As a future ancestor, I’m writing to you from the so-called Chicagoland area of Illinois, a conundrum wrapped in a contradiction—both a crime scene and a confirmation. These lands were stewarded for millennia by Indigenous peoples and nations and lineages, including the Three Fires Confederacy— the Potowatami, the Ojibwe, and the Odawa. They raised their children here, created their communities, made sense and meaning for one another, experienced the flowing and the passing of their time together, planned for the future, and buried their dead here. We acknowledge them and thank them all. I note that following the settler violence culminating in the Blackhawk War of 1832, Indigenous peoples were murdered or forcibly removed from these lands. Over a century later, under a different set of oppressive policies, many were once again coerced to migrate, this time back to the urban centers where their ancestors had earlier been robbed and forcibly removed—Chicago has the third largest urban Native population in the US today, with more than 65,000 Native Americans in the greater metropolitan area.
Chicago’s name, derived from the Algonquian language, means “river whose shores are lined with wild leeks,” and it’s true: Chicago is a confluence of water, wildness, peoples, hopes and aspirations, a place of outsized and crazy complexity, built up by the hands of immigrant workers and African-ancestored people escaping terror and the after-life of slavery during the Great Migration. Justice seekers, freedom fighters, teachers and cultural workers, artists and creators, organizers and activists—all of us must remember and honor a history of stolen land and resources, a history of genocide and exploitation, and we must also pledge to keep our eyes and our hearts open in our shared struggle for peace and repair, justice and joy, balance and love.
Chicago is where I reside and work, where I rise up filled with gratitude and awe on each new morning. This is where I recommit to projects of repair and revolution in this bruised and battered world. Chicago is where I begin again.