Youth Art Exhibit

This summer two people were chosen to be our Summer Youth Apprentices. The AIC Apprentices will gain an overview of AIC public programs, focusing primarily on exhibit development and arts administrative practices. The AIC Apprentice will assist in a range of activities including – curatorial practices, gallery prep work, research and writing, marketing endeavors (i.e. design exhibit promotional materials), and administer exhibit programs (i.e. panel discussion, film screening, or art workshops). There will also be other artistic opportunities to interact and engage with community youth and artists.

Ethan J Cloud is Ojibwe from Leech Lake, MN. He is 17 years old and attends Von Steuben Highschool. He is the great great grandson of Vivian and Charles Cloud. He is in the graduating class of 2020. He was a part of the Roots of Resilience Native Youth Art Exhibit at the AIC in 2018. He was excited that his art was displayed. He always loved art because it comes in many different forms, everything is art. He is excited about this apprenticeship because he gets to learn the technical aspects of art. With this apprenticeship he gets the opportunity to visit other art galleries and museums to meet with other curators.

Hey, my name is Olivia Antonio, I'm 15 years old and I'm a Chicago native. My tribes are Ho-Chunk from Wisconsin Dells and Apache from San Carlos, Arizona. I'm an artist that hopes my art can be shown in the AIC. I love to create drawings of my own, and I'm a music lover. I also sing and create my own lyrics, but I'm most passionate about my drawing technique.

Olivia and Ethan have opened up the applications for their upcoming gallery, Growing Up in a Native Youth Community in Chicago. The application will be open until September 13th, 2019. For more information, check out the posters below.


Daniel King recounting AIC stories from the early days @ AIC Gallery

Daniel shares stories of the early days in and around the American Indian Center (AIC). This is taken from the Robust Indigenes series. This series of storytelling events articulates the vitality of the AIC toward providing space and programs that resulted in cultural connection and retention and contributed to the development of identity for four generations of Native Americans in Chicago.  These oral histories will continue to contribute to the AIC Archives collection and to the development of the retrospective exhibit series for the AIC.

Indigenous Science Day Kick Off

March 17th kicked off this year’s Indigenous Science Day Series with Special guest Facilitators Verlyn “Buzz” Spreeman, Descendant of Alexander Robinson/Robinson Family Historian, and Dan Melone, Robinson Family Historian and Archaeologist. Participants gathered at the site of the Robinson family homestead and burial grounds within the Robinson Woods; parking alongside the pullout on East River Road before heading to the second site at Catherine Chevalier Woods. (Additional participants utilized public transportation to access the site from the 81W West Lawrence Bus). 

Buzz and Dan led participants in open discourse about the historical significance of the area and the impacts the legacy of Alexander Robinson has had on modern day Chicago. The participants were taken on a guided walking tour through Catherine Chevalier Woods to identify and visit historic sites along the Des Plaines River. 

In addition, the group was joined by Artist Santiago X and youth participants of the SHPSHFTRS: Land Art x Design Workshop. SHPSHFTRS is part of a collaborative efforts to develop multiple interactive sites along the Northwest Portage Walking Museum spearheaded by Chicago Public Arts Group, Portage Park Neighborhood Association and the American Indian Center. SHPSHFRS, designed and implemented by Santiago X, works toward revitalizing the creation of Indigenous earthworks and placemaking within urbanized areas. Throughout this 5 part workshop series participants will learn 21st Century techniques of analysis, design, and form making.

Thank you to all the participants who attended and made our first Indigenous Science Day of the year at Robinson Woods a success! And a special thanks to Buzz & Dan for volunteering to share their knowledge, time and work. 

