How to celebrate Native American Heritage Month in Chicago

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Chicago is home to one of the largest urban Native American communities in the United States, with 65,000 Native Americans and some 175 different tribes represented in the Chicagoland area. 

According to the American Indian Center, Chicago is part of the traditional homelands of the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi people. Many other tribes, including the Miami, Ho-Chunk, Sac, and Fox, have also called this area home. 

Native American Heritage Month, celebrated every November, is a great time to learn more about Chicago’s Indigenous populations both past and present. Explore some of the cultural celebrations, exhibits, and events happening this month in Chicago.

The Field Museum’s new permanent exhibition Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories opens May 20, 2022; photo by Jay Young

Try Indigenous cuisine

Don’t miss your chance to try traditional and modern Indigenous cuisine this month. Ketapanen Kitchen, an Indigenous-owned catering company, will be popping up at the Field Museum’s Bistro Cafe for the month of November. Sample dishes like wild rice, pulled bison paninis, creamy carrot soup, and more.

Helmed by executive chef Jessica Pamonicutt (Menominee), Ketapanen’s mission is to raise awareness of Native American contributions to our current food system, while serving delicious and health-conscious dishes made from traditional heirloom ingredients.

Attend a print-making event at the Chicago History Museum

Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Month at the Chicago History Museum with this family-friendly event on Thursday, Nov. 3, included with museum admission. Hear from an Indigenous artist and scholar during an artist talk, then stay for a printmaking demonstration. Guests are invited to bring a canvas bag or t-shirt to be printed by the artist.

Experience a re-imagined exhibit and events at the Field Museum

Earlier year, the Field Museum unveiled their redesigned permanent exhibition on Native American culture. The newly refreshed exhibit, Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories, was created with an advisory council of Native American scholars and collaborators representing over 105 Tribes. The space features historic and contemporary beadworks, ceramics, murals, music, dance, and more.

This month, the museum will host a series of events for Native American Heritage Month, including a hand drum performance, film and video festival, storytime, beadwork demonstration, smoke dance performance, and more.

Local Ojibwe artist Andrea Carlson’s five part, 15ft. tall by 266ft. long banners that read “You are on Potawatomi Land” are on display at Chicago’s Riverwalk.

See powerful art on the Chicago Riverwalk

The banks of the Chicago Riverwalk are lined with public art, from striking statues to state-of-the-art video displays. One of the largest installations is You Are on Potawatomi Land by Andrea Carlson (Ojibwe). The piece is both a statement of fact and a statement of perpetual belonging, according to the artist. See it for yourself on Wacker Drive just east of the Michigan Avenue Bridge, above the Chicago First Lady ticket booths.

Visit the gallery at the American Indian Center

The American Indian Center in Albany Park is dedicated to preserving Native American culture and creating connections with the larger community. They also have a gallery that cultivates and exhibits both historic and modern Native American artwork. Their current exhibit Seeking Sonder features new works of Akina Curley (Ojibwe/Diné), who creates Native art with a contemporary lens. The gallery is open on weekdays and located at 3401 West Ainslie St.

Explore more ways to celebrate Native American Heritage Month in Chicago:

  • The Art of Chris Pappan: Visit the Bridgeport Art Center’s open studio night on Nov. 18 to see Chris Pappan’s contemporary twist on traditional ledger art. 
  • Chicago Public Library events: Catch film screenings, language classes, book discussions, pottery lessons, online cooking demonstrations, and more all month long.
  • Mitchell Museum of the American Indian: Explore exhibits dedicated to the history, arts, and culture of Native American peoples across North America and beyond.

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