Chi-Nations Youth Council is Going to Red Lake!



On March 8th, the Chi-Nations Youth Council (CNYC) had a very successful fundraiser at the AIC, selling plates of ogaa (Ojibwe word for Walleye) and manoomin (Ojibwe word for wild rice) at $12 a plate. The ogaa and manoomin was a gift from Darwin Sumner of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe and the Chief Meskokonaye Youth Cultural Camp in Red Lake, MN. This donation is to help fund a spring break harvest camp in Red Lake beginning on April 14th.


Darwin came prepared with 3 kids, 230 walleye filets, 20 lbs of rice, and an award winning fry bread cook – Adele from Rosebud, SD. It took 12 hours to drive from Red Lake, MN to Chicago, IL.  Darwin and his crew even hunkered down at the center for a couple nights – leaving the morning after the fundraiser. Asked about his stay at the center, Darwin said, “everyone just had a blast. This is one of the best fundraisers I’ve ever put on and we can’t wait to come back and do it again!”

Not only is Darwin running the camp in April, he’s also a great cook, he said, “It’s amazing how many people ask me for my batter and tartar sauce recipe.  People kept coming into the kitchen asking me about it. I just said ‘I can’t tell you that’. Every place I go they tell me to market it myself. It’s all trial and error you know.”

It was a great event that lasted all day and everyone helped out. The kids helped plan the event, serve guests, took orders, sold raffle tickets, helped in the kitchen, helped set up, and even held signs in front of the building.  Through this event, the CNYC nearly reached their goal of $3,500 (WOOHOO!). The CNYC thanks everyone who helped out with special donations:  Lynne Wendler, Eli Suzukovich III, Sharon Skolnick, Robert Wapahi, June Thiele and ‘Stage 773’, Norma Robertson, and the Red Line Drum group who donated honorarium money from a recent powwow.


Anthony Pochel of CNYC says this trip is important to him because, “we get to represent our community, learn about our culture, build up our relationships, and become better leaders.”  Last year, CNYC went to Red Lake, taking five kids and this year we’ll be bringing four more kids than last year. CNYC advisor Janie Pochel said, “this is cool because the kids who are going back will have the opportunity to teach the new kids about Red Lake and beaver trapping.” Last year’s trip was a success by all accounts. Nobody got lost or hurt and everyone had a good time. Last year, camp was focused on ice fishing and trapping. This year, we plan on helping in the sugar bush – tapping maples and birches.

This year’s harvest camp, we’ll be sleeping outside. This was done because tapping maples is a seriously big deal, especially when you’re tapping hundreds of trees, you don’t have the luxury of going home at the end of the day because someone has to watch over and cook all that sap. Not only that, you have to be around to watch over your pails to make sure animals don’t help themselves to the yummy goodness flowing from the trees.
Since it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple sugar, everyone at the camp has to help.  People would have to fish and cook. Grandmas watch over the food and kids. Kids checked taps and gathered firewood. Everyone took turns stirring the sap until the water was evaporated leaving maple syrup.  Darwin says the CNYC, “can expect to get a lot of exercise with long days that can be a little chilly at times, so you’re going to have to wear extra clothing, we’re going to camp out, and we’re going to do some beaver trapping.”

Tapping maples is something we had to do long ago to just survive and feed our people.  The maple syrup was more than just a sweetener.  It was used for many things, including money. During the fall it was used to preserve meat. So it was one of the most valuable commodities.  I’ve even heard some people say that maple sugar was traded as far south as Florida and Mexico.  So it has a history of bringing people together from multiple communities, just like the AIC-Red Lake connection happening today.

Chi-Nation’s t-shirt sale was also a success selling over 50 t-shirts. The Chi-Nation’s Youth Council is still young and looking for new members. If you are interested in becoming a part of Chi-Nation’s as a donor, member, or advisor – please email us at

Also, be on the look-out for some digital stories to come out of this trip to Red Lake.


For more information or questions about the Chi-Nations Youth Council or the trip to Red Lake, email David Bender at


AIC at the Ethnography in Education Research Forum

Dr. Bang and members from the AIC education department were invited by Indigenous scholar, Dr. Bryan Brayboy, to present at the 35th annual Ethnography in Education Research forum earlier this month. To prepare for the event, we looked at four digital stories created last spring by staff members around their personal relationships to land, and the land-based programming taking place in community. We noticed central themes that came up across all stories such as issues of identity, roles and responsibilities to family, community and nation, stories of resiliency and empowerment, migration stories, possible futures (brighter ones), etc. Through engaging in Indigenous knowledge systems in Chicago, we are reclaiming cultural traditional practices and languages in a Native urban setting. For more info on our presentation or to view the digital stories we analyzed, please use the same contact information below.Upcoming national conferences where AIC, NU, and UW-Seattle staff members will be presenting on behalf of Chicago Intertribal and Menominee communities!

  1. March 30-April 2 National Association for Research and Science Teaching in Pittsburg, PA
  2. April 3 Chicago Wilderness Conference presenting on Community based gardens and land restoration. Presenting along with Bronzeville Historical Society and Casa Michoaocan.
  3. April 3-7 American Education Research Association in Philadelphia, PA
  4. April 14-17 First Nations Development Institute and Oneida Nation 2nd annual Food Sovereignty Summit
  5. June 23-27 International Society of the Learning Sciences Conference in Boulder, CO
For more information about these events, or for a free copy of publications by NSF staff (only made possible by community participation and engagement in reclaiming our education for our future!!!!!), please call AIC to speak with a staff member or email Yaw^ko swakweku! (Thank you relatives!)

Community Gardening & Restoration

Spring is right around the corner and, here at The American Indian Center, we will be hosting meetings during Winter Programming every Thursday night from 5-7pm to discuss and plan management of open green spaces. We’re hoping to help community members start their own gardens this spring, get community more involved with our award winning medicine garden, continue restoration work at Dunning Read Conservation area, as well as starting our new heritage garden project located on the public right-of-way along the west side of the Metra/Union Pacific railroad embankment on Ravenswood Ave., between Wilson Ave. to the north and Sunnyside Ave. to the south.

For more information: contact Fawn Pochel at or

Chi-Nations Youth Group Spring Break trip to Red Lake, MN

Last March, five youth and 2 advisors took a 14 hour car ride to Red Lake Minnesota for a four day trip to learn how the youth in Red Lake fish, hunt and snare. We learned a lot about traditional harvesting, developed leadership skills, and shared similar experiences between the urban and reservation Native youth. We had first time experiences like seeing tons of stars, eagles soaring, a beaver dam, discovering a muskrat home, and ice fishing. We were unable to successfully snare or trap muskrats or beavers, but we caught plenty of fish for dinner, we even learned how to clean fish. We had discussions of how under the cement and buildings Chicago might look like Red Lake. The Ojibwe people of Red Lake are dealing with some of the same issues the rest of Indian country is like drugs, violence, loss of traditions and environmental issues like pipelines. We visited the Enbridge pipeline blockade and discussed the concerns of the people and further understood why these issues are a concern for all of us. We became a cohesive team and bonded with the Red Lake youth. In April, the Red Lake youth group came down to Chicago to visit and it was the firsttime some of them have been off the reservation. On March 8th, 2014the Red Lake Youth Group is coming back to Chicago with traditionally harvested walleye, wild rice, and blueberries to host a fundraising dinner. We have a goal of fundraising $3,500 in order to support 10 youth and 3 advisors to travel to Red Lake and continue learning leadership skills and thinking about food sovereignty.


