IRVING PARK — The American Indian Center and Chicago Public Art Group could break ground this spring on an earthwork mound at Horner Park to celebrate Native American people.
The mound, designed by indigenous artist Santiago X, will be part of a trail connecting the North Branch of the Chicago River at Horner Park to the Des Plaines River at Schiller Woods west of Harlem Avenue. The trail has been in the works since 2016.
Once built, the earthwork coil mound at Horner Park is expected to have a diameter of 90 feet and be 12 feet tall. This earthwork will be covered with plants such as nodding onion, Virginia strawberry and buffalo grass.
A fundraiser for the Horner Park mound went live Monday. Its organizers plan to start construction as soon as they’re able to raise $75,000, with the groundbreaking possible as soon as this spring.
These funds would be in addition to $75,000 awarded to the project by the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust and previous fundraising efforts that included $10,000 from the Illinois Arts Council and $7,500 from an anonymous donor.
“We finally received permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the mound in Horner Park,” said Maryrose Pavkovic, the public art group’s managing director. “That was the biggest hurdle we were waiting to get approval on before we moved forward with fundraising.”
In February 2014, engineers began a $5.6 million ecosystem restoration project at Horner Park.
This required fencing off about 14 acres of the park and 2,600 feet of riverbank so crews could restore the park’s oak savanna habitat, remove invasive species and perform landscaping improvements to restore the area’s natural features.
“We have to be very careful in how we build this new mound and how we replant natural native plants there while also making sure that anything that is harmed is replaced,” Pavkovic said.
The trail connecting the two rivers was originally named the Northwest Portage Walking Museum. Pavkovic said the trail was renamed to 4000N after organizers spoke to experts on how people actually traveled between the two rivers. The new name comes from the segment of Irving Park Road near Horner Park, she said.
“There was a bit of a debate on the fact that factually, historically, that route was not used as a portage for Native Americans,” Pavkovic said. “So we decided that we should probably not use that word.”
A western earthwork mound called Pokto Cinto, which means “serpent twin” in Koasati, a Native American language spoken by Santiago X’s people, has been installed at Schiller Woods.
Fawn Pochel, education coordinator with the American Indian Center, said the mounds and trail connecting them honor the city’s past and Indigenous people who still live in Chicago. Native Americans are often overlooked by the city because they make up less than 2 percent of its population, Pochel said.
“It’s very important that we are uplifting the visibility of Native peoples here in Chicago,” Pochel said. “We want to help people to understand that the Chicago area had mounds across the region, and that’s a part of history that has been lost, unfortunately.”
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