SHORE LAND | BELMONT HARBOR
Transcript © 2023 JeeYeun Lee
Diane Hunter: <Speaking in Miami> I just introduced myself to you in Myaamiaataweenki, the Miami language, and I just said hello, it’s good to see you today. My name is Diane Hunter. I am a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. And I am a descendant of Seekaahkweeta and Palaanswa, who are also known as the Godfroys. I am honored to serve my nation as Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.
August 29, 1821. Articles of a treaty made and concluded at Chicago in the state of Illinois, between Lewis Cass and Solomon Sibley, commissioners of the United States and the Ottawa, Chippewa and Pottawatamie Nations of Indians. The Ottawa Chippewa and Pottawatamie Nations of Indians cede to the United States, all the land comprehended within the following boundaries: Beginning at a point on the south bank of the river St. Joseph of Lake Michigan, and running thence south in a line drawn due east from the southern extreme of Lake Michigan, thence with the said line to the tract ceded by the Pottawatamies to the United States. . . .
Diane Hunter: Water has always been important to Miami people. Our origin stories tell us that we came out of the water on the St. Joseph River. We probably came down Lake Michigan to the St. Joseph River. We have a name for Lake Michigan. We know that that was an important place for us. Kichikame: our name for Lake Michigan. It basically means big lake.
Approved June 4, 1889. Be it enacted by the people of the state of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly: That all right, title and interest of the state in and to the bed of Lake Michigan on which the driveway connect with Lincoln Park is now constructed, and a strip of submerged land between the east line thereof and a line 50 feet east of the breakwater protecting said driveway, and any extension of the same, is hereby granted to the commissioners of Lincoln Park and their successors in office, to be held for the use and benefit of the public as part of said park. That said commissioners may have and exercise police control over the waters of Lake Michigan along the east side of said driveway. . . .
Approved June 4, 1889. Be it enacted by the people of the state of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, that every board of park commissioners that now has, or may hereafter have, control over any boulevard or driveway bordering upon any public waters in this state shall have power to extend such boulevard or driveway over and upon the bed of such public waters. The submerged lands lying between the shore of the public waters and the inner line of the extension of the boulevard or driveway shall be appropriated by the board of park commissioners to the purpose of defraying the cost of the extension and to sell and convey the submerged lands by deeds duly executed on its behalf by its president and under its corporate seal.
Diane Hunter: Miami people first emerged out of the water on the St. Joseph’s River. From there, we lived in what is now Indiana, for centuries. But during the 1600s, there were the Beaver Wars. So we fled into what is today Illinois and Wisconsin and southern Michigan, and during that time, some of us lived in what is now Chicago. After the Beaver Wars were over, after the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701, most of us came back to what is now Indiana to the villages that we had lived in prior to the war, but some stayed in Chicago. Possibly some of those villages are still under the city of Chicago.
An act for the enlargement of Lincoln Park and to defray the expense thereof, approved June 17, 1893. Be it enacted by the people of the state of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, that in all cases where lands within specified boundaries have been declared to be a public park, and provisions made for acquiring the title to the land embraced within said boundary by purchase or condemnation, that it shall be lawful to enlarge the boundaries thereof and to acquire to lands and riparian right. . . .
Approved May 14, 1903. Be enacted by the people of the state of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly: in all cases in which a board of park commissioners shall have acquired the riparian rights of the owners of any land along the shore, adjoining each submerged land, the owners of the shore land shall have the right to improve, protect, sell and convey the shore lands up to the boundary line, free from any adverse claim arising out of any question as to where the shoreline was, at any time in the past or as to the. . . .
Plan of Chicago, by Daniel H. Burnham, and Edward H. Bennett, 1909. The treatment of the shore of Lake Michigan within the city limits involves comparatively little difficulty from a legal point of view. Ample legislation has been provided, under which the Lincoln Park and South Park boards can extend their driveways in parks over the bed of Lake Michigan. The park board, having received from the state a grant of title to the bed of the lake, is authorized to sell and convey to the shore owners so much thereof as may be necessary to induce them to release their riparian rights. Under this legislation, the park board has power to build a boulevard far out into the lake and to settle with the riparian owners by conveying to them as wide a strip of the submerged lands as may be deemed expedient. And the shore owners will then have the right to fill in such submerged strip, thus adding extensive areas of valuable shore land to their present holdings.