For more information about the trip to Red Lake or to find out how you can support the Chi-Nations youth group, email Janie Pochel or  

Winter Count: Community activities over winter break


During the AIC Winter Camp 2013, youth of all ages were welcomed to the warm community lodge of the AIC where bellies were warmed every morning with hot eats prepared with the loving hands of AIC community members and staff. After having breakfast, the ceremony of learning began both in sport and in study. With access to the 3rd floor, students and volunteers, learned the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship while playing basketball with community members like Negwes White and Robert Hinmon. There was some variation for youth who prefer activities like archery, salve making, yoga, and native crafts.

Time Traveling

After that, kids went to work on the Lakota Winter Count project. For those of you who are unfamiliar – the Winter Count is a cyclical pattern of pictographs that depict major occurrences happening over a period of time, produced on the back of an animal hide and kept by special members of the community. The Winter Count has many purposes but basically it was used to communicate from the past to the future. We at the American Indian Center feel that the Winter Count Project can be a path to connecting our urban heritage with that of our ancestors. This is kind of like our gift to the AIC community of the future. One of our Community Science Facilitators noticed how, “being Indian, we think of everything in circles and spirals, much like the stars in the Milky Way or the rings in a tree. When we think about narrative, we notice our stories are connections to the universe across space and time.”

The Winter Count Project consisted of a 5 part lesson plan: grounding ourselves with the four directions, introducing the Lakota winter Count and making our own short counts, and exploring the Field Museum for Winter Count and other indigenous methods of record keeping.

Again, big thanks go out to Robert Wapahi who helped facilitate this project. “It’s not something everybody did,” says Robert, “a lot of times it would be an artist or someone in the community whose job it was to keep track of the happenings in the universe.” Robert gifted the project a deer hide he says was “just collecting dust.” If you get a chance, come down to the Indian Center and see the beginning of an Old/New AIC tradition and bring Robert Wapahi some Fritos – he loves them.

Gathering our stories on our own short counts (moon count), we looked at some commonalities and found that some of our stories were shared but offered an individual perspective. This was exactly what we hoped for. In the end we learned a lot about ourselves by doing as our ancestors by exploring narratives: individual, community, and world. From what we experienced with kids and community – 2013 was the year of big changes.

Cold Blooded

During the Winter Break kids were also treated to winter fun and adventure exploring the Cook County Forest Preserves with snow shoes and sleds! The American Indian Center would like to thank, Adam Kessel (Lakota) of the Cook County Forest Preserve for his help and also congratulate him on his recent book: Zombie Gardening. Expect to hear more about the book in the future as the children have been requesting a visit from our friend Adam who was also a longtime staff member at the AIC.

Special Thanks!

The American Indian Center of Chicago would like to thank everyone who made the AIC Winter Camp 2013 a huge success. We must always remember that none of this would be possible without the help from our AIC friends and family. During the two weeks that CPS youth were on break we did – archery (w/Leonard Malatare), basketball (w/Negwes and Robert Hinmon), salve making (w/Felicia and Fawn), deer hoof bell skinning (w/Robert Wapahi), stick games (w/Leonard Malatare, Mavis Neconish, and Eli), Endrigohr (w/Allen Turner), made Wateca Bags (w/Fawn and Janie), snow shoeing (w/Adam), storytelling (w/Eli) and visited historical items (w/special help from Robert Wapahi and the Field Museum).

Thank you to all our volunteers and sponsors for the delicious lunches and snacks that we enjoyed: Tracy DeLeon and Family, the Francisco Family, CK Johnson, American Indian Health Services of Chicago and Staff. Special Thanks to Susan Powers for sharing her knowledge, history and stories with community!

For more information or questions about our winter programming or future programming, email Tevelee Gudino at

Sharing Stories, Sharing Knowledge

The past couple of months have been busy with presentations and conferences where staff at the American Indian Center (AIC) had a chance to share the work that they do and engage in interesting and inspiring conversations with several partners, colleagues and community members. Here is a recap of some of the events:

December 5th

Meet and Greet

The Executive director of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition (NUIFC) and the director of the Phoenix American Indian Center, visited AIC and met with their staff and board members. The gathering was held in Tribal Hall to exchange information and ideas for serving Native individuals and their families in urban environments, homelands of our Native relatives.

