Category Archives: Pokagon Potawatomi Chicago

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.

 

MAPPING CHICAGOU/CHICAGO: The Settler Colonial City Project

mcc-cover

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.

Screen Shot 05-10-20 at 03.49 AM

You can read the Story on the LSA Magazine Website

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

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.”

Talk at Purdue University for Native American Heritage Month – November 1st, 2019

2019 10-28 NAECC Newsletter(1)_Page_1

Upcoming Exhibit: The Black Ash Baskets of the Potawatomi

Exhibit Opening: The Black Ash Baskets of the Potawatomi

The public is invited to the opening of an exhibit celebrating the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, and their art of black ash basket making. On Friday, September 13 at 4 p.m., the exhibit, “Art & Artifact: Material Culture & Meaning Making – Bodéwadmi Wisgat Gokpenagen, The Black Ash Baskets of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians,” will open at The Ohio State University at Newark in the LeFevre Hall Art Gallery located at 1199 University Drive.

According to exhibit curator John N. Low, PhD, Potawatomi basket making is a reclamation and recovery of a piece of native knowledge and technology, and it represents a potent counter-colonial and counter-hegemonic act with lasting implications. Low is an associate professor of comparative studies at Ohio State Newark and an enrolled citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

“This exhibit reflects an understanding that objects are not lifeless things that occupy space.

They have spirit and meaning,” he said. “Centered upon intellectual and material property, basket weaving is an opportunity for native women and men to make their own histories by using the past to ‘read’ the present.”

The exhibit is sponsored by grants from The Ohio State University Global Arts and Humanities’ Indigenous Arts and Humanities Initiative, American Indian Studies program, Ohio State Newark Milliken Fund and the Newark Earthworks Center. It will be available at Ohio State Newark until December 15.

“This is an opportunity to learn about and enjoy the artistry of American Indian peoples of the Midwest. The exhibit explores the ways in which objects like baskets communicate to those who take the time to ‘listen’,” said Low. “See the iconic black ash basketry of the Potawatomi Indians, and join in the celebration of the revival of this art.”

Low received his PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan. His most recent book, Imprints: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians & the City of Chicago, was published by the Michigan State University Press (2016).

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.

Insights at Night – The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi at the History Museum in South Bend, IN on July 24th, 7-9PM (RSVP)

SB flyerInsights at Night – The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi (Wednesday, July 24, 2019)

John Low Presents Program on the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi

The History Museum welcomes Dr John N. Low, Associate Professor at The Ohio State University and an enrolled citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, for a presentation at Insights at Night, taking place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24. In his talk, Pokagnek Bodewadmik: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, Dr. Low gives an overview of his tribal nation.

As part of the program, guests may visit the museum’s new exhibit Keepers of the Fire: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. Flavored iced coffees will be offered. Admission is $5/general and $4/members. Reservations are required by July 22 and can be made online at historymuseumSB.org or by calling (574) 235-9664.

For information, call The History Museum at (574) 235-9664 or visit www.historymuseumSB.org

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.

Pokagon Pow Wow Memorial Day Weekend

Pokagon Pow Wow Memorial Day Weekend

Set for this Memorial Day weekend is the tenth annual Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Pow Wow next weekend. The gathering in Dowagiac will feature traditional singing, dancing, and culture, and everyone is invited. The Pokagon name for the event literally translates as “we are honoring the ones we’re tied to through generations.” The grand entries for the pow wow will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 26, and 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 27. On both mornings, vendors will set up before the dancing starts, and the gates will open at 10 a.m. The event is considered a traditional pow wow where dancers compete before judges in different categories. The pow wow will take place at the Sink Road campus of the Pokagon band in Dowagiac.

Armour Seminar at the Field Museum, Jun 5th from 12:00PM – 1:00PM

Armour Seminar: Dr. John Low

Event summary

When: Jun 5 12:00PM – 1:00PM See more dates

Location: Field Museum 1400 S Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605

Ticketing: This event is Free

About this event

Hear about a variety of Native American topics from Dr. John Low.

Every week the A. Watson Armour III Research Seminar features invited speakers and their innovative research in natural history and culture.

Enjoy a lecture by Dr. John Low, Associate Professor of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University. A Q&A session will follow.

This event is free to attend, and museum admission is not required. Guests may enter through the West Entrance to join us in the A. Montgomery Ward Lecture Hall on the ground level.

Questions? Contact armourseminars@fieldmuseum.org.

Native American routes: the ancient trails hidden in Chicago’s grid system

Was cited in a Guardian article recently. You can access the full article here:

Native American routes: the ancient trails hidden in Chicago’s grid system