In 2022, as part of the Skokie Park District’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), staff began to discuss a new responsibility –– honoring the ancestral homelands of Native American tribes.
To kick off this new effort, district staff first reached out to the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian. Located in Evanston, the museum is one of only a few across the country that focuses exclusively on the histories, cultures, traditions, and arts of Indigenous people from the United States and Canada.
Working closely with the staff of this local education center, park district staff developed a plan to seek the input of Tribal Nations regarding the park district’s 11 existing Native American park names. At a public listening session in June 2023, park district staff, the board of commissioners, Mitchell Museum staff, and public attendees discussed a future review of Native American park names, and whether the names accurately and respectfully represent Tribal Nations and their cultures, traditions, and contributions to Skokie and this region. There was also discussion regarding park signage that would honor the Tribal Nation history of each park.
Mitchell Museum staff then provided the district with a list of translations of Skokie parks with Tribal Nation names, to include in the official names of each park. Those enhanced names may now be found on the Skokie Park District website.
District staff also worked with the Mitchell Museum to help develop a “Land Acknowledgment Statement” honoring Indigenous peoples whose presence on this land came long before Skokie’s current residents, and who continue to impact park district land to this day. At the June listening session, a draft of the statement was presented and discussed. At their monthly meeting three weeks later, the district’s board of commissioners unanimously approved the district’s new Land Acknowledgement Statement. (See it here.)
“We will continue to work with the Mitchell Museum as we begin outreach to individual Tribal Nations regarding our park names,” said Skokie Park District Executive Director Michelle Tuft. “We expect that working with each Nation will offer a unique learning experience for both our staff and our residents.”
For more information regarding this Skokie Park District DEI initiative, please contact Mary Amato at (847) 929-8515.
To learn more about The Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, click here.