Native Pathways to Democracy: American Indians and Civic Culture in the Greater Chicago Region

Jack Tchen

Friday, April 16, 2021, 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Type: Panel Discussion


Illinois teachers who register with their Illinois Educator Identifying Number (IEIN) will receive three continuing professional development units (CPDUs) for their full participation. Attendance at this session and the K–12 workshop will be required to receive full CPDU credit. 

“Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written,” begins the OAH’s call for proposals for its 2021 meeting in Chicago. Yet Native Americans have been fighting to make these ideals true for centuries. This roundtable discussion highlights these Native American struggles in and around the Chicago and Great Lakes region to suggest pathways to increased political engagement and a broader, more inclusive democracy. To foster such discussion, moderator Philip Deloria will convene scholars of Native American history in the Chicago and Great Lakes region as well as local Native American activists and artists to discuss and debate past and current issues that are both encouraging and hindering Native American participation in our contemporary civic culture.  

Session Participants

Chair: Philip J. Deloria, University of Michigan
Deloria is Professor of History at Harvard University, where his research and teaching focus on the social, cultural and political histories of the relations among American Indian peoples and the United States, as well as the comparative and connective histories of indigenous peoples in a global context.  His first book, Playing Indian (1998), traced the tradition of white “Indian play” from the Boston Tea Party to the New Age movement, while his 2004 book Indians in Unexpected Places examined the ideologies surrounding Indian people in the early twentieth century and the ways Native Americans challenged them through sports, travel, automobility, and film and musical performance.  He is the co-editor of The Blackwell Companion to American Indian History (with Neal Salisbury) and C.G. Jung and the Sioux Traditions by Vine Deloria (with Jerome Bernstein).  He is currently completing a project on American Indian visual arts of the mid-twentieth century, and coediting (with Beth Piatote) I Heart Nixon: Essays on the Indigenous Everyday.

Panelist: John N. Low, Associate Professor, Ohio State University
John N. Low received his Ph.D. in American Culture at the University of Michigan, and is an enrolled citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. He earned a BA from Michigan State University, a second BA in American Indian Studies from the University of Minnesota, and an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. Professor Low previously served as Executive Director of the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, Illinois, and served as a member of the Advisory Committee for the Indians of the Midwest Project at the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library, and the State of Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force. He has presented frequently at conferences including the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA)), American Society for Ethnohistory (ASE) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH). He continues to serve as a member of his tribes’ Traditions & Repatriation Committee.

Panelist: Heather Miller
Heather Miller is an enrolled member of the Wyandotte Nation from Oklahoma. Her passion for seeing Native American organizations succeed inspires her in her role as the current Executive Director of the American Indian Center in Chicago.
She began her professional career working for Hopa Mountain in Montana where she helped Native Nonprofit organizations develop their capacity. She then worked in Seattle with Potlatch Fund, 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 has worked to develop programs, lead organizations and direct grants of various sizes.
Heather currently serves as a Board Member and Program Committee Chair for the Chicago Cultural Alliance. She holds a Bachelor's of Philosophy from Miami University in Ohio and a Masters of Native American Studies from Montana State University. Heather is also a graduate of the Leadership, Apprentice, Economic, and Development program through the First Nations Development Fund and a graduate of the Cascade Executive Program through the University of Washington. She is also a 2019 Leaders For A New Chicago Awardee.

Panelist: Mona (Susan) Power, Writer
Susan Power is an American author from Chicago, Illinois. Her debut novel, The Grass Dancer (1994), received the 1995 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for Best First Fiction.  She is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (Yanktonnai Dakota) but grew up in Chicago. Her other honors include being an Iowa Arts fellow, James Michener fellow, Bunting Institute fellow, and Alfred Hodder fellow.  Power's other books include a novel Strong Heart Society and a book of short stories, Roofwalker. She has also had short stories published in Atlantic Monthly, Best American Short Stories of 1993, and other collections.

Panelist: Jimmy Sweet, Rutgers University–New Brunswick
Jimmy Sweet (Lakota/Dakota) is an Assistant Professor in the American Studies Department at Rutgers University, where he specializes in Native American and Indigenous studies.  His current book project, “The ‘Mixed-Blood’ Moment: Race, Law, and Mixed-Ancestry Dakota Indians in the Nineteenth-Century Midwest,” analyzes the legal and racial complexities of American Indians of mixed Indian and European ancestry with a focus on kinship, family history, land dispossession, and citizenship.