Transcript © 2023 JeeYeun Lee

Billlie Warren: Boozoo. My name is Billie Warren. I’m from the Great Lakes region. Wabsi ndezhnekas. My spirit name in Potawatomi means white swan. Cranes in the Potawatomi culture are the birds that give the bugle call to wake up all the other clans for spring. The sandhill cranes medicine themselves, like many species, in our wetlands, marshes and swamps, It is where the medicine grows. It is the water that bonds us at a molecular level, heals us, makes food and medicine. Plants are free and organic, carrying healing medicine with the relationship we have with them. We speak to plants and water, as our voices carry the energy of many of our ancestors. The water, like our women, nishnabek kweyak, are natural nurturers and healers. We have Moon Ceremony honoring this connection. This is why both water and women need to be honored and protected. Perhaps that is what the cranes are doing. They are watchmen. The cranes are our relatives and our messengers. It is my wish for all people to know we are all connected. We are one, so to hurt one another is to hurt all of our relations, even water.

July 29, 1829. Articles of a treaty made and concluded at Prairie du Chien between the United States of America and the United Nations of Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatamie Indians, of the waters of the Illinois, Milwaukee and Manitoouck Rivers. The aforesaid nations of Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatamie Indians do hereby cede to the United States, all the lands comprehended within the following limits to wit: beginning at the Winnebago village, on Rock River, 40 miles from its mouth, and running thence down the Rock River to a line which runs due west from the most southern bend of Lake Michigan ... and also one other tract of land described as follows: Beginning on the western shore of Lake Michigan, at the northeast corner of the field of Antoine Ouilmette who lives near Grosse Pointe, about 12 miles north of Chicago, thence along the northwestern boundary line of the cession of 1816 to Lake Michigan. Thence northwardly along the western shore of said lake to the place of beginning.

Billie Warren: People don’t even realize the culture that is here right by the Great Lakes. Lake Michigan comes from the word “michigame,” meaning great lake. It’s one of the freshest ways to get water. That fresh water played an important part of why Potawatomi people and Native people lived around the Great Lakes region.

In testimony whereof John McNeil, Pierre Menard, and Caleb Atwater, and the chiefs and warriors of the said Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi nations have hereunto set their hands and seals at Prairie du Chien, this 29th day of July, in the year of our Lord 1829. John McNeil, Pierre Menard, Caleb Atwater, Sin- eh-pay-nim, his x mark, Kawb-suk-we, his x mark, Wau-pon-eh- see, his x mark, Chee-chee-pin-quay, his x mark, Man-eh-bo-zo, his x mark, Shah-way-ne-be-nay, his x mark, Mes-quaw-be-no- quay, her x mark, Pe-i-tum, her x mark, Kay-wau, her x mark, Wau-kaw-ou-say, her x mark, Shem-naw, her x mark...

Billie Warren: All of Chicagoland were all wetlands at one time, and those have diminished greatly. A lot people think of a swamp as a negative word. I think people might see the great lake and it’s beautiful and abundant, and a swamp or a marsh or a wetland might be seen as undesirable because it doesn’t have that look. But that’s where most of our medicine grows. And so what’s significant about that, when we lose those wetlands, we lose access to our medicines. And that is the definition of cultural genocide, when you can’t access your foods and your medicines.

Plan of Chicago, prepared under the direction of the Commercial Club, by Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett, 1909. Imagine that this is supremely beautiful parkway with its frequent stretches of fields, playgrounds, avenues and groves extending along the shore in closest touch with the life of the city throughout the whole waterfront. What will it do for us and health and happiness after it is finished? Will the people of means be so ready to run away and spend their money in other cities? When this parkway shall be created, our people will stay here and others will come to dwell among us. The people who now spend time and large amounts of money in Paris, in Vienna and on the Riviera.

Approved June 15, 1895. Be it enacted by the people of the state of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, that in all cases where lands bordering on public waters have been declare to be a public park, the commissioners of any such park shall have power to enlarge the same by reclaiming submerged lands under the public waters in the following manner. The Board of Commissioners shall prepare a plan of enlargement and in the same shall locate a boulevard or driveway over and upon the bed of the public waters. Thereupon the title of the submerged lands over which the boulevard or driveway is located and of the submerged lands between the boulevard and the shoreline is hereby granted to the Board of Commissioners for park purposes. The riparian rights of the owners of land along the shore joining the submerged lands and the land along the shore, the Board of Commissioners may acquire by contracts with or deeds from. . . .

Lincoln Park Commissioners Land Condemnation Act, 1931. That the commissioners of Lincoln Park, having control of a certain park bordering upon the public waters of Lake Michigan, shall have the power to extend such parks over and upon the submerged lands under the waters of Lake Michigan. And thereupon the title of the state to the submerged lands shall be vested in and is hereby granted to the Commissioners of Lincoln Park. . . .

Julia Grossman Wall et al v. Chicago Park District, Supreme Court of Illinois, 1941. The plaintiffs owned an improved parcel of real estate in Chicago known as 6341 North Sheridan Road. This property is bounded on the west by Sheridan Road, an on the east by Lake Michigan. In 1931, the General Assembly enacted a statute with respect to the reclamation of submerged lands for the purpose of extending parks. An 1895 plan indicates a narrow park 740 feet opposite plaintiffs’ property. The new plan, on the other hand, shows a park 4,660 feet wide opposite plaintiffs’ property and lying between it and Lake Michigan. Real estate experts testified as to the effect on the value of plaintiffs’ property of removing it more than three-fourths of a mile from Lake Michigan according to the 1931 plan, as compared with a distance of less than 1,000 feet shown on the 1895 plan. They were in accord that the value of property in the vicinity of plaintiffs’ property diminishes as the distance between such property and the waters of Lake Michigan increases. There can be no question as to the failure of the commissioners of Lincoln Park and their successor the defendant to construct the parkway according to the provisions of the contract. . . .

Billie Warren: Our wetlands are in jeopardy. That is a bigger problem, because that is a relationship with water, and with the environment. We have shifted the way that water moves, and we’ve tried to control water. and we’re abusing water. We’re taking water for granted. I wish all people to think about what they’re losing, not just the Potawatomi people but what we’re all losing. As humans, we’re all being impacted, not just for us, but the cranes and every animal that goes to a wetland or marsh to medicine themselves. We’re all losing something. If I think of the Great Lake as like the heart and pumping all this water, the wetlands provide the kidney or a filter for Earth. Without those wetlands and marshes, we’re basically taking out the kidney in this area: wetlands and marshes and swamps are literally the kidney of Mother Earth.

– Ieodo Sana folk song in Korean –

Lake Michigan Federation v. US Army Corps of Engineers, US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, 1990. The Lake Michigan Federation has filed this action for declaratory and injunctive relief against Loyola University of Chicago and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Among Loyola’s campuses in the Chicago area is its lakeshore campus bordering Lake Michigan on the north side of the city. In 1988, Loyola decided to expand this campus. It developed plans to construct a lakefill of approximately 20 acres in the waters of neighboring Lake Michigan. Because erosion had damaged the existing shoreline, Loyola viewed the lakefill both as a means for the expansion and protection of its campus. It is apparent that the transfer violates the public trust doctrine. While the project has some aspects which are beneficial to the public, the primary purpose of the grant is to satisfy a private interest. The inescapable truth is that the lakebed property will be sacrificed to satisfy Loyola’s private needs. Under the public trust doctrine, such a sacrifice cannot be tolerated.

The Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance, Municipal Code of Chicago, published by the order of the City Council, 1990. Lake Michigan and the lakefront of the city of Chicago are hereby designated a district having special environmental, recreational, cultural, historical, community and aesthetic interests and values. This chapter is adopte for the following purpose: to promote and protect the health, safety, comfort, convenience, and the general welfare of the people and to conserve our natural resources; to maintain and improve the purity and quality of the waters of Lake Michigan; to ensure that the construction in the lake or modification of the existing shoreline shall not be permitted if such construction or modification would cause environmental or ecological damage to the lake, or would diminish water quality; and to ensure that the life patterns of fish, migratory birds and other fauna are recognized and supported; to ensure that the lakefront parks and the lake itself are devoted only to public purposes and to ensure the integrity of and expand the quantity and quality of the lakefront parks.

Billie Warren: This land was taken in a barbaric way. And the people here were stewards of the land, whether you’re a Menominee, or Potawatomi, or Ojibwe, we were stewards of our land and we have traditional ecological knowledge. As Native Americans are less than 2% according to the census, we’re in jeopardy of losing so much more with that knowledge. As we don’t have speakers that speak our language fluently anymore, we’re going to lose some of that traditional ecological knowledge because our words are descriptive of those plants and the medicines and those waterways.

Shoreline Reconstruction Plans for Chicago, US Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago, 1993. Chicago’s shoreline is largely manmade, constructed on landfill an average of 1,500 feet wide, filled in over the course of the last century to create additional land and recreation areas. Chicago’s lakefront property requires shore protection to prevent erosion and storm damage. The existing shoreline protection structures, known as revetments, were built between 1910 to 1931 and have substantially outlived their design life. To establish federal interest in supporting reconstruction of Chicago’s deteriorating shoreline, cooperating agencies ascertained its value via an extensive inventory of public and private property, facilities, and infrastructure. The investigation ascribed economic values to facilities, land, beaches, various types of lakefront use, related employment, and annual revenue associated with the study area. Key study findings include: the economic value of Chicago’s shoreline facilities and lakefront property exceeds $5 billion; left unprotected, large areas of the lakefront will erode at a rate of 20 feet per year; design of shoreline protection structures can positively or negatively affect the economic value of the lakefront. Taking no action will subject the city to the increasing risk of catastrophic failure along the shoreline.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Coastal Management Program issue paper, 2009. Coastal erosion simply defined is the landward movement of the shoreline caused by the erosion of sand or other geologic materials along beaches, bluffs and/or lakebed. Although erosion was the natural and predominant trend along the Illinois coast in the natural setting, human activity along the coast has altered coastal processes and accelerated coastal erosion, due to the introduction of shore structures that interrupted the natural southward net transport of littoral sand. The earliest human influence on coastal erosion related to the interruption of littoral sand passing the mouth of the Chicago Rive. Jetties built in the 1830s on the river mouth, resulted in the trapping of sand on the north, or updrift, side of the river mouth, and the deprivation of sand along the shore of the south, or downdrift, side of the river mouth. By the 1850s. shore protection was needed to prevent shoreline recession from threatening Michigan Avenue along what is now the west side of Grant Park. Lakebed erosion is irreversible, and once that occurs, substantial volumes of material, or sand and gravel, are needed to restore the lakebed profile to a pre-erosion profile. Because the Illinois coastline has been substantially modified, the issue of coastal erosion must be considere within the context of a highly altered engineered shore with few remaining natural areas. The made land of the Chicago lakeshore resulted from filling between the shoreline that existed in pre- development time and a designed shoreline position that is hundreds to thousands of feet lakeward. At Montrose and Wilson Avenues on Chicago’s north lakeshore, the present shoreline is nearly three-quarters of a mile lakeward of the natural shoreline position.

– Ieodo Sana folk song in Korean –

Billie Warren: For me, recognizing the significance of water in a deeper way, helps me honor not only Potawatomi people but all people, because water is what connects us all. Without it, no life here on earth would flourish, everything would die. Water ceremonies are something my family passed down to me. Honoring water is something we do when someone passes or we’re doing sunrise ceremony. Water is thought of as one of the most sacred things we can have. Every time we turn on our faucet, we’re told to pray and think about water whether it’s for a glass of water or for a bath. We’ve always had this connection with water.

– Nibi Water Song in Anishinaabe –