Native Voices in Chicago featuring The Ayer Indigenous Studies Librarian at The Newberry

We would like to begin today by recognizing and acknowledging that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is on the lands of the Peoria, Kaskaskia, Piankashaw, Wea, Miami, Mascoutin, Odawa, Sauk, Mesquaki, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Chickasaw Nations. These lands were the traditional territory of these Native Nations prior to their forced removal; these lands continue to carry the stories of these Nations and their struggles for survival and identity.

As a land-grant institution, the University of Illinois has a particular responsibility to acknowledge the peoples of these lands, as well as the histories of dispossession that have allowed for the growth of this institution for the past 150 years. We are also obligated to reflect on and actively address these histories and the role that this university has played in shaping them.

Located near the confluence of several waterways, the Newberry Library sits on land that intersects with the aboriginal homelands of several tribal nations: the Council of the Three Fires: the Potawatomi, Odawa, and Ojibwe Nations; the Illinois Confederacy: the Peoria and Kaskaskia Nations; and the Myaamia, Wea, Thakiwaki, and Meskwaki Nations. The Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Kiikaapoi, and Mascouten Nations also call the region of northeast Illinois home. Indigenous people continue to live in this area and celebrate their traditional teachings and lifeways. Today, Chicago is home to one of the largest urban Indigenous communities in the United States, and this land remains an important place for Indigenous peoples. As a Chicago institution, it is the Newberry’s responsibility to acknowledge this historical context and build reciprocal relationships with the tribal nations on whose lands we are situated.

The IDHH contains some content that may be harmful or difficult to view. Our cultural heritage partners collect materials from history, as well as artifacts from many cultures and time periods, to preserve and make available the historical record. Please view the Digital Public Library of America’s (DPLA) Statement on Potentially Harmful Content for further information.

With the month coming to a close, the IDHH dedicates this post to Indigenous voices, highlighting November as National Native American Heritage Month. The earliest calls for a day to officially recognize and commemorate the cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples occurred in 1915 at the annual Congress of the American Indian Association in Lawrence, Kansas. Over the course of a century, various states passed legislation declaring American Indian Day on different dates throughout the year, and national legislation and proclamations were also passed celebrating a Native American Awareness Week or American Indian Week. However, it was not until 1990, when George H. W. Bush declared November as National American Indian Heritage Month, that the United States officially committed a month to recognizing and commemorating the cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples.

The IDHH is thrilled to partner with Analú María López, Ayer Indigenous Studies Librarian at the Newberry, in the creation of this post and to benefit from her subject expertise. Analú’s work focuses on underrepresented Indigenous narratives dealing with identity, language, and decolonization, and she has chosen to feature a one-of-a-kind item from the Newberry’s collections which centers Indigenous peoples: the unpublished manuscript Native Voices in the City.

Native Voices in Zhekagoynak, Zhigaagoong, Šikaakonki by Analú María López

Zhekagoynak, Zhigaagoong, and Šikaakonki (“Chicago” in Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Myaamia respectively), has always been and will always be Indigenous land. Since time immemorial Indigenous people have lived on and stewarded this land we now call “Chicago.” Although Indigenous people were forcibly removed from the city of Chicago through a series of treaties,1 and in spite of settler-colonial projects seeking to remove Indigenous people from the city, Indigenous people have not vanished or ceded their relationships to Chicago. Today, Chicago has the third-largest urban Indigenous population in the United States, with more than 65,000 Native Americans in the greater metropolitan area and some 175 different tribes represented.2 And yet, settlers have often frozen Native Americans in the United States and specifically in the city of “Chicago” to the distant past, usually using settler narratives and not Indigenous histories, contributions and stories.

A collection of interviews held at the Newberry Library in Chicago, an independent research library with a focus on rare books, manuscripts, and other archival materials, highlights Native American urban experiences in “Chicago” through the vehicle of oral history. These interviews are part of the Indigenous Studies collection, which was founded on the donation from Edward E. Ayer’s Library in 1911. Ayer, a white settler, was one of the Library’s original Trustees and one of the most active collectors of his time in the field of Indigenous Americana.