Our next event will be on April 21st keep an eye out for more information on our Facebook page

Native ID Photo Event

Thursday night, February 28th was a first event in a series of community assistance endeavors toward the establishment of the AIC Archives. The purpose of Native Identification is to gather community members to aid in identifying subjects in old black-and-white photographs emanating from the AIC’s archival material. Ten people attended, sparking conversation and reviving memories of past AIC events and the folks who participated in various activities, from sports to graduations to powwows and fundraisers. We began the evening with a photo that was brought to our attention by Louis Delgado during last year’s storytelling event Robust Indigenes. The photo captured the first AIC Little League team known as the “Little Braves” from 1961. Louis shared most of the names of the young subjects including: Louis Lopez, Louis Delgado, Gary LaDeaux, Paul Goodiron, Darrel Hardy, Herbie Daniels, Anthony LaDeaux, Steve Fastwolf, Darrel Crow, Miguel LeBron, Leroy Menard, John Fastwolf, Edward Delgado and Billy Daniels (Assistant Coach). The evening progressed with several powwow pics from 1959 that challenged the group with subjects, events and respective event locations – all of which remain unknown. Other powwow pics presented were from AIC powwows at Navy Pier (with Harold Washington), Chicago Avenue Armory (possibly) and a powwow shot that included miniature tipis erected with bamboo poles. Other photos included two pics of early basketball teams (subjects remain unknown), and a candid shot of “Las Vegas Night” at the AIC. Vegas Night players were identified as: Sonny Black Owl, Dan Batiste, Roger Harper and Colin Wesaw. The last round of photos captured: Native American Committee graduation @ AIC (year unknown); Diane Maney and Sam Keahna at what was determined a United Way benefit fundraiser; and a photo of an AIC dance troupe circa mid-1970s. The evening proved successful, as we managed to identify some subject matter, but most important – a group of community attendees that shared time, space, food and memories. Native Identification will continue on Thursday, March 29th @ 6pm. Please join us!

PRESS RELEASE: AIC disapproves of State of Illinois designation of Indigenous Peoples Day on "Last Monday of September"

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For immediate release:

Please contact the American Indian Center Executive Director, Heather Miller for comment.

Email:  Heather Miller -

Phone:  773- 275-5871

American Indian Center disapproval of State of IL designated Indigenous Peoples Day to “Last Monday of September.”

Chicago, IL [10/3/17]

Last month the 100th Illinois General Assembly passed a law that Gov. Rauner signed designating  “the last Monday in September of each year as Indigenous Peoples Day” [House Resolution Bill 0123] into our state’s law.  The law reads as follows:  

Replaces everything after the enacting clause. Amends the State Commemorative Dates Act. Provides that the last Monday in September of each year is designated as Indigenous Peoples Day to be observed throughout the State as a day to recognize the contributions of indigenous peoples with suitable ceremony and fellowship designed to promote greater understanding and kinship between indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples of the State of Illinois. Effective immediately.

Today, we release this statement to inform our Chicago community of this news and make them aware of our position regarding this action.  The American Indian Center was surprised to learn of this new bill and are disappointed that it passed.  Indigenous people were not consulted during the crafting and passing of this bill.  We believe that all peoples deserve respect, public comment and consultation in regards to holidays that affect us as a community.  We view this as an insult and a threat to current progress made towards recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day on the Second Monday of October and a flagrant act of disrespect toward our community.

The American Indian Center supports all Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations and demonstrations occurring on the Second Monday of October throughout the State of Illinois. A state that is named after Indigenous People must be inclusive of our presence.  We will continue to engage in activities that encourage the renaming of this holiday.  



Urban Indians: What does community housing mean to you?

Before the Treaty of 1833, American Indian people lived in and around Chicago in numbers that are much greater than today.  The last settlement forced to relocate was the Pottwatomi that settled in and around Bunker Hill and surrounding Cook County Forest Preserves on the North west side of Chicago.  Some would consider that Treaty to be Chicago's Trail of Tears.

Bear in mind, many Native people never left.  The federal Relocation Act would again compel American Indian families to move, this time returning to  cities including Chicago. The census of 2010 has the American Indian population at around 50,000 in the Chicagoland area.  That population represents nearly every tribal nation in the United States but makes up less than 1% of the Chicago population.  

Being the Indigenous People of this land,  that 1% is not like any other population in Chicago.  We should consider ourselves special stakeholders when it comes to land -- any piece of land.  After all, our ancestors did die fighting to protect this land.

