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Chicago American Indian oral history project records

Identifier: Ayer-Modern-MS-Oral History

Scope and Content of the Collection

Reel-to-reel and cassette tape recordings, and typed edited transcripts of twenty-three oral interviews with long-time American Indian residents of Chicago, conducted from late 1982 through 1984. Also a published index to the transcripts, an unpublished manuscript entitled "Native Voices in the City," and cassette tapes of the three public programs held to promote the project.

Of varying length, the interviews document first contact with Chicago (mainly during World War II or just after); the Bureau of Indian Affairs postwar urban relocation program; Indian veterans and military service; education in government, mission and public schools; employment, housing, health and social services, discrimination, and alcohol use in the city; the retention of cultural traditions and language; Indian community organizations and pow wows; the experiences of urbanized Indian children; memories of reservation life; and returning to the reservation in later years.


  • Creation: 1982-1985



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

All tapes of oral history interviews and selected transcripts restricted by interviewees are closed and are not available to researchers. Excerpts from both closed and open interviews contained in the unpublished manuscript "Native Voices in the City" are open for research. To gain access to the materials researchers must read and agree to the conditions outlined in the Chicago American Indian Oral History Project's "Oral History Transcript Use Contract" form. Interview transcripts are available one at a time in the Special Collections reading room.

Transcripts may not be reprinted or copied in their entirety without the permission of the Advisory Committee to the Chicago American Indian Oral History Project; limited copying of transcript materials is permitted. The publication of excerpts or quotations from the transcripts requires the permission of the Newberry Library. Segments of interviews appearing in "Native American Voices" may be reprinted with proper standard citation.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Chicago American Indian oral history project records are the physical property of the Newberry Library and the NAES College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, of interviewers and interviewees are also the property of the Newberry Library and NAES College Library. Contract for further information.

History of the Chicago American Indian Oral History Project

Illinois Humanities Council funded pilot project to begin to document the history of the American Indian population in Chicago by conducting tape-recorded oral interviews with twenty-three older members of the community, 1982-1984.

In 1982 the D'Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian submitted a proposal to the Illinois Humanities Council that would utilize members of the Chicago Indian community to document Indian emigration to the Chicago and experiences there through the vehicle of oral history. Directed by Herbert Hoover and David R. Miller of the Newberry Library, and Dorene Wiese of Truman College, the project aimed to tape and transcribe approximately twenty interviews with elders who best remembered all the stages of the evolution of the community. In hopes that the project would continue and to create a wider community awareness of the history of Indians in Chicago, it was overseen by an advisory board composed mainly of Chicago Native Americans; it trained and utilized Chicago Indian community members as interviewers; and it held three public forums to publicize and promote the documentation project.

Over a period of two years, the project interviewers (Carol Lopez, Clovia Cossen, Peggy DesJarlait, Mae Chevalier, Herbert Hoover, Claire Young, Dee Logan, David R. Miller) obtained the reminiscences of twenty-three Chicago Indians including Leroy Wesaw, Rose Maney, Amy Skenandore, Floria Forcia, Clara Krause, Phyllis Fastwolf, Peggy DesJarlait, Rosebud Yellow Robe, Willard LaMere, Mae Chevalier, Marlene Strouse, Ada Powers, Rosella Mars, Claire Young, Inez Dennison, Susan Power, Cornelia Penn, Vincent Catches, Ann Lim, Dan Battise, Margaret Red Cloud, Joe White, and Joanette Starr Takahara.

The interviewed individuals mirror the composition of the Chicago American Indian community, which came largely from the northern and central Great Plains and the western Great Lakes regions. Their tribal affiliations include Sioux (8), Chippewa (5), Winnebago (4), and Potawatomi, Stockbridge, Arikara, Menominee, Pima, and Alabama Coushatta (1 each). Most had lived in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Nebraska before moving to Chicago.


5.4 Linear Feet (13 boxes)


Reel to reel tapes, cassette tapes, and edited typewritten transcripts of oral interviews with twenty-three long-time American Indian residents of Chicago completed as part of a project conducted under the auspices of the D'Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian and funded by the Illinois Humanities Council, 1982-1984. Also a published index and finding aid to the transcripts, an unpublished manuscript entitled "Native Voices in the City" incorporating excerpts from the interviews, and cassette tapes of three community meetings sponsored by the project.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Publications and Manuscripts, 1984-1985
Box 1
Series 2: Transcripts, 1983-1985
Boxes 2-3
Series 3: Reel to Reel Tapes, 1982-1984
Boxes 4-11
Series 4: Cassette Tapes, 1982-1984
Boxes 12-13

Collection Stack Location

3a 55 13-14


Copies of tapes and transcripts donated to the Special Collections Department of the Newberry Library and the NAES (Native American Education Services) Library by the D'Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian for the Chicago American Indian Oral History Project, Jan. 1, 1985.

Processed by

Martha Briggs, 2002

Chicago American Indian oral history project records, 1982-1985
Martha Briggs
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States