– Ieodo Sana folk song in Korean –
Chicago Waters, by Susan Power. My mother used to say that by the time I was an old woman, Lake Michigan would be the size of a silver dollar. She pinched her index finger with her thumb to show me the pitiful dimensions. People will gather around the tiny lake, what’s left of it, and cluck over a spoonful of water, she told me. I learned to squint at the 1967 shoreline until I had carved away the structures and roads built on landfill and could imagine the lake and its city as my mother found them in 1942, when she arrived in Chicago. I say the lake and its city, rather than the city and its lake, because my mother taught me another secret: the city of Chicago belongs to Lake Michigan. But which of my mother’s pronouncements to believe? That Chicago would swallow the Midwestern sea, smother it in concrete, or that the lake wielded enough strength to out-politic even Mayor Richard J. Daley. Mayor Daley senior is gone now, but the lake remains, alternately tranquil and riled, changing colors like a mood ring, I guess we know who won.
Mona Power: My legal name is Susan Power. I was named after my mother, who is also Susan Power. She’s the family historian and activist. Now I’m using Mona, just to differentiate between the two of us, so now it’s Mona Susan Power. We are Iháŋktuŋwaŋna Dakota, popularly known as Sioux, but that’s not our name for ourselves. We are either Dakota, Lakota or Nakota, depending on which dialect we speak. My Dakota name is < > . The best translation that I have found so far is “woman whose good work brings flowers.” In contrast to that, my mother’s Dakota name is < >, “gathering of storm clouds woman.” We’re like these polar opposites.
Already the prairie state of Illinois is nearly one-half urban, and the tendency toward city life is fast increasing. At the same time, the need for breathing spaces and recreation grounds is being forced upon the attention of practical men who are learning to appreciate the fact that a city, in order to be a good labor market, must provide for the health and pleasure of the great body of workers. Density of population, beyond a certain point, results in disorder, vice and disease, and thereby becomes the greatest menace to the well-being of the city itself. As a measure of precaution, therefore, the establishment of adequate park area is necessary.
Mona Power: My mother was born and raised in Fort Yates, North Dakota on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. She had to leave at age 17 and was sent to Chicago to work for an Indian woman to send money back home. So I was born and raised in Chicago, although I am enrolled on Standing Rock and would visit back there, visit relatives. But really, I’m I’m very much an urban Indian, very different experience. I grew up knowing people from so many different tribes, because my mother was one of the founders of the American Indian Center. So after school, weekends, we were always going over to the Indian Center. So I grew up very close to Ho Chunk people. Ojibwe people, Dine, all different tribes.
Robbins et al v. Commissioners of Lincoln Park, Illinois Supreme Court, 1928. Appellants filed a bill seeking to restrain the commissioners of Lincoln Park from erecting an embankment and boulevard. The bill alleges that the commissioners are about to fill the submerged lands of Lake Michigan for a distance of about 3500 feet east of the boundary of plaintiffs’ property instead of 1000 feet as provided in the original plan, that the commissioners are attempting to use the submerged lands for another and different purpose from that in the plan. We are of the opinion therefore, that the commissioners are not authorized under the act by which they acquired title to these lands, to use them for highway purposes, or such other purposes as would defeat the use of any portion of them for park purposes.
Mona Power: My first memory of what would become the Chicago Indian Village movement was the eviction of a Menominee woman, Carol Warrington, who became a really dear friend of ours. She was trying to highlight just how unfair the whole relocation program was, how much we were lied to. Basically, they just wanted to get rid of tribal identity, Native identity, and certainly our lands, what little remained to us. And if they terminate us, if they are able to relocate us, eventually there will be no need for a reservation or those lands and then they can step in and do what they want. I’ve seen some of these pamphlets from that era, the one about Chicago says: Chicago, the city beautiful, and you see sailboats, and you see this lakeshore apartment with like a baby grand piano. And they’re talking about the wonderful jobs you’re gonna have, and your children will go to these great schools. And they would get there, and it would be the slums. But they couldn’t get these slum landlords to help them out, so they had just a lot of legitimate grievances. Finally, Carol said she was going to stop paying her rent. She went on a rent strike out of protest, and she just ended up being evicted. And she had six children and they’re just putting all their stuff out. I remember that as a kid. I remember the eviction. A group got together and decided that they were going to use this moment to actually try to get publicity for the situation Native people found themselves in Chicago, but it was happening a lot of places. And so the American Indian Center donated a teepee that we had. Some students donated some money, paid for some portapotties. So this encampment that was right behind Wrigley Field was set up. And that’s where it all started.
This indenture made this 28th day of August, 1951, witnesseth: The Chicago Park District hereby leases to the government of the United States of America, the premises shown on the plat attached, for the sum of $1, for military purposes. The government shall have the right to construct, reconstruct, operate and maintain structures, facilities and fixtures, and install underground and overhead utilities in or upon the premises herein demised. The government shall construct at its sole cost and expense, a fence around the perimeter of the demised premises. The government shall place on file plans for facilities such as batteries, launchers and controls for the purpose of determining that they do not interfere with any park district facility. It is anticipated that the operation by the government of the demised premises will constitute a hazard to persons using or occupying the areas adjacent. The park district agrees not to erect within said area, any habitable structure.