Native voices in the city. Page 5. 1982-1985. Newberry Library. Edward E. Ayer Digital Collection. Courtesy of The Newberry Library.
Native voices in the city. Page 16. 1982-1985. Newberry Library. Edward E. Ayer Digital Collection. Courtesy of The Newberry Library.

In 1982 the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies (then called the D’Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian) submitted a proposal to the Illinois Humanities Council to initiate a collaborative oral history project with members of the Chicago Native American community. The resulting, “Chicago American Indian Oral History Project,” operated between 1982 and 1984. The interviews were first captured on reel-to-reel and cassette tape recordings; they were later transcribed. The project interviewers and organizers3 gathered the memories of twenty-three Chicago Native American residents over the course of two years. The persons interviewed reflected the diversity of the Chicago Native American community, with individuals primarily from the northern and central Great Plains, as well as the western Great Lakes. The transcripts were then combined into an unpublished typescript titled “Native Voices in the City,” incorporating excerpts from the original interviews.

Although many community members and Newberry staff were involved in the project, Dorene Wiese (White Earth Band of Ojibwe) of Truman College played an instrumental role in the directing of the oral history project –

“The excitement of having our Native community college students both interview and be interviewed for the project. It was a lifelong dream of mine to document the history of our Native people living in Chicago because oral history projects can help place us [Native people] and our ancestors in time capsules of National Policy and truth, without being tied to just dates and names which mean little to Native students. Oral history for Native people makes it personal and exciting, and lays the foundation for understanding history in the United States.”

-Dorene Wiese (White Earth Band of Ojibwe)

This project intended to document Native American relocation to the city of Chicago with perspectives from individuals who came to the city during the Relocation era of the 1950s.4 The project also aimed to tape and transcribe the interviews with elders who best remembered all the stages of the evolution of the community, in hopes that the project would continue and to create a wider awareness of the history of Native American people in Chicago. An advisory board composed mainly of Chicago Native American people oversaw the project; it trained and utilized Chicago Native American community members as interviewers; and it held three public forums to publicize and promote the documentation project.

While relocation to the city offered opportunities to some individuals, many Native American families found it difficult to relocate to the city, and this had a direct impact on the demographics of the Native population in Chicago: “The experience for Native American people who came to Chicago can easily be divided into two groups: those who experienced the city and decided to return home and those who decided to stay. The latter are the people who make up the population of approximately 13,000 in Chicago” (p. 16, Native Voices in the City). The relocation program was frequently chastised for making hollow promises, as evidenced by the manuscript’s numerous first-person accounts. Housing insecurity, food apartheid within neighborhoods, and a lack of opportunities for the Native American community in Chicago, still problems in the city to this day, can be traced back to the 1950s government colonial efforts designed to drive Native Americans to assimilate into dominant white society.


1The Chicago area was directly affected by five of the approximately 370 ratified treaties between the federal government and Native American nations signed from 1778 to 1871. Native American treaty making ended by law in 1871, but an additional 73 “agreements” containing similar provisions were ratified up to 1911. Treaties involving the Chicago area were signed in 1795, 1816, 1821, 1829, and 1833. From the Encyclopedia of Chicago

2Native American Chicagoans Report, Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, University of Illinois, 2019

3For a complete listing of project interviewers and organizers, go to the Chicago American Indian Oral History Project finding aid

4Read more about this colonial project: Uprooted: The 1950s Plan to Erase Indian Country

The IDHH would again like to thank Analú María López for sharing her expertise and insight this National Native American Heritage Month into the unique item that is the unpublished Native Voices in the City manuscript. We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with her on this post, and look forward to featuring Analú’s work next month with a related post about the 1985 Seeing Indian in Chicago exhibition. Stay tuned for that post in the coming weeks, and enjoy a teaser image from the digital collection “Seeing Indian in Chicago Exhibition Records” below!

