You Are on Potawatomi Land


All of the buildings in what is now called Chicago are built on land that came from the forced dispossession and removal of Native people. The original architecture of this land was birchbark and cedar bark covered structures, wigwams, teepees, and lodges arranged in villages connected by a network of roads and trails. Those Indigenous-made roads, such as Milwaukee Avenue and Wacker Avenue, are paved over and built upon, but these original routes are still used to this day. The effects of settler-colonialism are visible in the landscape that was rapidly altered, and perhaps, irreparably destroyed. The name of Chicago is Zhegagoynak in the Potawatomi language. Zhegagoynak was named by Nishnabek people for a place where wild leeks grow. The name translates to “place of skunk roots” because the odor of wild leeks, ramps, or onions is pungent like the skunk, but both the skunk and leeks are known by Native people to carry medicine. Zhegagoynak was once filled with medicine that supported the biodiversity characteristic of swamps. Although swamp ecosystems are widely known to be vital to a healthy environment today that understanding hasn’t always been the case. Settler triumphant stories of a city built upon a former swamp continue to perpetuate as a story of justifiable settler improvements, but it is important to remember that this city was once a place where medicine grew. Roots crack concrete. 

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