Urban Indians: What does community housing mean to you?

by David Bender

Photo by stevegeer/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by stevegeer/iStock / Getty Images

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 *
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.

Sincerely,

 

The American Indian Center Board of Directors

Tribal Flag Hanging Day at the AIC brings together Chicago Natives

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

** by David Bender and Angelique Bodine (photos)

 

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 - info@aicchicago.org.

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]http://chicago.councilmatic.org/legislation/or-2017-207/

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. https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/iframe/lookup_ward_and_alderman.html/

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 or by emailing me back. https://goo.gl/forms/JGtT41x9WWWfWXVB2 davidb@aicchicago.org .

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

Sincerely,

David Bender

American Indian Center Community Organizer davidb@aicchicago.org

Robust Indigines: 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. 

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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. 

 
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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

PRESS RELEASE: NOV. 12 SOLIDARITY SNAKE DANCE & RALLY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Thursday, November 10, 2016
Contact: DAVID B., AMERICAN INDIAN CENTER OF CHICAGO, ORGANIZER, 773-275-5871 ext 26. nodaplchi@gmail.com (Please leave a message to setup interviews.)

#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.

Please join us on Saturday—as a member of the press, as a concerned citizen, or both. For questions and more information, call DAVID B. at 773-275-5871 ext. 26 or visit the Facebook event page.

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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 info@aicchicago.org.

Sincerely,

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.  http://membership.aicchicago.org/Sign-Up

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 Lastrealindians.com  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 (davidb@aicchiago.org).  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 https://ova.elections.il.gov/ .  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 - http://sacredstonecamp.org/supply-list/

Donate to legal defense fund - https://fundrazr.com/d19fAf?ref=sh_25rPQa

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!

Aho!

 

David Bender, Community Organizer

American Indian Center of Chicago

davidb@aicchicago.org

 

In Memory of Lynne Wendler

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Lynne Wendler. Lynne has been associated with the AIC since 2010, volunteering in the Social Services department and offering her writing skills to the AIC grant effort. In Spring 2011, Lynne became an AIC Development Associate, successfully securing grants for education, wellness and hunger relief programs - ensuring a meaningful future for children and families of the Chicago Native community.

Lynne went above and beyond her work capacity by assisting community youth with grassroots fundraising and pro-bono fundraising for myriad community endeavors. She also provided advocacies for Native and health issues, especially towards cancer research. In her time at the AIC, Lynne’s contribution was immeasurable and infinite. She was the epitome of generosity and a diligent humanitarian.

Lynne, although you will be severely missed, we will see you again. Lynne…THANK YOU.

AIC Staff and Board

A Letter from the Interim Executive Director

Hello AIC Chicago Membership and Community,
For over 60 years the AIC has been serving needs and hosting dinners, events and community gatherings of various sizes for many wonderful reasons.
We have seen the opening and closing of many Native organizations, like the American Indian Economic Development Association (AIEDA), Chicago's Native American Urban Indian Retreat (CNAUIR), and our beloved St. Augustine's Center, the first to open after the AIC over 50 years ago.
As we have seen, meeting needs and offering services is only a very small way to describe the essence of the AIC.
It is COMMUNITY. Community coming together to support one another; Coming together to celebrate the newest baby members and pay respects to those who have walked on to the spirit world. Yet their spirits live on in this community, through the love and respect we have for each other, they live on. We see them in the eyes of our fellow members. We hear them in the voices, laughter and the thousands upon thousands of songs that have been sung in our tribal halls.
We will continue to push ahead, to support all our hard working, dedicated staff and volunteers of all our community organizations, as we create new programs and deliver new services from any building we may be calling home. We will keep on smiling, arguing, eating and singing together as one Native Community.
Because after all, it is our land and will always be Indian Land.

Thank You,

Vincent Romero