December 6th

UIC Heritage Day

This year’s event, hosted annually by the Native American Support Program (NASP) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, took place in the Student Center East building on campus. AIC’s research program staff led a workshop entitled, “Living in Relationships”, which included a fun, interactive activity, a picture slideshow of outdoor activities with youth and families, a “sticky wall” to post people’s thoughts on what it means to be living in relationships, and a 10-minute presentation on community based design research, followed by a group dialogue. During the luncheon, Heritage day participants enjoyed hearing from keynote speaker Ada Deer, a well-known and respected Menominee tribal member. Workshops took place throughout the day followed by a powwow in the evening.


December 7th 2013

3rd Annual Community Research Conference hosted by the American Indian Center, Inc.

In years past, AIC has hosted this gathering in Tribal Hall with presenters covering topics ranging from iconic Native figures, health and wellness issues, building community capacity, American Indian integration of baseball, Native art on Chicago, and community led research projects. The 2013 conference was no less engaging, featuring presenters covering programs sponsored by Title 7 and Kateri Center, Indian Health Services, and University of WI-Madison. Sixty people came out to support and network.

For more information about these events, or for a free copy of publications by NSF staff (only made possible by community participation and engagement in reclaiming our education for our future!), please call AIC to speak with a staff member or Yaw^ko swakweku! (Thank you relatives!)

Upcoming national conferences where AIC, NU, and UW-Seattle staff members will be presenting on our research programs!

  1. Feb 28-March 1; 35th Annual Ethnography in Education Research forum in Philadelphia, PA presenting on “Restorying relations to land in science education using digital arts: Chicago is Indigenous Land”
  2. April 3; Chicago Wilderness Conference presenting on Community based gardens and land restoration. Presenting along with Bronzeville Historical Society and Casa Michoaocan.
  3. April 3-7; American Education Research Association in Philadelphia, PA presenting on “Repatriating Indigenous Technologies in an Urban Indian Community” (2013)
  4. April 14-17; First Nations Development Institute and Oneida Nation 2nd annual Food Sovereignty Summit in Oneida, WIpresenting on Rebuilding relationships in Chicago/Shikaakwa with community, land, and wild foods
  5. April 30-May 2; National Association for Research and Science Teaching in Pittsburgh, PA presenting paper, “Land’s Structuring of Learning in Learning Environments and Family Contexts”
  6. June 23-27; International Society of the Learning Sciences Conference in Boulder, CO. Principal Investigator of NSF grants housed at AIC, Dr. Megan Bang, will be the keynote speaker.

For more information about the AIC’s publications and presentations, email

Little Ones

Little Ones is a program at the American Indian Center of Chicago funded by an NSF research grant and designed by the AIC community. Two years ago the AIC was awarded two research grants, one of them is named Living in Relationships (LIR) the goal of this grant is to create a much needed early childhood science program. For a year we conducted a series of meetings getting to know what our community designers wanted to see in an early childhood program. The community came to a consensus that our values are what sets us apart and we created a list of what we should focus on:

  • Include and involve families and elders 
  • All inclusive of tribes
  • Sustaining interest and promoting creativity            
  • Make kids proud of who they are
  • Traditions/Teaching traditional ways            
  • Seasons & Cycles        
  • Learning values and respect              
  • Prayer            
  • 7 Grandfather teaching
  • Honoring and respecting veterans
  • Native books and stories                    
  • Include dance and songs        
  • Include traditional Indian games                   
  • Harvesting, planting and eating traditionally           
  • Learning not to be wasteful               
  • Learning from experience, observing, asking questions

We started implementation in the summer of 2012 over this past year we created new lesson plans, reworked old ones and have invited designers and community to help teach our sacred little ones with some of the same stories as our ancestors, and with our own stories and experiences. Our little ones are our teachers.Image