by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
CHICAGO - Two-thirds of American Indians who live in the United States live in urban centers, such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Minneapolis, among others.
We’re the conscience of the community
In Chicago, American Indian presence is often overlooked. If their presence is overlooked, it is reasonable to think that there problems do not even reach the radar screen often enough.
The “American Indian Urban Families and Communities: Living Cultures, Education, Social Work and Policy” conference provided a panel of American Indian professionals to provide a glimpse into what life is like for American Indians and what challenges they face in Chicago today.
The panel included:
“American Indians have the inability to access health care here in Cook County and the city of Chicago,”
said Ken Scott, who heads the Chicago American Indian Health Services. “Many Indians lack resources and service providers are culturally insensitive. I am a proponent of medical social workers.”
Ken Scott - Choctaw
“The financial resources that came in the 1970s and left by the 1980s,”
“There is a lot of brokenness - a lot of healing needs to take place.”
Georgina Roy spoke about the love/hate relationship Chicago Indians may have with the church. She is the interim director of the Kateri Center Native American Program of the Catholic Archdiocese.
Dorene Wiese - White Earth Ojibwe
“We don’t want to leave behind the homeless and disadvantaged,” said Dr. Dorene Wiese, president of the American Indian Association of Illinois.
“Our people need a voice. Our people need an agenda.”
Lola Hill - Bad River Ojibwa
“Our students need help. Through the years, I have taught students I loved,” said an impassioned Dr. Lola Hill, an adjunct professor at Eastern Illinois University, who has held numerous jobs in education. She read a poem written by an American Indian former student of hers, who soon after he graduated from college suddenly collapsed and died at a powwow. He was only 25 years-old. His poem entitled, “The Back of the Bus,” described the ups and downs of being an American Indian in the urban setting.
Louis Delgado described the lack of funding by philanthropic foundations of American Indian programs. Delgado, who founded the Native Americans in Philanthropy organization, said that according to a recent survey of where money goes for programs in Chicago, only three Indian programs had foundation funding.
Even with all of the problems the panelists discussed that urban American Indians face, they spoke of how the community comes together to work on the problems.
“We the conscience of the community,” said Roy.
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