map of Grand Portage area

Chicago Indian Village Occupations, Lake County, DuPage County, Cook County, 1970-1972

Beginning in the 1950s thousands of Native Americans moved to Chicago and other large cities as a result of the federal government’s termination and relocation programs, which tried to force cultural and economic assimilation by ending federal tribal recognition and removing individuals from reservation communities. However, government support for relocated Indians was almost nonexistent, and they found themselves in the city's poorest neighborhoods, facing discrimination in housing and employment.

Chicago Indian Village (CIV) was a direct action group that emerged in 1970 to fight for better housing for the city’s urban Indian population. Sparked to protest the eviction of a Menominee woman from her Wrigleyville apartment, CIV eventually set up encampments throughout Chicagoland. From an office in Uptown, community organizer Mike Chosa (Ojibwe) planned seven encampments and multiple sit-ins in just over two years, most visibly on decommissioned Nike missile sites in Belmont Harbor and at Argonne National Lab.  Chosa leveraged same legal argument as the Alcatraz occupiers that cited 19th century treaties promising that abandoned government land would be returned to the Indians in order to push for considerably more modest goal of better housing. CIV’s final encampment, at a recently closed National Guard base in Lake County, lasted almost six months and won the support of surrounding residents. Ultimately, however, the encampment was raided and CIV’s leadership dispersed without directly meeting their goal of finding better housing. Nevertheless, the organization exposed the city’s urban Indians to militant organizing techniques while raising broader public awareness of native issues.

See also -

James B. Legrand, Native Americans in Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 2002

Image: CIV occupation site at Belmont Harbor

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