By Jodie Jacobs
Thanksgiving is already on our November calendar but add to that date a couple of Native American powwows, lectures, workshops or perhaps an interesting excursion or two. Even though we work and play on land once inhabited by American Indian tribes, chances are our acquaintance with native culture extends to a tribe’s casino, a museum field trip or a New Mexico reservation visit while on vacation. However, since 1990 when President George Bush declared November as Native American Heritage Month, events have been added to cultural calendars across the United States. Here are five ways to celebrate or up your knowledge quotient on Native American culture.
Daley Center Plaza
50 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
Date: November 1 from Noon to 1 p.m.
Pick up lunch and head over to the Daley Center Plaza for an American Indian Center event. The Chicago-based center annually marks the start of Native American Heritage Month with a mini-powwow under the city’s famed Picasso statue. Americans of tribal decent will be there about half an hour before and after their traditional dancing and drumming. The event also includes an art display and a tribal elder’s reading of President Barack Obama’s Native Heritage Month proclamation. The Daley Center Plaza often has free, lunchtime ethnic celebrations under the auspices of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
University of Illinois at Chicago
Student Center East
750 S. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Date: November 16 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Native American Support Program and Native American Student Organization have their annual Native American Heritage Day Celebration on the third Friday of November. Come to the UIC campus for workshops during the day or to experience a powwow and try some indigenous food at night. The American Indian Center provides the powwow. The public is invited to attend all or part of the celebration.
American Indian Center
1630 W. Wilson Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
Click here for calendar and events
Learn about native plants and their medicinal uses at the American Indian Center. A native plant garden developed under the center’s urban ecology program surrounds the building and is tended by volunteers. Garden tours must be scheduled with a staff member. Donations are appreciated and go to the ecology program. To meet and mingle with American Indians and help raise funds for the center, check out its American Indian Center Heritage Night. It is open to the public.
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
3001 Central St.
Evanston, IL 60201
Price: $5 for adults; $3 for children, teachers, students and seniors; free to tribal and Mitchell members
Click here for events
Learn about North American geographical tribal divisions and history and see artifacts and art just by visiting the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in north-suburban Evanston. Look on the main level for the War of 1812 exhibition, an Inuit art exhibit and a show on traditional and contemporary art. Think about whether you know a celebrity of Native American heritage and then check upstairs at the “Did You Know They’re Native?” display. You might be surprised. Don’t leave without checking out the gift shop.
Trickster Gallery of Native American Arts
190 S. Roselle Road
Schaumburg, IL 60193
Price: Suggested donation/tour rates $5 adults; $3 seniors and students
Think silver and turquoise jewelry, woven hangings and rugs. Think pottery, sand art, sculptures, photography and paintings. Given that the arts are an inherent part of American Indian culture, a fun and educational way to celebrate Native American Heritage Month is to head to a museum or gallery that features American Indian art. Operated by the American Indian Center, the Trickster Gallery of Native American Arts in west-suburban Schaumburg has rotating exhibits by contemporary Native American artists. It also has a gift shop of authentic art pieces and excellent books.