Acknowledging our History: NARA’s facilities in Chicago

This post is another in my ongoing blog series that acknowledges the ancestral lands on which the National Archives’ buildings are situated across the country. This series of acknowledgements is a simple way to offer our recognition and respect to the people who once lived on these lands.

The National Archives at Chicago and the Chicago Federal Records Center

The National Archives at Chicago and the Chicago Federal Records Center in Southwest Chicago, the current location of the Obama Library in the Hoffman Estates, and the future location of the Obama Center at Jackson Park (which will be a privately operated, non-federal organization, but will host a substantial number of items loaned by the National Archives) are all situated on the ancestral lands of several tribal nations: the Council of the Three Fires: the Odawa, Ojibwe Nations and the Potawatomi. This name recognizes that each tribe functions as brethren to serve the alliance as a whole. See Potawatomi Heritage – Encyclopedia: Three Fires Council.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, “Obama breaks ground…”CNN

“The Ojibwe were said to be the Keepers of Tradition. The Odawa were known as the Keepers of the Trade. The Potawatomi were known as the Keepers of the Fire. Over time, the Potawatomi migrated from north of Lakes Huron and Superior to the shores of the mshigmé or Great Lake. This location—in what is now Wisconsin, southern Michigan, northern Indiana, and northern Illinois—is where European explorers in the early 17th century first came upon the Potawatomi; they called themselves Neshnabék, meaning the original or true people” From the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi website.

Trade Corridor, 1760s from the Geography of Michigan webpage.

This includes the Illinois Confederacy: the Peoria and Kaskaskia Nations; and the Meskwaki, Myaamia, Thakiwaki, and Wea Nations. The Sauk and Fox called the shores of Lake Michigan home. The Ho-Chunk, Kiikaapoi, Mascouten Nations, and Menominee still call the region of northeast Illinois home.

Section of a Library of Congress Map, “Indian land areas judicially established,” 1978, 
featuring Bodéwadmiké (Potawatomi) land around the Great Lakes, noted in This Land Was Their Land.

Chicago remains the home to one of the largest urban Indigenous communities in the United States.

Alfred Scharf’s map of Chicago in 1804, produced in 1901, color version courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

Enter your address in this interactive map of Traditional Native Lands to see who once lived where you are now.

My thanks to Robert Kett, Digital Imaging Technician, Barack Obama Presidential Library, Douglas A. Bicknese, Director of Archival Operations, Glenn Longacre, Archivist, Leo Belleville, Archivist, and Jeremy Farmer, Archives Technician, the National Archives at Chicago, for providing researching information and providing images for this post. Thanks also to Rose Miron, the Director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library  in Chicago, whose assistance is greatly appreciated.

For additional information: