Indigenous people have a remarkable and ever-lasting influence on Chicago. According to the University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago is home to the Midwest’s largest population of Native Americans. On Indigenous Peoples Day, a day that recognizes the Indigenous communities that have lived here for thousands of years, we’re recounting where you can find depictions of Native American life and the ways in which modern Native Americans have an impact on the city today.
President Joe Biden issued a presidential proclamation in 2021, calling on Indigenous Peoples’ Day to be celebrated along with Columbus Day. Yet, Chicago is still a bit behind. While Chicago Public Schools have ended its celebration of Columbus Day, the city hasn’t passed any legislative efforts to swap the holidays. Here are a few happening today…
Celebrate at the Old Town’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day Festival
The first Indigenous Peoples’ Day festival starts at 6:30 and goes to 10 PM at the Old Town School of Folk Music (4544 N. Lincoln Ave.). The festival, which started yesterday, features performances and dances by Indigenous artists, Admission is free with donations accepted at the door. Reserve your ticket here. The event showcases a variety of musical performances, from Indigenous rock, to EDM, hip-hop, Latin fusion and more.
The Mitchell Museum’s is free today for the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Festival
The Mitchell Museum (3001 Central Street Evanston, IL 60201) is offering free admission all day today with a pop up market celebrating Indigenous artists. Going on until 5 PM. shop, enjoy, and participate in arts and crafts with a guided class by Negwes White.
Attend a panel and an Indigenous Scholar Q&A at the Chicago History Museum
The Chicago History Museum is hosting an afternoon of Indigenous Peoples’ Day events at the museum, (1601 N. Clark St.) Admission is free.
Attend panels from 1:30 to 4 PM from Indigenous scholars, authors, and more. Starting at
1:30 PM in the Guild Room, see the director of collections the project archivist discuss the work that the Chicago History museum has done to collect Indigenous objects. At 3 PM, hear Indigenous scholar Starla Thompson share stories from and about the history of the Potawatomi people.
At 4 PM, sign on to Zoom, as a professor at Ohio State University, Dr. John Low, speaks about his book Imprints: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the City of Chicago. Admission is free.
The Field Museum is free today for Indigenous Peoples’ Day
The Field Museum just unveiled a new exhibit, Native Truths a permanent exhibition by Urban Native and in partnership with 130 Native and First Nations collaborators. Representing over 105 Tribes, the new space is a place for Native people to share their experiences, stories, and more. Supported by pieces of contemporary art, poetry, photography, and historical objects, the new exhibit , unveiled recently. focuses on Chicago’s diverse Native community.
Peppered with stories of resilience from the Chicago Native community, this exhibit offers a deeper look into the history, experiences, and culture of a community that’s still thriving in Chicago, and around the nation.
Visit the St. Kateri Youth Mural in Evanston
The Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, (3001 Central St., Evanston) honors the creativity of today’s younger community with a vibrant hand-painted mural in partnership with St. Kateri Youth Circle in Chicago.
The St. Kateri Youth Mural is a collective work inspired by Native youths and tells the Anishinaabe creation story through depictions of nature and animals. Read more about the mural here.While you’re there, make sure to stop by the Indigenous medicine and pollinator garden.
See the Serpent Twin Schiller Park
Local travel with Charlie: Found the Serpent Twin Mound by indigenous artist Santiago X in Schiller Woods off Irving Park Rd. & Cumberland. Part of 4000N Trail Project connecting Des Plainest & Chgo River. Watch 4 travelsw/ Charlie pic.twitter.com/xV6fdc82rQ
— Robin S. (@RobinS01771526) November 23, 2020
Paying homage to those who inhabited the land first, Pokto Činto, is a sect of ancestral dirt from numerous tribal lands in the nation. Organized by the community, the meaning behind the art display honors the Koasati language, with a name that translates to Serpent Twin. It’s a renowned piece of public art created by Indigenous artists Santiago X, a citizen of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, and the Indigenous Chamoru from the island of Guam. The larger project will connect the path along Irving Park Road, spanning over 9 miles, with the Serpent Twin in Schiller Park, and another exhibit, Coil Mound in Horner Park.
Visit another gorgeous mural
Only 4 miles east of the American Indian Center, a prominent mural sits at 2045 N. Lincoln Park West, along the underpass at West Foster Avenue and DuSable Lake Shore Drive. It’s more than just pretty decor, as it tells viewers about the history of Native Americans in Chicago.
Around 11 AM, The Indigenous Peoples’ Day Coalition-Illinois and 195 support groups hosted a press conference at Pottawattomie Park, (7340 N. Rogers Ave.) calling on Cook County to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Read more about their plans here.
While the city dismantled its Columbus statues in 2020, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is currently only celebrated as an official state holiday. There’s so much more to do, history to delve into and ways to continue to honor Indigenous People today and every day. With more than 30,000 people representing over 100 tribes, Chicago also has the second-largest population east of the Mississippi River.
[Featured photo via: Field Museum/Urban Native Era]