A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of The TRiiBE Guide: Heritage Edition. Subscribe to The TRiiBE. Click here >>

The nexus of racial segregation and housing disparity in the U.S. continues to perpetuate the characteristics of Indian removal and chattel slavery. As a direct result of American imperialism, diaspora has become a unique aspect of Black and Indigenous identity.

My diasporic identity formed on my ancestral lands. My father is a survivor of Canada’s Sixties Scoop — in which welfare agents removed Indigenous children from their homes and placed them with white foster families — and was adopted by a midwest farming family in central Illinois. At 11 years old, I experienced displacement first-hand as my family was gentrified out of our home in Avondale. 

By the time I was 13 years old, my family was pushed out of Chicago. I returned to Chicago in my early 20s and founded Chi-Nations Youth Council (CNYC) in 2012 with my older sisters and former members of Urban Natives of Chicago and Chi-Society — two Chicago-based Native youth groups that had disbanded.

You can read a version of this story and more in the Summer 2021 issue of The TRiiBE Guide: Heritage Edition. Join our newsletter to find a free copy of The TRiiBE Guide near you. Cover photo features Kannon Purnell, the 5th great-grandson of 19th century Chicago abolitionists John Jones and Mary Richardson Jones.

We founded Chi-Nations with the mission to create safe-space for Native youth. In order to put theory into practice, CNYC works to acknowledge its members’ shared history and individual experiences.

“I am well aware that the police see me as a Black man, which automatically makes me a threat. Being both Black and Native, I have had the talk more times than I can count,” said Anthony Tamez-Pochel, vice-chair of the Youth Advisory Board at the Center for Native American Youth and the neighborhood and business services coordinator at the 33rd Ward. He’s also my nephew.

“I was raised in a Native household, which instilled in me the importance of knowing my history which is an ongoing legacy of resistance against continuous reiterations of racist rules and regulations meant to exploit and exterminate me,” he added.

American claims over Natives’ lands and Native people’s lives are wholly dependent on legal fiction and “white supermacist fairy tales,” according to Janie Pochel, my sister and an auntie of Chi-Nations Youth Council. 

In 1537, Pope Paul III issued a papal bull, “Sublimis Deus,” opposing the enslavement of Indigenous peoples. However, the Spanish and French who colonized North America ignored it, and in 1709 the French colonizers formally legalized slavery for Indigenous people. 

Under the “Doctrine of Discovery” adopted in 1823 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Johnson v. M’Intosh, a unanimous decision led by Chief Justice John Marshall, who wrote in the decision that Christian European nations had assumed “ultimate dominion” over the lands of America during the Age of Discovery, and that — upon “discovery” — the Native people had lost “their rights to complete sovereignty, as independent nations,” and only retained a right of “occupancy” in their lands. 

European colonial powers and the U.S. government created American landowners and generational privilege by stealing Indigenous land and enslaving Africans. Settler colonialism in America caused irreparable harm to the peoples and landscapes of Africa and the Americas. Since the first American colony was founded, the state has participated in separating people from their ancestral lands while profiting from their suffering. Today, gentrification has become another physical manifestation of our settler state.

Portrait of No-in-Ko, a Native American medicine man, at the centennial encampment of Winnebago and Sac-Fox Indians in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois. Two Native American women and several tents are visible in the background. Archival photos from the Chicago History Museum.

Last summer, Albany Park was spotlighted after a leftist community group advocated for the development of a community garden at a lot located on Lawrence and Central Park avenues that will be developed into affording housing by Celadon Holdings LLC. Celadon is run by Scott Henry and Thad Garver, two former executives of JP Morgan. 

Albany Park is a historic village and trading site. Today, there is a large Native population in the area and the site of three Native community organizations.  Albany Park is also the home of the First Nations Garden, located at Wilson Avenue and Pulaski Road, which my family co-found with CNYC. My family, like so many others have, recently been gentrified out of Albany Park due to increasing rents. 

JP Morgan Chase, the U.S.’s largest bank and parent company of JP Morgan, has a long history of racially discriminatory lending practices. In 2017, 49 years after the federal Fair Housing Act banned racial discrimination in lending, the bank agreed to pay a $55 million settlement for offenses of modern-day redlining that took place between 2006 and 2009 and broke laws under the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. 

“Don’t come at me saying ‘housing is a human right’ and then advocate to give money to developers to gentrify our communities,” Dr. Sophia Marjanovic, Oglala Lakota, wrote on Facebook. CNCY met Dr. Majanovic in Washington, d.c., and learned about her fight for stronger protections for survivors of domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, sexual assualt and harrassment through lobbying.

“The housing disparities I’m seeing in Albany Park due to gentrification is the new iteration of forced removal and racism,” said Adrien “A.J.” Pochel, a member of Chi-Nations Youth Council and my nephew. 

Pochel added that reserves, reservations, ghettos and slums are all a direct result of legal displacement and policing. 

“The ability and access to own and acquire property and lands continues to be a barrier for anyone who ain’t white.” said A.J. Pochel. At the center of racial segregation, displacement and policing are ongoing efforts to protect whiteness in America. 

“America has always been against my people. The first time my race was introduced to school, the slogan was ‘Kill the Indian, Save the Man’ and many people still carry traumas from those days,” said Windfield WoundedEye, a member of Chi-Nations Youth Council. “Many ancestors were kept in those schools and were never the same coming out of them.”

It’s been more than six decades since the Supreme Court declared “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. However, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) remains an example of how heavily segregated modern public education is. 

In 1963, 200,000 Chicagoans boycotted CPS as a reaction to the segregationist policies of then-Superintendent Benjamin Willis. Fast forward to 2013, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced an unprecedented 50 school closures, mainly displacing thousands of Black and brown schoolchildren and teachers.  

The combination of gentrification, segregation and displacement may seem more complicated than they appear. However, these ongoing events and policies are the evolution of racist ideologies including manifest destiny which absolves America of the atrocities caused by the systematic disenfranchisement of BIPOC people. Urban Natives are absent within America’s collective imagination by design — white settler colonial denial erases our occupation of and relationships to our ancestral lands, such as Chicago.

“White supremacy is an American problem created by white people,” Tamez-Pochel said. “They need to stop relying on us to do all the labor and face all the consequences of abolishing whiteness.”

is a freelance contributor for The Triibe.