 People have many ideas around returning that land back to our families.   To share ideas is to build initiative and we plan on doing just that as we have done in the past, circling around the kitchen table and talking it out. 

Thursday, August 9th (6-8PM), the AIC will be hosting an event called:  Kitchen Table Talk: Community Housing .  This will be the first Kitchen Table Talk event. We hope to make this an ongoing series to provide space for conversation and plotting.  

PS... In the spirit of tradition, feel free to bring a dish/drink to share.

Did you know...

The State of Illinois does not have a Tribal Base?   Therefore some housing benefits/programs are Inaccessible to our states population.

The State of Illinois has a ban against rent control policy?

Did you know that there are 'some' HUD programs accessible to American Indians looking to buy land (as large as a four-plex) in Cook, Lake, Kane, and DuPage counties?  See HUD Section 184 .  Did you know that few families utilize Section 184? The 'guaranteed loan' program.

These are topics we will be discussing at tomorrow's Kitchen Table Talk.  We hope to see you there.  Remember, this is just the beginning of the conversation. After tomorrow's KTT we will post notes and possibly some audio from the discussion so that we can make it accessible to as many people as possible looking to build power for place. 

To help us out.  Please answer the following question:

What does community housing mean to you?


Name *

Announcing Heather Miller as new AIC Executive Director!


Dear AIC family and friends,

In our nationwide search the American Indian Center of Chicago is excited to announce Heather Miller as our new Executive Director.  She comes with excellent experience in Native non profit organizations with a strong background in both fund raising and grant writing.

Her experience and skill sets will lead the Chicago Native community and create a presence of tradition, culture and awareness. Heather will provide the leadership for the Center to address Native issues, concerns and community activism for Native rights.

The AIC Board of Directors believe Heather's drive, passion and vision for Native advocacy is impressively exemplified in her has vast knowledge of the non profit sector as it specifically relates to Indian Country.  We are excited about what a future led by her will entail.

Heather Miller Bio:

Heather Miller is an enrolled member of the Wyandotte Nation from Oklahoma and has a passion for seeing Native American organizations succeed.  She began her professional career in Montana where she helped Native Nonprofit organizations develop capacity.  She then worked in Seattle with a Native American Foundation where she continued to provide capacity building training to Native organizations as well as teach non-Native Foundations how to work appropriately with Indian Country.  
She returned to Montana and led a TRIO grant then served as Executive Director of other nonprofit organizations in the area.  She also started a consulting business where she helped Native nonprofits grow their own abilities to be successful.  She recently moved to Chicago and is happy to have joined the American Indian Center team.  In her free time Heather loves cooking with her partner Ryan and taking their puppy dog Winnie Cooper on walks as they explore the city.



The American Indian Center Board of Directors

Tribal Flag Hanging Day at the AIC brings together Chicago Natives

Tribal Flag hannging day at the AIC brings together Chicago Natives from many nations.


The American Indian Center staff and board thanks everybody that turned out for a special AIC clean-up day in which we hung our tribal flags for the first time in our new building .

About 25 AIC community members turned out for this special saturday.  Susan Power, a Standing Rock Elder and AIC Founder was happy to see our next generation of youth busy cleaning and hanging flags.  According to Susan, "Before we became founded AIC began with a handful of people sitting around.  All of a sudden you had a whole bunch of other nations thrown together, we couldn't just let one nation with the most people take over.  We are a fair people with generosity and we don't turn anybody away."  She was also very proud to mention, the AIC was the first urban Indian Center of it's kind. 

The day began with prayer and promise that if you were present today to help clean, you would have the honor of hanging the tribal flag of your people.  Tom Roberts (Sisseton) and Les Begaye (Dine`) were on the ladder hanging flags while family members and youth passed flags to them.  The first flag to be hung at the AIC was Sisseton, with the Bernal family of doing the flag passing honor.  

Other activities included the cleaning and assembly of AIC bleachers, washing windows, and pulling invasive weeds in front of our building.  AIC volunteers arrived at all hours between 10 am into the evening with no real finish time.   

