Today is Indigenous Peoples Day. Yes, it’s also widely known as Columbus Day, but that’s slowly changing as more states and local governments are switching from honoring the Italian colonizer to the resiliency of Native people.
In Chicago, long before any Columbus statue-related controversy came into the public discourse, Chicago Public Schools announced in February it would celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day, following a similar decision by several other school districts and cities. At the time, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she won’t change the name of the holiday at the city level because it made sense to celebrate both.
“Indigenous Peoples Day reflects a consciousness and acknowledgment on the part of mainstream America that the land rightfully belonged to and continues to be shared by First Peoples,” said Patty Loew, director of Northwestern University’s Center for Native American & Indigenous Research.
“I think it’s important to remember that the prosperity that this nation enjoys came at the expense of its Indigenous people.”
Wondering how to learn more about the Indigenous people who have lived and continue to live on the land known as Chicago?
“I think the most important thing for people to keep in mind as they look for resources is to use Native-authored resources first,” said Nichole Boyd, director of the Native American House at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It is of vital importance that the source community is able to tell their own stories.”
Here are five recommendations by Indigenous artists, historians and leaders of ways to learn more about the legacy of Native peoples in Chicago.
Take a tour
Take a virtual Indigenous tour through Northwestern University, created by the schools’ Center for Native American & Indigenous Research. The interactive map explores the legacy of the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Odawa, Menomonie, Miami and Ho-Chunk people in this area through land rights, treaties, food sovereignty and their contributions to science, art, sports and other fields.
Watch a mini-doc
Chicago Has Always Been Indian Country is a free, six-minute mini-documentary produced by the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative. It explores the local Indigenous history of Chicago.
Read a book
The book Imprints: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the City of Chicago examines the way the Pokagon Potawatomi tribal members kept their distinct Native identity in the midst of the larger contemporary society.
Listen to a podcast
This episode of the All My Relations podcast explains why Indigenous Peoples Day should be celebrated instead of Columbus Day. The podcast is hosted by Matika Wilbur of the Swinomish and Tulalip people, who is behind a photo project documenting Indigenous life, and Adrienne Keene, a citizen of the Cherokee nation and the author of the Native Appropriations blog. The pair explore what it means to be a Native person in 2020.
Be an ally
This digital toolkit helps advocates and allies understand how to support Indigenous Peoples Day. The report, written by Native nonprofit IllumiNative, explains what the day is and how to talk about it to others.