While Perkins Woods, Evanston’s only forest preserve, is recognized as a community gem, the area has a lesser-known connection to Indigenous people.
“I didn’t know the rich history of Native people living here on this land. That’s why I came out for this particular walk,” said Steve Heaviland, a neighbor and volunteer at the 7.5 acre preserve, located just west of Lincolnwood School at Grant Street and Ewing Avenue.
“My goal is to help the public know that Native people were here, and that we still exist,” said Kim Vigue, executive director at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian. Vigue, who joined the museum in October 2021, is the first Native person to lead it in a full-time capacity.
Creating awareness is a key priority, she said, and the museum has made a number of changes in recent years, including in staffing, to include Indigenous voices and perspectives. Illinois does not have federally recognized tribes or reservations, unlike elsewhere in the Midwest, despite having a large native population.
“I thought it was extremely informative. I didn’t realize this was all woods [in the past,]” Heaviland said.
Some 30 community members attended the Wednesday walk, which was organized by 13th District Cook County Commissioner Josina Morita’s office in partnership with the Mitchell Museum.
“The forest preserves is one of the most important things Cook County does. We really want to bring more communities to the forest preserve. It’s not just trees and birds, it’s also people and communities and culture,” Morita said.