In case your wondering about the flags, we still have 30 more to hang.  The plan is to wrap the flags around Tribal Hall like a belt.  Staff and BoD want to keep the ceiling space open for any future athletic programming like basketball and volleyball.  If you would like to see your tribal flag hanging at the center call or email us -

Help Chicago Divest from DAPL

[Photo Credit: International Indigenous Youth Council - Chicago Chapter]

[Photo Credit: International Indigenous Youth Council - Chicago Chapter]

Dear Member,

It's time to crank up our #NoDAPL Chicago campaign and get our city to divest from Dakota Access Pipeline banks! Last week, it was reported that the Dakota Access Pipeline had it's second pipeline leak in North Dakota spilling over a 1000 gallons of oil. Now let's put our frustrations into action. Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to help us schedule a meeting with YOUR local Alderman (aka city council member). We currently have an order in play for Chicago to divest from DAPL and we need the support from as many city council members as possible. You can read the order here. [][2]

Call to action: Contact your neighborhood city council member and have them schedule a meeting with IL-Water Protectors, and Indigenous Leadership (including yourself) from the Chicago community. Several council members have already signed on as cosponsors, so if they say they support it, say "thank you" but also ask them what they are doing to get it passed. The kind of support we need comes with accountability. Every call helps!

Step 1: Find out your ward and alderman using your street address using the City of Chicago website.

Step 2: Make the call. Below is a sample script you can use or alter as needed.

"Hi I am _ a constituent in your ward and I am calling you to schedule a meeting with the Alderman. This is in regards to Order 2017-207, the order for Chicago to divest in the Dakota Access pipeline." Schedule a time that is most convenient for you.

Step 3: [Let us know how it went by filling out this form:

Water Protectors! Keep up the good work! Mni Wiconi!

Robust Indigenes: Stories from Session I

In December,  the art department  launched Robust Indigenes: AIC Stories and Epiphanies as the first part of the AIC Retrospective exhibit. The 6-part series features longtime community members and friends of the Center sharing stories that capture the vitality and impact of the American Indian Center for the multiple generations that have passed through our doors. We are incredibly grateful to all participants and we hope to hear more stories at our upcoming event on Friday, April 21st at our new home in Albany Park.  
Below are some clips from our first session in December 2016.  


Arts Director, Dave Spencer, explains the title of Robust Indigenes. 


Leonard Malatare (Salish & Kootenai) on loving the Center and accidentally becoming an MC. 

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Lorena Gamble (Dine) on her father, his incredible life and the American Indian Center. 


Samantha Selby (Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians)  on indentity in the City and stories of Firsts.

A Message from the AIC Board of Directors

American Indian Center Community,

We will be completing the purchase of our new facility next week and plan to move in the last week of March. The new location is in Albany Part at the corner of Ainslie and Kimball. Our move will bring us to a location that fits our needs as a Center and is close to both the Brown Line and the Lawrence and Kimball bus lines. We will continue to have Powwows, retain our culture, dinners, AIC history and be the gathering place for all Native Nations in Chicago.

This year we are celebrating our 64th birthday as the American Indian Center of Chicago and moving to our new location assures that we will preserve our title as the oldest urban Indian Center in the Nation. We will retain our history and start new stories as we open a new chapter for the American Indian Center of Chicago.

As with any move the first few weeks will be hectic with moving, setting up offices, facilities and communications. We will have a Grand Opening and Community Town Hall meeting in early May so keep checking the AIC website and Facebook page. Thank you for your patience during our move and we look forward to seeing all of you in our new building to continue the tradition started 64 years ago.

Thank you,

American Indian Center Board of Directors



Thursday, November 10, 2016

#NoDAPLChi Organizes Snake Dance and Rally in Support of Standing Rock

Chicago, Ill—Hundreds of Native Americans and non-Native allies will gather at Chicago’s Federal Plaza, 219 S. Dearborn St., on Saturday, Nov. 12th at 2 p.m. in support of Standing Rock. Through this celebration, #NoDAPLChi event organizers hope to showcase the resiliency of indigenous people through dance. 

