Land Acknowledgement and Indigenous Initiatives: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Land Acknowledgement and Indigenous Initiatives


land acknowledgement poster

Northwestern is a community of learners situated within a network of historical and contemporary relationships with Native American tribes, communities, parents, students, and alumni. It is also in close proximity to an urban Native American community in Chicago and near several tribes in the Midwest. The Northwestern campus sits on the traditional homelands of the people of the Council of Three Fires, the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa as well as the Menominee, Miami and Ho-Chunk nations. It was also a site of trade, travel, gathering and healing for more than a dozen other Native tribes and is still home to over 100,000 tribal members in the state of Illinois.

It is within Northwestern's responsibility as an academic institution to disseminate knowledge about Native peoples and the institution's history with them. Consistent with the University's commitment to diversity and inclusion, Northwestern works towards building relationships with Native American communities through academic pursuits, partnerships, historical recognitions, community service and enrollment efforts. 

– Native American and Indigenous Initiatives, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Northwestern University

For a comprehensive view of Indigenous initiatives at the university please see Northwestern Native American and Indigenous Initiatives.

Block Indigenous Initiatives

As part of Northwestern University, The Block is committed to supporting the University's work to strengthen its relationships with Native American and Indigenous nations, communities, and organizations. At The Block, we’re committed to deepening our relationship to Indigenous art and artists through our  collection, exhibitions, programs, practices, and learning.


The Collection

The Block is committed to acquiring work by Indigenous artists, with a special focus on Contemporary artists who have a particular connection to the region (artists who are Chicago/Evanston-based, or from nations with current or ancestral ties to the Great Lakes: Ojibwe; Odawa; Potawotami; Ho-Chunk; Menomonie; Myaamia). Since 2017, The Block has purchased works by several Indigenous artists including Cara Romero (Chemehuevi),  Andrea Carlson (Grand Portage Ojibwe), Rosalie Favell (Métis), Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee), Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk), Chris Pappan (Kaw Nation, Osage, and Lakota), and Will Wilson (Diné). It has also received gifts, including a basket by Jennie Brown (Pokagon Band of Potawotami), given to the museum by the Pokagon Band of Potawotami. The collection does not contain any historical cultural material.


Museum Program

The Block is committed to regularly supporting the work of Indigenous artists through inclusion in exhibitions, cinema screenings, public programs and in-depth engagements. Exhibitions that celebrate the work of indigenous artists include If You Remember, I’ll Remember (2017), Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts (2021), Sky Hopinka: Cloudless Blue Egress of Summer (2021), Rosalie Favell: Indigenous Artists Facing the Camera( 2023), and Woven Being: An Indigenous Art History of Chicagoland (forthcoming, 2025). Block Cinema programming has included What Does it Mean to Come from Somewhere: Films by Fox Maxy (2020), Thirza Cuthand: NDN Survival Trilogy and Other Works (2021), Sky Hopinka: małni—towards the ocean, towards the shore (2021), and Annual screenings from the First Nations Film and Video Festival. Public programs and community engagements have included Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts opening  panel with Andrea Carlson (Grand Portage Ojibwe) and Chris Pappan (Kaw Nation, Osage, and Lakota), Sewing Community: new commission and sewing circles with Marie Watt (Seneca), and a Residency with Rosalie Favell ( Metis).


We are incorporating Indigenous-informed practices into our work, inspired by the values of reciprocity, inclusion, and intergenerational exchange. 

In planning for our upcoming exhibition Woven Being, we have implemented visioning meetings to consult with Indigenous knowledge sharers who have current and ancestral links to the area and travel to Indigenous-led museums and cultural sites for conversations about their work and ours.

The Museum's Collection and Exhibitions team is researching the care of Native American and Indigenous artworks and creating a network of regional and national experts whom they can consult about handling and care practices related to contemporary artworks.


As a staff, we are engaged in long-term learning about the Indigenous histories that shape our region and connect to our present. Our actions have included:

Members of the Block staff annually participate in Northwestern's 30 Days of Indigenous program.

In 2023 The Block was a sponsor of the Urban Native Education Conference and a partner with CNAIR and the Field Museum on the Centering Indigenous Practices in Museums conference.

In summer of 2023 and 2024 Block’s staff members traveled to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, recognizing Northwestern University's obligation to acknowledge and assist the healing from the atrocity.

Campus and Community Connections

The Block aligns with and supports the strategic initiatives of Indigenous-led efforts on campus as well as arts and culture programs and initiatives developed by Indigenous organizations in the greater Chicago/Evanston area.  Learn more about some of the organizations with whom we regularly share connections.

Center for Native Futures

The Center for Native Futures is an epicenter of Native creativity that fosters Native artists of all backgrounds.

Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative

The members of the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative are dedicated to furthering diverse causes and the greater well-being of American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and First Nations people in the Chicago area.

Mitchell Museum, American Indian Center (AIC)

The Mitchell Museum seeks to increase the visibility and elevate Native voices through education, advocacy, and awareness

Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion (OIDI), Northwestern University

OIDO helps create and sustain a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment for all Northwestern community members including students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR), Northwestern University

CNAIR is Northwestern University’s primary institutional space dedicated to advancing scholarship, teaching, learning, and artistic or cultural practices related to Native American and Indigenous communities, priorities, histories, and lifeways.

Multicultural Student Affairs, Northwestern University

MSA enriches the cultural experience of Northwestern through leadership and education programming; providing opportunities for community engagement and identity expression; and assisting students in navigating the University.


Below is a selected list of published resources that have guided our work.

Sovereignty and treaties:
  • Suzan Shown Harjo, Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States & American Indian Nations, Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 2014, provides a general introduction to sovereignty and treaty rights. 
  • Bryan Mckinley Jones Brayboy, “Framing the Conversation,” in Postsecondary Education for American Indian and Alaska Natives: Higher Education for Nation Building and Self-Determination, ASHE Higher Education Report, vol. 37, no. 5. New York: Wiley and Sons, 2012. 
Chicago and Northwestern: 
  • John N. Low, Imprints: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the City of Chicago, East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2016
  • Rosalyn R. LaPier & David R.M. Beck, City Indian: Native American Activism in Chicago, 1893-1934.Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015.  
Indigenous modes of research and museum practice:
  • Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, London: ZED Books, 2012 (2nd Edition)
  • Amy Lonetree, Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012
  • Shawn Wilson, Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods, Fenwood Publishing, 2008.