Chicago is named for a tribe. Illinois is named for a tribe. Many of Chicago’s streets were originally traffic ways (Milwaukee, Vincennes, Ogden, to name a few) created by tribes. And, as has been protested for decades, several sports teams are named after tribes too. It’s impossible to exist in the modern day U.S. and not acknowledge that Native Americans (or American Indians) are a part of the fabric of history and are also part of the present.
But there are unpleasant truths as well. That John Evans, the founder of Northwestern University, was recently investigated for his potential role in the Sand Creek Massacre was big news this past summer. And that the university decided to address the issue at all marked a huge psychological step. It’s rare for institutions to own up to the part they may have played – and the ways they may have benefitted – from the messier bits of history.
Newberry Library is hosting a lecture Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the tragic specifics of the Colorado-based Sand Creek Massacre, whose 150th anniversary is November 29, 2014. There are events planned nationwide to remember the dead and why it all happened in the first place. Yale professor Ned Blackhawk will be discussing “John Evans: The question of Genocide.”
Blackhawk was unavailable for an interview today (largely because he’s traveling today) but he will talk to the Sun-Times once he lands in the Chi. Meanwhile, Patricia Marroquin-Norby, who is the director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library, did offer some details on the discussion.
“I think the massacre itself is just one of many, many examples of the type of historical events that American Indians and indigenous people have had to deal with and are still dealing with,” she says. “The ongoing trauma? He’s going to talk about that. Plus the experiences of indigenous people when we’re confronted with the anniversary of these events and how it’s something that’s continual.”
A Methodist preacher, who was also a freemason, led the attack on the villages. And, John Evans, as governor of the Colorado Territory, was investigated concerning the murders. Here’s a bit of a disturbing letter penned by a person obviously proud of the slaughter.
It was estimated that between three and four hundred of the savages got away with their lives. Of the balance there were neither wounded nor prisoners. Their strength at the beginning of the action was estimated at nine hundred…. Among the killed were all the Cheyenne chiefs, Black Kettle, White Antelope, Little Robe, Left Hand, Knock Knee, One Eye, and another, name unknown. Not a single prominent man of the tribe remains, and the tribe itself is almost annihilated.
Marroquin-Norby is an American Indian herself – She has Chicano heritage and her mom is Purepecha and her dad is Nde. This month is American Indian Heritage Month too, so it’s a good time to brush up on the aftermath of Sand Creek and other, similar situations. Need more cultural info? Chicago is a hub for Native studies and the American Indian Center in Chicago is the oldest urban Indian community center in the United States:http://aic-chicago.org/ The center hosts events year round, but now is as good a time as any to get acquainted.
In terms of other events for the month, here are a few options. On Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, the Newberry is hosting “A Celebration of Indigenous Dance” featuring the performance of the Black Hawk Performance Company, Ke Kula Kupa’a O ka Pakipika traditional chanting, hula and the Nuahalli Aztec Dancers.
Another promising lecture is about the intersection of Native and Black and hip hop. It’s being held three times this month at various Chicago Public Libraries. Called Hip Hop Beats, Indigenous Rhymes, it’s ” an interactive audiovisual tour of indigenous people’s experiences in the United States, past and present, through hip-hop culture. This program is presented by Kyle T. Mays, a black and Saginaw Anishinaabek transdisciplinary scholar of race relations and popular culture.” This event will be held at: 4 p.m. Thursday, November 13 at Pullman Branch; 3:30 p.m. Friday, November 21 at North Austin Branch and 2 p.m. Saturday, November 22 at Avalon Branch.