The gathering will center around a snake dance—a traditional Hopi dance that originated as a water ceremony, in honor of the snakes that guarded the springs. Event organizers invite pow wow drummers, as well as Native dancers and singers to participate in the snake dance and share their own dances. The event will also include speeches [ From whom?] and end with a march down State Street. 

This #NoDAPLChi effort shows concern and support for the thousands of water protectors peacefully protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which threatens to span from North Dakota to Illinois and cross the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, and endangering drinking water for thousands of people. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota, along with non-Native allies, have been fighting DAPL construction since April. Initially, the tribe’s concerns centered on the desecration of sacred burial sites and the contamination of the Missouri River. 

However, in the past few months, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department has led a violent and heavily militarized police response against unarmed protesters. The state of North Dakota has arrested journalists for covering the story. Dakota Access private security actively uses intimidation and violence against water protectors by sicing unlicensed security dogs on protesters, using pepper spray, and flying 24/7 surveillance planes, helicopters, and drones over the water protectors’ camps.

#NoDAPLChi invites the people of Chicago to stand together in the streets so our voices can’t be ignored on an issue that affects all of us. We want to:
Tell the multi-million dollar Energy Transfer Partners behind DAPL that we have a right to clean water and a right as Americans to say no to pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure. 
Tell the state of North Dakota and Morton County that we refuse to carry on the legacy of criminalizing Native Americans for protecting their land and what is sacred to them. 
Tell President Obama that Americans’ first Amendment rights are under attack every day in North Dakota, and he needs to act now to uphold the constitution and protect American citizens.

Tell the banks—who have invested $3.8 billion in this pipeline—that we as consumers and investors demand investment in renewable energy infrastructure.

Letter from AIC Board Chair Les Begay

Dear friends and relatives,

It has always been an integral part of the American Indian Center, Inc.'s mission to "foster the economic advancement of Indian people and perpetuate Indian cultural values" [AIC Mission Statement]

The American Indian Center in Chicago recognizes and stands in support of the Sovereign Tribal Nation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota.  The recent encroachment, trespass, and destruction of Treaty protected sacred land is not only an affront to all Native American Indian people but a violation of the Nation to Nation relationship established by the U.S. Government.

The rights and protections established by treaties are only reflective of the human rights that all people have, rights such as clean water, managing their resources and to be respected as a People and Culture. 

We thank you Standing Rock for the honor of standing with you in this time of need and ceremony. We send our prayers and hopes in support.

Please submit any questions or comments to


Les G. Begay

American Indian Center - Chairman


In Memory of Debbie Vidana

We are saddened to inform that our dear friend and long time AIC community member, Debbie Vidana, has passed away.

Her family, Cathy and husband Vicente would like to invite anyone who knew her to say goodbye.There will be a small memorial feast at the American Indian Center Wednesday night 10/12 from 7PM to 9PM . Some will remember her as a tough, no frills person. Others may recall a fiercely loyal friend who lived larger than life. But we can all say she smiled and laughed from her heart and loved much deeper than most. Most of all we will remember an awesome character and a strong woman who can now rest, our good friend. Deb Vidana.

Thank you,

Vincent Romero

Interim Executive Director

September roundup: Indigenous People's Day, #NoDAPL, and more

Early September morning @SacredStone aka Oceti Sakowin camp. (Photo: Robert Wapahi)

Early September morning @SacredStone aka Oceti Sakowin camp. (Photo: Robert Wapahi)

To all our relations,

September has been a productive month of exciting developments in AIC-Organizing. We have included a number of links in this blog post to give our readers the opportunity to delve deep into our developments like winning Indigenous Peoples Day in Chicago or #NoDAPL solidarity actions.

Before we get into the details I would like to invite you to become a member of the American Indian Center of Chicago by filling out our online membership application. Our goal is to reach a membership level of 2,000 individuals by the year’s end.  This membership list enables us to develop and support our programming and organizing straight-up grassroots.