Women dancers line up for Grand Entry at the Chicago Conference Pow Wow held at field house of the University of Chicago, 1961. 1961. Photographed by Peter F. Weil. Newberry Library. Chicago and the Midwest. Courtesy of The Newberry Library.

Want to see more? 

Browse the full Edward E. Ayer Digital Collection from The Newberry Library and the entire Native Voices in the City manuscript on the IDHH.  

Visit the IDHH to discover even more items related to Indigenous peoples of the Americas

Visit The Newberry’s website for additional information about the crafting of their Land Acknowledgement Statement and about American Indian and Indigenous Studies at The Newberry.

Voices from History: Dorothy Vann Collection of Oral Histories

For our second post in the month of October, the IDHH would like to feature the audio recordings of the Dorothy Vann Collection of Oral Histories. Created by amateur historian Dorothy Vann in the 1970s and 1980s, these recordings document the history of the North Park neighborhood in Chicago and the Swedish immigrants who called the area home beginning in the late nineteenth century. Topics include family and community history in the North Park neighborhood, campus life at North Park University, and the influence of the Evangelical Covenant Church in the area. The recordings highlight a range of members from the community such as a former North Park University librarian, an individual associated with the Manhattan Project, and two sisters who were ballet dancers with the Chicago Civic Opera Company.  

Dorothy Vann’s oral histories are part of the Evangelical Covenant Church and North Park University Archives Repository located at North Park University in Chicago. Founded by the Swedish Evangelical Covenant Church in 1891, North Park University quickly became an educational and religious hub for Swedish immigrants on Chicago’s North Side, offering theological education and boasting a location close to the nearby Swedish Covenant Hospital. Vann’s recordings provide a distinctive lens on this historical period, as the project lead and most of the interview subjects are women.

Want to discover more? 

Browse the full Dorothy Vann Collection of Oral Histories, or browse all items from North Park University.  

Visit the IDHH to explore even more oral history recordings and collections. 

Baseball at the IDHH

Tonight is Game Three of the World Series. To celebrate we’re highlighting a few pictures of baseball in Illinois.

There is a rich debate about the origins of baseball, both in terms of its evolution- and place, but we know that by the mid-19th century, baseball was already ingrained into American life and community. Both Union and Confederate soldiers documented baseball games in their diaries, including games played as prisoners of war. After the war communities formed clubs of their own, making baseball one of the first instances of communities establishing their own identities.  

In Illinois, as early as 1869 the Cairo Bulletin was reporting on games in bordering Missouri. By 1870, the Cairo Deltas and Egyptians were playing in Missouri, Kentucky, and Illinois as clubs and regional leagues began to form across the state.

Below are some of the greatest hits from Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County, Cherry Valley Historical Society, Chicago History Museum, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showing how the game was played in our communities from the 1880’s onward, and became an international phenomenon in the early 20th century.

The Dunn Museum’s Fort Sheridan Collection includes several images of baseball as a part of life on the Fort.

Woman Playing shortstop, C.1945. Unknown Photographer. Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County (IL). Fort Sheridan collection. Permission to display was provided by the Bess Bower Dunn Museum.


Man in Army Uniform Shaking Hands, Exchanging Baseball Bat, C. 1920. Unknown Photographer. Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County (IL). Fort Sheridan. Permission to display was provided by the Bess Bower Dunn Museum.

The Cherry Valley Historical Society Cherry Valley Local History Collection includes team portraits of Cherry Valley Wildcats, and little leaguers from the first half of the century, showing what community sports looked like and how communities supported teams during baseball’s most nostalgic moment.

Cherry Valley Baseball Team, C. 1916. Unknown Photographer. Cherry Valley Historical Society. Cherry Valley Local History Collection. Permission to display was provided by the Cherry Valley Public Library District.

