Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, March 3

Gapers Block

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Staff members call it "the only Indian reservation in Illinois," and they are only partly joking. Because although the state of Illinois has no reservation, for more than 50 years the American Indian Center has served the needs of Chicago's Native population.

More than 20,000 American Indians live in Chicago, representing nearly 100 tribes from throughout the United States and Canada. Just 60 years ago, however, fewer than 1,000 American Indians lived in the city. This remarkable growth of the Indian population is largely the result of the controversial Relocation Act of 1956, which promised job training to Native Americans on the condition that they leave the reservations and move to urban areas.

Through the efforts of several community groups, the American Indian Center of Chicago was established in 1953 to support the expanding number of Indian residents. Originally known as the All-Tribes American Indian Center, it was the first urban Indian organization in the United States. And, thanks to its enduring success, the center has served as model for Indian centers around the country.

Since 1966, the American Indian Center of Chicago has been located at 1630 W. Wilson in the city's Uptown neighborhood. In fact, most of Chicago's Native population is concentrated on the North Side, especially in the Ravenswood, Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park neighborhoods.

Today the American Indian Center continues to provide vital cultural and educational programming, acting as the primary gathering place for the city's American Indian residents. Powwows in particular, which have been hosted by the center since 1954, form a cornerstone of the center's annual cultural events. To find out more about what is happening in Chicago's American Indian community, see the full events listing on the center's website. The list is updated weekly, and many programs are open to the general public.

More Chicago Native American Resources

D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian History
The McNickle Center of the Newberry Library was founded in 1972 and is dedicated to education, research and scholarship in American Indian history and culture. Visit the website to find out more about the Newberry's extensive American Indian collections.

Delgado, Louis. "Native Americans." Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

LaGrand, James B. Indian Metropolis: Native Americans in Chicago, 1945-75. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2002.
This is a fascinating social history of American Indians in Chicago during the middle of the 20th century. Incredibly, you can read this book online, in its entirety, as a University of Illinois Press e-book.

Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
The Mitchell Museum, affiliated with Kendall College, is located in north suburban Evanston. It is "the only museum in the Chicago-area that focuses exclusively on the history, culture and arts of North American native peoples."

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About the Author(s)

Alice Maggio is a real, live Chicago librarian. If you have topic ideas or questions you would like answered, send your suggestions to and it may be featured in a future column.

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