Chicago is home to one of the largest urban Native American communities in the United States, with about 65,000 Native American residents and some 175 different tribes represented in the Chicagoland area. 

According to the American Indian Center, Chicago is part of the traditional homelands of the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi people. Many other tribes, including the Miami, Ho-Chunk, Sac, and Fox, have also called this area home. 

Native American Heritage Month, celebrated every November, is a great time to learn more about Chicago’s Indigenous ties both past and present. Explore some of the cultural celebrations, exhibits, and events happening this National Native American Heritage Month 2023 in Chicago.

The Field Museum’s new permanent exhibition Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories opens May 20, 2022; photo by Jay Young

Attend a film festival
The First Nations Film and Video Festival is the only event of its kind to solely showcase the works of Indigenous/Native American directors. The fall edition, which runs from Nov. 1 – 10, includes a variety of free screenings in venues all around the city. Catch the anticipated opening program “Bones of Crows” at Facets on Nov. 1.

Try Indigenous cuisine
Don’t miss your chance to try traditional and modern Indigenous cuisine this month. Ketapanen Kitchen, an Indigenous-owned catering company, will be serving their cuisine at the post-screening reception at the opening of the First Nations Film Festival on Wednesday, Nov. 1 and at a special event at the Field Museum on Friday, Nov. 10.

Helmed by executive chef Jessica Pamonicutt (Menominee), Ketapanen’s mission is to raise awareness of Native American contributions to our current food system, while serving delicious and health-conscious dishes made from traditional heirloom ingredients.

Center for Native Futures
Center for Native Futures gallery, located in the Marquette Building; courtesy of Center for Native Futures

Explore the Center for Native Futures
In the heart of the Loop, the Center for Native Futures is a contemporary art space that’s completely dedicated to showcasing the work of Native artists. Their inaugural exhibit, Native Futures, is open to the public and features more than a dozen Native artists from throughout Chicago and the surrounding Great Lake region.

Visit the gallery at the American Indian Center
The American Indian Center in Albany Park is dedicated to preserving Native American culture and creating connections with the larger community. They also have a gallery that cultivates and exhibits both historic and modern Native American artwork. The gallery is open on weekdays and located at 3401 West Ainslie St. The center will also be hosting its 70th Annual Powwow on Saturday, Nov. 4.

Check out diverse events at Chicago Public Libraries
Chicago’s libraries host a range of unique events throughout the year, and November is packed with activities honoring the city’s Indigenous history and communities. Check out just a few of the upcoming film screenings, arts and crafts, book discussions, and more at neighborhood libraries this November:

Local Ojibwe artist Andrea Carlson’s five part, 15ft. tall by 266ft. long banners that read “You are on Potawatomi Land” are on display at Chicago’s Riverwalk.

See powerful art on the Chicago Riverwalk
The banks of the Chicago Riverwalk are lined with public art, from striking statues to state-of-the-art video displays. One of the largest installations is You Are on Potawatomi Land by Andrea Carlson (Ojibwe). The piece is both a statement of fact and a statement of perpetual belonging, according to the artist. See it for yourself on Wacker Drive just east of the Michigan Avenue Bridge, above the Chicago First Lady ticket booths.

Attend a family-friendly event at the Chicago History Museum
Celebrate Native American Heritage Month at the Chicago History Museum during this family event on Saturday, Nov. 11, included with museum admission. 

Experience a re-imagined exhibit and events at the Field Museum
Last year, the Field Museum unveiled their redesigned permanent exhibition on Native American culture. The refreshed exhibit, Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories, was created with an advisory council of Native American scholars and collaborators representing over 105 Tribes. The space features historic and contemporary beadworks, ceramics, murals, music, dance, and more.

This month, the museum will host a series of events for Native American Heritage Month, including a drum groups, traditional singers, a story time, food tastings, and more.

Explore more ways to celebrate National Native American Heritage Month in Chicago:

  • Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston: Explore exhibits dedicated to the history, arts, and culture of Native American peoples across North America and beyond.
  • Sequence Ch!cago at Navy Pier: This free performance series will host a special event in partnership with the American Indian Association of Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 18.