Cherry Valley Baseball Team, C. 1916. Unknown Photographer. Cherry Valley Historical Society. Cherry Valley Local History Collection.

Meanwhile, the Chicago History Museum’s Museum Collection and Prints and Photographs Collection includes artifacts and photographs from Chicago’s MLB teams, the Cubs and the White Sox:

Chicago Cub Ron Santo catching a foul ball at Wrigley Field, 1969. Jack Lenahan, photographer, Chicago Daily News Inc. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Permission to display was provided by the Chicago History Museum.

Wrigley Field from Sheffield and Waveland avenues, 1964. F.S. Dauwalter, Photographer. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Permission to display was provided by the Chicago History Museum.

And lastly, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Picture Chicago Collection includes this great picture of the Chicago White Sox and New York Giant’s in front of The Great Sphinx during their 1913-1914 world tour:

Chicago White Sox and New York Giants in front of the Sphinx during their World Tour 1913-1914, 1914. Unknown Photographer. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Picture Chicago.

For more fall ball, or if you’re still daydreaming of summer, check out our contributor’s collections on the Illinois Digital Heritage Hub Website .

Honoring Labor: Remembering the Pullman Strike and Boycott

2019 marks the 125th anniversary of the Pullman Strike and Boycott, a momentous event in the history of organized labor in Illinois and the U.S., taking place throughout the late Spring and Summer of 1894. In commemoration of the Pullman Strike, the IDHH  examines its place in the history of labor and workers’ rights movements in Illinois and U.S. Collections provided by the Pullman State Historical Site provide particular insight into the event and its cultural and historical milieu. The scholarship of and input from Pullman State Historical Site Services Specialist, Martin Tuohy, was indispensable in developing this post.

The Pullman Strike and Boycott began as a walkout of the Pullman Palace Car Company by shop workers in May 1894. By July, it included 150,000 railroad workers over 20 railroads across 27 states. Pullman workers and allies across the country protested both the particulars of the Pullman workers’ grievances, such as layoffs and deep wage cuts while the Pullman company town maintained its rent rates, as well as the power of capital over workers that the grievances represented. The strike and boycott was part of wider developments in Workers’ Rights organization and came in the wake of several other significant demonstrations in the late 19th century along with the often oppressive responses to grassroots organization by companies and industry leaders. Company founder, George Pullman, played a significant role in exacerbating tensions between workers for obstinately emphasizing the company’s right to rent profits over most workers’ grievances.

Beyond Pullman and throughout the late 19th Century U.S., increased mechanization during the Second Industrial Revolution played a role in depressing wages and an ever increasing division of labor often alienated workers from their work and the products they produced. Moreover, while westward expansion in the late 1860s and early 1870s brought with it an increase in industry and investments, especially those related to railroads, the 1870s and 1880s were marked by significant economic declines. When times were difficult, workers were often hardest hit, facing frequent layoffs and wage cuts between the early 1870s and mid 1890s. In response, workers increasingly organized and acted by facilitating collective bargaining, and striking and boycotting when necessary. Strikes by miners and other factory workers throughout the 1880s and 90s, including the Haymarket Affair, set important precedents for the Pullman Strike. Oppressive responses by capital against unions, activists, and union leaders often left workers feeling, at best, under-represented and, at worst, at the whims of their employer.

The Pullman Strike and Boycott had some key differences from earlier actions, however; instead of organizing via craft unions, the Pullman Workers had the support of the fledgling but formidable American Railway Union (ARU), which included members across a range of professions and company leadership roles. Workers from the Midwest to Washington State struck and boycotted trains with cars built by the Pullman Company. It became the largest and one of the longest work stoppages up to that time in U.S. history and effectively shut down railway travel from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. The strike was ultimately broken by a combination of the limited resources of workers after going months without pay, injunctions by federal courts, military force, and the imprisonment of union leaders and activists, including ARU president, Eugene V. Debs. Its leaders indicted or imprisoned and hundreds of its members blacklisted from future employment, the ARU collapsed.

