Where We Find Ourselves

Commissioners to the 223rd General Assembly this past summer in St. Louis, MO, passed a resolution encouraging mid-councils across the denomination to “begin their meetings with an acknowledgment of whose land they are meeting on…” (Item 10-13). Thus, as we opened the December 1, 2018 Presbytery Assembly meeting, Stated Clerk Rev. Ken Hockenberry provided us with a brief introduction to the original Native American inhabitants of the Chicago region. We’ll continue this practice once a year at our gatherings.

Acknowledgment of Native Lands and Peoples

Originally by Tricia Dykers-Koenig – adapated by Ken Hockenberry

Presbytery of Chicago – Dec 1, 2018
We begin our gathering today by recognizing that the land upon which we meet is the location of the ancestral homelands of the people of the Council of the Three Fires: the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa. These three tribes settled in the area after a great migration from the Atlantic Coast that spanned 500 years. Located at the intersection of several great waterways, the land naturally became a site of trade, travel, and healing for many tribes.
While there are several accounts for the origins of the city’s name, most interpretations converge on the idea that the original name for Chicago derived from the abundance of wild leeks that grew in the area. The last federally recognized tribe to hold title to land in Chicago were the Potawatomi, who were forced to cede the last of their territory in 1833.
Chicago saw a resurgence in its Native population during the 1950s. The termination and relocation policies of the Eisenhower administration caused Native people across the country to migrate from reservations into urban areas. Of the five original relocation sites, Chicago was the only one not to have a neighboring federally recognized tribe in-state. As a result, a thriving intertribal community began to form. Today there are an estimated 65,000 Native Americans who live in the Metropolitan Area. These inhabitants represent a myriad of tribal nations. Many families have ties to their reservation; and yet, many have lived here for generations and consider the city to be their home.
We declare our respect for these children of God and our desire to honor them and the truth of their lives and their history, our shared history including the broken promises and other sins for which the dominant culture must repent. We affirm our responsibility to those who are still here, sometimes unseen, and we look for opportunities for true reconciliation, which we acknowledge will involve further action by, and change for, those in the dominant culture. Among our transgressions are the harmful stereotypes created for our entertainment.
We honor our Native siblings and seek to work for healing and justice that is truly “for all.”