Category Archives: Pokagon Potawatomi Chicago

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.

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