September 9th, #NoDAPLChi and AIC teamed up rallying in support of Standing Rock Water Protectors.  About 1000 people, members of our community and allies, marched with us in support of Standing Rock.  Our goal was to generate media exposure for Standing Rock Water Protectors. This day of action was a concerted effort in hundreds of cities coast to coast. Many news outlets covered the Chicago demonstration and several articles were written making our goal to get the word out and expanding our base of support a huge success! Chicago Tribune Video of March WGN Coverage Huffington Post coverage

September 14th, Chicago City Council passed a resolution proclaiming October 10th as Indigenous People's Day in Chicago!  This development is the culmination of two years of organizing and voter engagement.  Many thanks go out to our community members, Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative, Ald. Pawar (47th Ward), and Ald. Carlos Rosa (35th Ward) for taking a lead in this initiative.  There is still much work to do to abolish Columbus Day in Chicago and throughout Illinois.  Since Columbus Day is a State holiday, we will be taking this effort to the next level, pushing to get a referendum on the ballot in the 2018 Illinois Mid-term election. This strategy will create maximum exposure to our cause educating Illinois voters and upholding democracy to a higher level.  Read more from  DNA Info Coverage of Chicago City Council Meeting where Indigenous Peoples Day Resolution was proposed

September 17th & 18th, AIC Organizing had a super productive Powwow Weekend registering 80 new voters, 256 people took a pledge to vote (we will be sending reminders), and expanded our base to 125 new members! Our volunteers and supporters are just awesome.

September 22nd,  AIC Organizing and #NoDAPLChi teamed up to deliver a 15 passenger van load of winter clothes, cold weather gear, hygienics and medical supplies to the Sacred Stone Camp in Canonball, ND.  AIC Organizing was in Standing Rock taking pictures and interviewing water protectors.  One of the main things we learned from our trip is that the camp has developed on Sacred Ground and Water Protectors have developed a stronger sense of spirituality and unity that has not been seen in a long time. It’s clear that this movement is turning into a real transformative movement for our generation. People are literally coming from all over Turtle Island to contribute supplies, labor, and prayer.  It was reported that 7500 have been at the Sacred Stone Camp in ND.  This is what a prophecy looks like!  Many thanks go to the Native Voice Network and Marguerite Casey Foundation, friends, and family that contributed in donation and prayer allowing us to make this journey.

For people that would like to continue taking action for Indigenous Peoples Day or Standing in solidarity with Standing Rock you can do so by doing the following:

Indigenous Peoples Day - Attend an October 10th Indigenous Peoples Day Event.  If you would like to volunteer to help, please shoot me an email (  The American Indian Center will be joining UIC’s Native American Support Program and Native American Student Organization with their rally and events. 

Register to Vote - We probably don’t have to tell you how important this election will be for Native American sovereignty, social justice issues, and environmental justice.  If you are not registered to vote, you can do so online .  If you are registered to vote, convince a friend or relative to register.  Every vote counts because we will make it count with organizing and diligence.

#StandWithStandingRock Call to Action List

Divest from banks supporting DAPL. You can access this list and find examples of what you can say to a bank executive here in this article from YES magazine.

Call for the Army Corps of Engineers Permit to the Dakota Access Pipeline be rescinded.  

Call the White House - (202)456-1111 or (202) 456-1414

Sign the White House Petition

Call the Army Corps of Engineers - (202) 761-5903

Call North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple - (701) 328-2200

Call or email your congressional representatives and senators - Use this site as a resource.

Donate to the Sacred Stone Camp and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Donate items list -

Donate to legal defense fund -

Donate money for supplies - Official Site for donating to Standing Rock for encampment supplies

We are also asking people to continue support by reading articles and sharing updates on social media with friends and relatives using the hashtags:  #StandWithStandingRock #NoDAPL #MniWiconi #WaterIsLife #NoDAPLChi .

The next #NoDAPL Chicago meeting will be on September 9th. Facebook event page .

On October 1st, join #MississippiStands as they bring the movement to the Mississippi River where the pipeline will also be crossing. Facebook event page.

There’s a lot that we can accomplish if everyone gives a little, stays informed, and active at every level of resistance. By this we mean, grassroots organizing, direct action, prayer, and voting!  Every Native Vote counts because we make it count!