The Pullman Strike precipitated the role of the state as an arbitrator between workers and railroad companies with the passing of the Erdman Act in 1898. This was the first in a series of Congressional acts aimed at regulating and reforming railway labor which laid the foundation for national labor laws enacted in the 1930s. The strike and its aftermath also raised important questions about the proper role of law enforcement, the military, and the state in cases of mass demonstrations within and beyond the realm of workers’ rights and industrial interests. At the local level, the Illinois Supreme Court forced the Pullman Company was forced to sell its residential property and many workers were able to purchase their long-rented abodes. The original town of Pullman is now a National Monument and Illinois State Historic District.

For further reading, refer to Martin Tuohy’s articles on the “Pullman Strike and Boycott” and “George Pullman” in Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History (2007). All of the IDHH items related to the Pullman Strike can be found here. Explore material related to George Pullman, including correspondence and portraits.

Summer Fun in Chicago Parks

It’s the middle of summer and with the warm weather and school vacations, it’s peak season for outdoor activities. This time of the year, kids in Chicago take advantage of the city’s more than 500 parks, over 90 of which are featured in the Chicago Public Library’s Chicago Park District Records Photographs collection.

What better way to keep cool during the summer heat than at the pool? Chicago’s parks boast more than 70 pools across the city, just three of which are pictured below. As these photos suggest, pools have been an integral part of outdoor summertime activities in Chicago at least since the turn of the twentieth century.

On cooler days or when kids would prefer to stay dry, there are the Chicago Park District’s more than 300 playgrounds around the city. Beyond the slides, swings, merry-go-rounds, and more unusual features, the playground has long been a central place for after-school and summertime activities.

For more summer fun, search for related items from all IDHH collections. Or maybe visit your local park!

Celebrating Illinois Writers

July 21 marks the 120th birthday of Illinois-born, internationally-acclaimed author, Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). To celebrate, the IDHH highlights collections that include materials on several Illinois literary giants, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Carl Sandburg, and Hemingway himself.

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) is one of the most celebrated U.S. poets, poet laureate of Illinois, and longtime Chicago resident. In 1949, She became the first African American writer to win a Pulitzer Prize. Brooks has a deep connection to African American history and culture, public life, and academics in Illinois. Throughout her life, Brooks spoke at libraries and campuses throughout the state, as demonstrated below in the photographs from the Lake Forest Academy and Ferry Hall Archives collection and Elgin Community College’s campus history collection. Gwendolyn Brooks came to Ferry Hall in 1969 and Lake Forest Academy in May of 1994 to speak to classes and give a reading of her poems. She visited Elgin Community College in 1995 to speak to high school and college English students. Brooks has perhaps the strongest connection to Illinois Wesleyan University, visiting the campus five times from 1972-1999, receiving an honorary doctorate there in 1973. See materials from her visits to Wesleyan here. See all of material in the IDHH on Brooks here.

Coincidentally, July also marks the death of another of the most celebrated writers in the state and the U.S., Carl Sandburg (1878-1967). Though best known for his poetry, especially his breathtaking naturalist and modernist pieces on urban life in Chicago, he was also a musician, editor, and prose author. One of his three Pulitzers was awarded for a biography on Lincoln. Sandburg was an advocate for civil rights and received an award from the NAACP in 1965. In the photo below from the Chicago History Museum’s Prints and Photographs Collection, Sandburg sits with his biographer, Harry Golden. Sandburg lived most of his life outside of Illinois but occasionally returned to his home state, including a visit to Knox College in 1958. Search all of the materials in the IDHH relating to Sandburg here.

Writers Carl Sandburg (left) and Harry Golden sit in Golden's office following the publication of his biography of the poet titled Carl Sandburg
Haun, Declan, 1937-1994 (photographer). Carl Sandburg and Harry Golden in Golden’s office. 1961. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Permission to display was given by Chicago History Museum.

