focus to include earthworks and mounds throughout Ohio, and reach out to scholars, constituents and stakeholders around the world as we make the Ohio State Newark NEC a world class research center.”

Low received the American Society for Ethnohistory’s Robert F. Heizer Award for best article for “Vessels of Recollection – the Canoe Building Renaissance in the Great Lakes,” published in 2015 in Material Culture. His book,Imprints: the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the City of Chicago (Michigan State University Press), was published in 2016.

He served on the Ohio State Cemetery Law Task Force and has testified before the Ohio legislature regarding establishing an “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Low is the chair of the Ohio State Newark/Central Ohio Technical College Advisory Council for Diversity and Inclusion and a member of the Program in American Indian Studies Faculty Oversight Committee. He has curated two shows reflecting traditional indigenous knowledge at Ohio State Newark’s LeFevre Gallery. In 2015-2016, Low received the COTC/Ohio State Newark President’s and Dean/Director’s Diversity Award. Further, he has served on the oversight committee for the NEC since his arrival at Ohio State.

Low, who teaches in the department of comparative studies, earned a PhD in American culture and a juris doctorate and graduate certificate in museum studies at the University of Michigan. He also earned an MA in the social sciences from the University of Chicago. Before coming to Ohio State, he was a visiting professor in history, law and American studies at Northwestern University, a visiting professor in American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and executive director of the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, Illinois.

When Low enters the role of director, Marti Chaatsmith, NEC interim director, will resume the position of associate director. University budget cuts in 2015 put the fate of the NEC in question just as the earthworks were on the brink of international fame. Announced in July 2018, the NEC will continue at Ohio State Newark, becoming the regional campus’s only university center. The decision was reached unanimously by Ohio State’s Council of Academic Affairs. The leadership of Chaatsmith was a key factor in this outcome.

 

The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.

Canoes at Northwestern University: Humanities Without Walls

NU canoe1Ralph Frese canoe at the at Skokie Lagoon. (Photo credit: John Low)

On May 30th I had the opportunity to visit Northwestern University and the folks affiliated with the Humanities without Walls grant group organized by Dr. Kelly Wisecup to discuss canoes and the relations of the Potawatomi people to the Chicago area. Specifically, I  spoke  about how the geography of the area made it a perfect place for Wigwas Jiimaan (birch bark canoes). Echicagou (Chicago) is at the North-South continental divide and with the many rivers there the first peoples of the region could travel east to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence river, west to the Mississippi and then north to Minnesota, west along the Missouri River, east along the Ohio River or south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

We were able to secure a canoe made by Ralph Frese to also talk about the Chicago American Indian Center’s Canoe Club which revived canoeing in Chicago in the 1960’s and 1970’s. We put canoes in at Skokie Lagoon to try out the magic of canoeing and the day was completed with a workshop led by Dr. Margaret Pearce on mapping Indigenous homelands.

It was a great opportunity for me to make new friends and see old friends too. Thank you to everyone for your kind hospitality on a memorable journey.

Humanities Without Walls

Pokagons Collaborate with the Field Museum in Chicago on Native Exhibit

I was honored to give an Armour Lecture yesterday June 5 at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. I spoke on the power of native baskets and the importance of the Black Ash Basket Coop to the Pokagon Potawatomi community. Highlighted were cofounders Julia Wesaw, Agnes Rapp, Judy Augusta, and Rae Daugherty. 

I was also honored to be invited to guest curate a temporary exhibit on Black Ash baskets at the Field Museum scheduled for Autumn 2021.

Many thanks to my hosts Alaka Wali, Debra Yepa-Pappan, and Eli Suzukovich for their kind hospitality and to everyone who came out for my talk!
Chi Migwetch!

More Here:

Pokagons collaborate with Field Museum on native exhibit

When Pokagon history professor John Low Ph.D., heard that The Field Museum in Chicago would embark on a project to revamp its dated Native North America Exhibit Hall, he brought that to the attention of the tribe’s Traditions and Repatriation Committee and the Department of Language & Culture. Committee members Christine and Gary Morseau and Jason S. Wesaw, as well as Marcus Winchester, director, and Blaire Topash-Caldwell, archivist, from the Department, went to view the museum’s collection. They met with Debra Yepa-Pappan, a Pueblo artist and community engagement coordinator for the Native American exhibit renovation project at the museum, who asked for Pokagon participation in the project. Topash-Caldwell is now serving on the committee reviewing the museum’s renovation.

Recently, Winchester spoke at a ceremony dedicating and installing an acknowledgment of the original inhabitants of the land the museum occupies. The new plaque sits in a garden full of native plants and states: “The Field Museum resides on the traditional homelands of the Three Fires Confederacy: Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi. The area was also a site of trade, travel and healing for more than a dozen other native tribes.”

It is a “much, much needed renovation,” Field president and CEO Richard Lariviere said in the Chicago Tribune’s article about the ceremony and project. “This project intends to correct the way the museum tells the Native American history by doing so through the lens and voices of Native Americans.”

“It means a lot for such an influential museum in the United States to put themselves out there and acknowledge indigenous people as traditional land owners,” Winchester said after the ceremony that included a hand drum singer and a jingle dress dancer.

“I met people from other museums there,” he said. “I would most definitely like to see other museums follow their lead.”

The museum’s current exhibit will remain open throughout the three-year overhaul, with fall of 2021 as the targeted completion date.

Miigwetch! Thank You to the Snite Museum.

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I wanted to thank everyone at the Snite Museum of Art for their kind hospitality. I also wanted to thank my co-speaker, Christine Rapp-Morseau. Above is a pic of Christine speaking (I am to the left). I also received nice comments. Thank you to all who attended!

Posted with permission:

Dear Christine and John,

Thank you for all of the time and thought you put into making Saturday’s program such a success. I have heard from many people since how much they enjoyed the event and how much they learned (me included!). I especially appreciated the generous ways in which you each worked to make your particular areas of expertise accessible to a general audience.
Miigwetch!
Frances
Frances Jacobus-Parker
Snite Museum of Art
University of Notre Dame

And a note from Christine:

Migwetth Frances. I think it worked great together. John’s slide show was very informative and made me emotional seeing my grandmother, my teacher on screen. Much thanks for your work at the Snite Museum. I didn’t really understand some of the art there until your colleague/friend explained to me in detail about them. It was amazing and took on a whole new meaning to me. Job well done Frances, I loved it!

Christine Rapp-Morseau

Ball State University Anthropology Student Symposium Friday, March 31, 2017

The Ball State University Anthropology Student Symposium held Friday, March 31, 2017: Muncie, Indiana.

I was honored to provide a keynote address and was most impressed with the quality of student scholarship at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at BSU! Thank you again to everyone who I had the pleasure to meet at the daylong event!

Lowflyer.BSU

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