The American Indian Center, Inc. (AIC) was founded on September 7, 1953, with assistance from the American Friends Service Committee. AIC remains the oldest urban-based Native membership community center in the United States. AIC formed in response to the growing needs of a rapidly-expanding local American Indian population. The selective termination of tribal status, in concert with the Indian Relocation program of the 1950s brought thousands of American Indians from all over the country to metropolitan Chicago. This endeavor was a concerted attempt to break up the reservation system. Chicago was the only one of the five original relocation cities without a large in-state reservation. Thus, AIC was organized to help Native families cope with the transition from reservation to urban life.
Changing dramatically over the years in response to the evolving nature and needs of the Chicago Indian community, the AIC has long been the stepping-stone for respective direct-service organizations (i.e., St. Augustine’s Center for American Indians). The AIC introduced many of the academic, health and social service programs that became viable, independent NA agencies throughout the State.
Today, the AIC strives to be the primary cultural and community resource for over 65,000 NAs in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. Chicago is home to the third largest urban NA population with over 140 tribal nations represented. With over 75% of all Native people living off-reservation and in urban settings, the AIC represents this emerging Native population shift, resulting in a diverse multi-tribal community in need of a common social and cultural place of gathering. Through a combination of short-term relief services and long-term education and support programs, we seek to foster physical and spiritual health in the community, an active connection with traditional values and practices, stronger families with multigenerational bonds, and a rising generation of educated, articulate, and visionary youth.
Throughout the years, the AIC has been the principal cultural resource for Indian Chicago. AIC has helped thousands of NAs from all across the country transition successfully into urban life while retaining and enriching their Native cultural heritage.
As visitors to the AIC learn about intertribal contemporary culture, identity and celebrations, they become aware of NA contributions to the cultural fabric of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.