Finally, the remarkable photographs below from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, digitized by the Oak Park Library collection in the Illinois Digital Archive, showcase the early life of the author and his family in his hometown, a suburb of Chicago. Hemingway authored more than a dozen novels and short story collections throughout his life, receiving a Pulitzer for The Old Man and the Sea in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.  He is pictured below with his siblings, two of whom, Marcelline and Leicester, also became talented writers. Check out all of the IDHH materials on Hemingway here.

Remembering the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the activism for justice and equality that his work is a part of and continues to be exigent to this day. The IDHH highlights collections from the Chicago History Museum that include photographs by DC-area journalist, Declan Haun, as well as an interview with an activist who participated in protests in Chicago in response to King’s assassination in 1968.

The Chicago History Museum’s Prints and Photographs Collection includes photographs from King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech on August 28,1963 (the first image below on the left), his involvement in the March 1965 protests against police brutality in Montgomery, Alabama (top right), and images from King’s Chicago Freedom Movement, including a march in 1966 (bottom right). King was a powerful voice in Civil Rights and inspired many others to stand up for equality for African Americans and all People of Color.

The Chicago History Museum’s Oral History Collection includes transcripts and audio from interviews conducted by the Museum’s Studs Terkel Center for Oral History. Hear from Marilyn Katz who was involved in protests in Chicago in the wake of King’s assassination. Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, ideas, and the people he inspires live on to work toward social justice.

Several IDHH Institutions have put together exhibits in honor of Dr. King, including the Chicago History Museum’s Remembering Dr. King, which focuses on King’s work in Chicago. Some of the exhibit’s images are online in the Chicago History Museum’s Digital Library and in the DPLA. See all of the Chicago History Museum’s materials relating to Dr. King. See all of the Illinois Digital Heritage hub’s items on King here.

Welcome DePaul University

This month we welcomed DePaul University into the IDHH. DePaul University has shared the Deborah Bright Photographs collection, which includes 96 black and white photographs taken by the photographer, Deborah Bright, in 1985.

The  images in the collection capture an eerily quiet side of Chicago in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, sparsely populated by people. Bright took these photographs as part of the Lincoln Park Study Group, which was a project directed by Dr. Charles Suchar, and involved many DePaul faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. As part of this, a group was formed to conduct a historical and cultural study of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, where DePaul is located. Bright’s photographs document the neighborhood as it was at the time, in a process of gentrification.

The collection was donated to DePaul by Bright in 2015 as thirty-seven strips of negatives, with ninety-six exposures, and thirteen 8″x10″ contact sheets containing ninety-eight photos in total.

Here is a sneak peek from the collection.

Two children are walking down the sidewalk between two new buildings.
Deborah Bright, Courtyard of apartment building in Lincoln Park, Chicago, 1985. Deborah Bright Photographs, Special Collections and Archives, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.
An alley with a telephone pole that is surrounded by a metal garbage bin, and pieces of wood on the ground.
Deborah Bright. Alley in Lincoln Park, Chicago. 1985. Deborah Bright Photographs, Special Collections and Archives, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.
Three buildings side-by-side on a sunny day, one buildings has a Coca-Cola sign out front, two buildings appear to be residential buildings.
Deborah Bright. Residential and commercial buildings along W. Webster Ave., Chicago. 1985. Deborah Bright Photographs, Special Collections and Archives, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.
A fence separates two urban gardens. There are residential buildings in the background.
Deborah Bright. Garden in a residential lot in Lincoln Park, Chicago. 1985. Deborah Bright Photographs, Special Collections and Archives, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.
Newer homes are surrounded by chain-link fence. There is a boat on a trailer in the middle ground.
Deborah Bright. House exterior in Lincoln Park, Chicago. 1985. Deborah Bright Photographs, Special Collections and Archives, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.

Permission to display here is granted by DePaul University Special Collections and Archives.

To see the full collection, please visit the collection here.

There are other many great collections in Illinois that document various aspects of the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, check them out in the IDHH!