Change through Collaboration

This photo by Dan Battise was part of the Seeing Indian in Chicago exhibition held at the Newberry in 1985. Call number: Ayer Modern MS Seeing Indian

Indigenous Chicago

The Chicago area has long been a historic crossroads for many Indigenous peoples and continues to be home to an extensive urban Native community. Indigenous Chicago is a multifaceted project exploring these histories, centering Indigenous voices, laying bare stories of settler-colonial harm, and gesturing toward Indigenous futures.

The goals for Indigenous Chicago have been developed in collaboration with members of the Chicago American Indian community, including youth and elders; tribal representatives from Indigenous nations removed from Chicago; and Indigenous scholars. 

The goals include:

  • Making the invisible visible
  • Advancing the priorities of the Chicago Native community
  • Situating Chicago as a Native place since time immemorial
  • Growing a community archiving practice
  • Serving a broad, multi-generational audience that includes schools, the Native community, and the broader public
  • Supporting the growth of the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative

Starting in the fall of 2024, we will launch a series of programs and resources highlighting the Native past, present, and future of Chicago: 

  • An exhibition at the Newberry
    • A website with an interactive map
    • Curricular materials for K-12 students
    • New oral histories
    • Programming for scholars and the public

    Since January of 2020, we've been hosting listening sessions to ensure that Native community members are intimately involved in the project.

    In addition to these listening sessions, we hold monthly “Newberry 101” lunch-and-learn sessions over Zoom. During each session, we feature an item from the Newberry’s collection related to the Indigenous history of Chicago and answer questions about accessing collection materials at the Newberry.

    If you are interested in attending "Newberry 101" sessions or any future community meetings about Indigenous Chicago, please email us.

    Improving Access to Indigenous Collections

    In 2020, the Newberry received a planning grant from the Mellon Foundation to improve Native communities' access to the Newberry's Indigenous Studies collections. The initiative includes partnerships with three Native communities to learn how we can better serve their needs and support their priorities.

    The partners on this project include the Forest County Potawatomi Nation, the Santa Ana Pueblo Nation, and the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative. We are conducting regular meetings and listening sessions with each community to identify the collection materials that are most important to them. Then, we will determine how we can collaborate with each community to better support tribally-led projects.

    We are in the process of examining our own internal practices so we can represent tribal histories and knowledge more accurately and more respectfully. 

    To aid us in this work, we are consulting Indigenous scholars, organizations, and published materials like the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials. So far, we have updated our policy regarding access to culturally sensitive materials, identified and revised racial slurs in catalog records, and added tribally-specific subject headings to improve the searchability of materials in our online catalog.

    We envision this grant as only the beginning of a long-standing commitment to supporting the priorities and research needs of Native communities. Through our partnerships and internal review, we hope to learn what is needed to sustain an ongoing outreach and collaboration program operated by the McNickle Center.


    Newberry Library Will Collaborate with Native Communities to Expand Access to Indigenous Studies Collections

    The Newberry Library and a group of tribal and community partners will work together on a multiyear project to expand access to the library’s extensive Indigenous Studies collection.


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    The McNickle Center staff are Rose Miron, Director, and Sarah Jiménez, Program Assistant.