History, Spring 2004>
With the bright orange glow of the setting sun at
their backs, the chiefs and headmen of the Potawatomi people faced
of the United States government. Most were grave and morose as they
signed the treaty ceding their homelands in the Chicago area and
agreeing to removal beyond the Mississippi. The 1833 Treaty of Chicago
was one of a series of agreements that terminated the native title
to the American heartland and seemed to end Native American presence
in the life and culture of Chicago.
With the Treaty
of 1833 (right), the Potawatomi tribe, Illinois's largest Indian
population, ceded their lands to the U.S. government, effectively
ending Native American presence in the area.
artist Lawrence Carmichael Earle portrayed the scene
in his "Last Council of the Potawatomies" (1833),
originally painted for the Banking Room of the Central Trust
Company of Illinois, located at 152 Monroe Street in Chicago.
But a rediscovery of the city's native roots emerged
in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This figurative
return of the native to Chicago was a symbolic encounter driven by
a mixture of nostalgia, guilt, and the need of an industrial metropolis
to invent a narrative that offered a common background for a community
of widely diverse national origins. On the city's landscape and in
its public culture, Chicagoans created statues, monuments, and illustrations
durable visual representations of how they chose to commemorate the
city's exiled first inhabitants.
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