A CHILD'S VIEW OF URBAN INDIAN LIFE [MARIA AT CHICAGO IN THE '70S] HUNTER BEAR JUNE 6 2006
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
From 1969-73, we lived at Chicago where I was Southside Director for the
Chicago Commons Association -- directing large scale activist grassroots
community organization on the bloody South/Southwest side. Had an excellent
staff of about two dozen "professionals" and community people. Fighting
white racist hate groups, the Republicans, and the Daley Machine, we
organized about 300 block clubs into two large umbrella organizations and
were successful on many fronts.
But at the same time, we were very active in Native doings in the Uptown
section of the Near North Side. At the time of these excerpts, my oldest
daughter, Maria [born at Jackson in early '62] was eleven years old. She,
along with our whole family, participated in various Native projects,
dinners, pow-wows. Later we moved on to Iowa City where I was a prof in the
Graduate Program in Urban and Regional Planning and also UI's Counselor for
the Native students. But we continued our Indian involvements at Chicago,
to which I regularly got [among other things, because I was chair of the
Native American Training Center which was based there.] In that general
period, there were about 22,000 Native people in Chicago -- from perhaps as
many as a hundred tribal backgrounds -- most via the ill-starred Federal
"urban relocation" program initiated in the early '50s.
Recently, Maria turned up her diary -- and, what follows, are only a few
selected excerpts from Chicago. At that time, we lived in Uptown, 5049
North Sheridan [only a block from the rather notorious and large Warbonnet
["Warbucket"] bar, Anglo-owned, and with a very large Native clientele. In
this sampling, I have placed Maria's writing in quotes and have added a few
parenthetical elaborations. -- H
From Maria [age 11]:
Friday, 2/9/73: "Today we are having a party. Stayed home from school.
Went to the concert." [Note by H: Floyd Red Crow Westerman [Sisseton Sioux
and a nationally known singer] sang outside in the Uptown setting to a very
large group of Native people. This was in the context of high factionalism
at our American Indian Center. The concert was preceded by a large dinner
for Floyd at our home and, following the concert, there was a large party at
our place.] "People drunk. Lots of people here, party lasted all night."
Saturday, 2/10/73: "Party last night lasted 'till six o'clock this
morning." [Note by H: I stayed sober, drove some folks home.]
Monday, 2/12/73: "Today stayed home. Susan [Note by H: Susan Mary Power,
Standing Rock Sioux, now a noted author] came over and stayed 'till 9 pm.
Worked on paper [Note by H: 'Native American Publication'] until 11 at
Wednesday, 2/14/73: "Daddy's birthday. They came to work on paper."
Thursday, 2/15/73: "Lots of people came and after that worked on paper."
Saturday, 2/17/73: "Went to the Indian Center and am going to spend the
night at Susan's house."
Sunday, 2/18/73: "Went to Downers Grove to visit Pat R. [Note by H: Pat is
an Oneida lady.] Spent night with Susan again and watched "Ten
Friday, 2/23/73: " Went to work with Daddy. Had a hamburger. Went with
Daddy to St. Thomas of Canterbury Church. Might go to school there." [Note
by H: Maria did wind up there. The school was totally crowded but Mike, the
priest and a good friend, succumbed to my entreaties to "take one more."
Maria's public school's fifth grade had had about 30 different consecutive
substitute teachers in as many days. Some boys locked two or three teachers
in a closet.]
Saturday, 2/24/73: "Went to a meeting with Daddy."
Sunday, 2/25/73: "Most of them stayed up until 6:30 morning. At least I
got some sleep."
Friday, 3/9/73: "Might go to that school. [St Thomas] People came over."
Saturday, 3/10/73: "People came over today. Susan and other people first.
And Martin [Eder, Assiniboine] and them later. Going to wedding tomorrow."
Sunday, 3/11/73: "Went to Donis [Mitchell, a Mesquakie] and Martin's
wedding. It was very nice." [Note by H: All factions of the embattled
American Indian Center came together for this pleasant affair. My friend,
Bill Redcloud [White Earth Chippewa] gave Donis away; I was Martin's best
man.] "Susan came over [to our house] and Martin and Donis came over."
[Note by H: There was a party and, among other events, Macky [Peter], age
three, drank a little wine and became tipsy but held his glass, shocking the
pizza delivery man.]
Thursday, 3/15/73: "Martin came, John Fast Wolf [Pine Ridge Sioux], and
Eddy Delgado [Oneida]. They were Drunk."
Saturday, 3/17/73: "Today Daddy went to the voting at the Indian Center."
[Note by H: The internal factional situation had wound up in a Chicago
court and the weary judge ordered an election and mandated that all factions
agree on one and one only election judge. I was the judge, and the first to
cast a ballot.] "We'll have to stay really long."
Sunday, 3/18/73: "Daddy got back at 6:30 this morning. I am on TV. We
were at meeting with Daddy and there were cameramen all over." [Note by H:
This was later on Sunday and I was speaker at the Wounded Knee Rally.]
Monday, 3/19/73: "People came over for a meeting."
Tuesday, 3/20/73: "Another meeting tomorrow. Wounded Knee rally!"
Thursday, 3/22/73: " Yesterday I didn't write because I was at Susan's. We
were on TV at the rally."
Sunday, 3/25/73: "Meeting -- some dumb rich people." [Note by H: We were
working out successful funding arrangements for our Native American
Community Organizational Training Center. I became its chairman and Bill
Redcloud became director.]
[Comment by John Salter [Beba] who was then seven years old:
"My memory? Floyd Westerman walking in, slightly larger than life, with his
guitar case. A mountain of Budweiser cans. That's all." JS
Epilogue by H:
Susan's father, Carleton Power, who, with Susan's mother, Susan Kelly Power
were close friends of ours, died around this time -- very sad time. The
Winnebago Club had a three day mourning ceremony for Carleton which we all
attended. Maria graduated Phi Beta Kappa at University of North Dakota.
Susan graduated from Harvard Law School and, among other things, published
the best selling novel "The Grass Dancer." Others went on to interesting
and productive accomplishments. Many are still active. We keep in regular
John - I really enjoyed reading this. What a nice
thing for you to have.
Didn't we have brunch with my dad at the Naperville Country Club years ago?
I have a memory of you and some beautiful children! Keep fighting the lupus
fight. I do know that those Heath genes are tough. Nancy [Heath Tuttle]
[Nancy is a first cousin on my Mother's side. H]
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
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Honored with The Elder Recognition Award by Wordcraft Circle of Native
Writers and Storytellers:
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]