Mona Power: After a while, there was a schism and one group decided that they really were going to keep this up. They were going to keep going with these protests. They were going to keep camping different places to get as much publicity as possible to try to get federal and state leaders and city leaders to take them seriously. So that’s when we took over the Belmont Harbor site, which had been a former Nike missile site. And the reasoning was this is unused, abandoned federal lands. It can revert back to Native peoples, and this is where we can make our stand and say, why not give us this lakefront property and build some units. As a little kid, I felt like we were there for months. It was two weeks, when I read the newspaper articles about it, it’s like only two weeks. When the raid started, it started with the Park Service, because they figured okay, these Natives are saying this is abandoned government land, then we’re going to turn it into a public park. That way we’ll get rid of them, but we don’t have to address what they want from us. They were going to start tearing down the mesh fence that surrounded our encampment. They had all these big wire clippers. And then of course they had backup with police. On the Native side, we were trying to bang on their tools that they were using, to keep them from cutting down the fence. But when the police became involved – if the same thing happened now, a lot of people would have been killed, because our police forces have become so militarized. They did have the rubber pellet guns and have the night sticks and were beating on people. It became this real battle.
Last Line of Defense: Nike Missile Sites in Illinois, National Park Service, 1996. In the immediate post World War II years, Americans believed that an enemy attack was most likely to come in the form of a high flying Soviet aircraft armed with atomic weapons. Designed to serve as the last line of defense for American citizens, Nike missile installations encircled major metropolitan centers throughout the United States. In the Chicago area, the army utilized park land for Nike installations as much as possible. Under lease arrangements, Nike installations were situated in Chicago’s Jackson Park, Burnham Park, Lincoln Park, Belmont Harbor and Montrose Harbor. In all, the Chicago Park District leased 88.5 acres of lakefront land to the army at the rate of $1 per year per site. Major General Carter told the Chicago Daily News, we don’t want to take any park land, but we have no alternative. In lakefront cities like Chicago, the defense must cut across the lake shore.
Mona Power: Belmont Harbor has changed a lot now. After we were ousted from there, they razed it completely. They got rid of the buildings that had been there that we had painted really beautifully with these murals. They got rid of the hills, there were these beautiful hills there that we would sit on top of it. People would be playing the guitar, and and they just razed it all once they got rid of our group.
Lincoln Park Framework Plan, Chicago Park District, 1995. Parks connect us to the wider world of living beings and affirm the unity of our global environment. As gathering places for all people, parks increase our awareness of our common bond and nourish our democratic spirit. In parks, we find relief from the tensions of daily life through the relaxation provided by contact with green grass and trees, or through the exhilaration of physical exercise. The beauty of parks refreshes our senses, and enables us to open our minds and our spirits. By preserving managing and caring for our parks, we have an opportunity to cherish our legacy from the past, to enjoy the present, and to leave a real and lasting benefit for the future.
Mona Power: The lake is so powerful, such a powerful being. I was brought up with this incredible respect and reverence for that body of water. There’s that saying that a lot of even non- Dakota people learned during the protests against the North Dakota Access Pipeline: Mní Wičóni, water is life. That’s one of the reasons that actually the CIV folks chose Belmont Harbor, because they said we need to be near a body of water. Our people always made sure that we knew where the body of water was. Mom told me that when she was a kid, and certainly earlier than that, when Dakota people are asked, you know, where are you from, or people are trying to locate them geographically. Because so many people, of course, have been moved around and put together on this reservation. They would usually say, I was born near, and then whatever body of water – I was born near Battle Creek, I was born near Grand River. So always knowing where these places were was incredibly important. Because these are your relatives, you know, you are a relative to these places, and they’re your relative and you owe certain things. You’re not going to foul the water, you’re supposed to treat them with respect the way you would your parents or your grandparents.
Diane Hunter: During the late 19th and early 20th century, Miami people became assimilated to a great extent to the culture around us. Our last fluent native speakers of our language died in the 1960s. But in the 1990s, we began a cultural and language revitalization. It had to be language as well as culture. We can’t understand our culture completely without our language, because our language tells us our perspective. It expresses how we think and what we think about. Our language tells us a lot about who we are as Miami people. So revitalizing our language has been crucial. People will say the Miami people left, they’re extinct. We are not extinct. We still are here. And we are living a vital part of our culture that we are revitalizing today. We are a living people.
– Nibi Water Song in Anishinaabe –