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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Horner Park Could Become Home To Mound Celebrating Area’s Native American History

Indigenous communities in Chicago are invited to contribute earth from their respective ancestral and tribal lands for the new coil mound.

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IRVING PARK — Horner Park may soon become a trailhead for the “Northwest Portage Walking Museum Trail.”

As part of the new proposed project to create a walking museum trail from the Chicago River to the Des Plaines River across Irving Park Road, an earthen effigy mound in the shape of a coil would be installed at the southern end of Horner Park near the Chicago River. 

“Someone could start the trail on one side or the other, and there’d be various stations for it along the way,” said John Friedmann, vice president of the Horner Park Advisory Council.

Artist Santiago X will discuss plans for the mound at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Horner Park Field House, 2741 W. Montrose Ave. The meeting will be hosted by Ald. Deb Mell (33rd), Chicago Park District officials and the Horner Park Advisory Council. 

The installation is part of the Chicago Community Trust’s Great Rivers Grant that was awarded to the Chicago Public Art Group, American Indian Center and Portage Park Neighborhood Association.

Santiago X is an “indigenous futurist” artist who is a descendant of North American mound builders and stone carvers from the Marianas Islands, according to his website. The Horner Park mound would be created from his design.

“This mound is trying to reinvigorate the indigenous landscape and is oriented towards giving indigenous people in this city a place to go,” Santiago X said. “But not be framed in history, but giving us a place that is built by us and where we can celebrate our resilience.”

On Aug. 2, a ground stomping ceremony was hosted at the serpent mound, also designed by Santiago X, at the other end of the trail in the Schiller Woods.

Effigy mounds are “ceremonial and sacred” sites that were historically built by Native Americans, and some archeologists believe the mounds delineated territories of choice gathering and hunting grounds, according to the National Park Service. 

The coil mound in Horner Park will feature a mulch-covered, winding pathway for people to walk to the top of the structure, allowing people to enjoy views of the park and river. Its design will be integrated into the native prairie restoration area currently under construction on Irving Park Avenue.

“This public art project will be a full-size replica of the Native American mounds that once lined the inland waterways and savannas before the arrival of the European settlers. It will be constructed of natural materials and covered with prairie grass and native plantings,” according to a release announcing the Horner Park installation.

Credit: Submitted
Materials used to build the Horner Park coil mound.

The proposed mound was initially planned closer to the river bank, Friedmann said.

“But that’s where the 312 River Run Trail will be and that area will be under construction for a couple years,” he said. “So the decision was made to move it in the fenced-in savannah area in a clearing where we wouldn’t need to cut down trees.”

Once the mound is installed as part of the walking museum trail and the 312 River Run Trail is complete Horner Park will serve as a junction for the two trails.

Indigenous communities in the Chicago area were invited to contribute earth from their respective ancestral and tribal lands for the new Horner Park coil mound.

“A formal ceremony will be incorporated into the unveiling of the mound …[and] representatives of different tribes pour their earth into the mound itself,” officials said in a press release. 

Native Americans participating in the ceremony will also take part in a river procession using traditionally constructed birch bark canoes to arrive and depart from the Horner Park mound site.

“This isn’t a one time thing, we want to provide history and context,” Friedmann said. 

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