End of an Era: American Indian Center of Chicago Moves from Wilson Avenue Location

American Indian Center of Chicago’s Interim Executive Director Vincent Romero in front of sign removed from building.

Published March 28, 2017

New Era: Center Relocates in Albany Park on Ainslie Street

By Pamala Silas

CHICAGO – On Friday, March 24, 2017, the nation’s oldest urban American Indian Center moved to a new home in Albany Park – 3401 W. Ainslie St. (Kimball) after 51 years in Uptown at 1630 W. Wilson Avenue in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

Native Americans, many who came during the 1950’s Termination and Relocation era of Federal Indian policy have called Chicago home for over 4 generations now.  Making this move was not easy for a community that operates with strong affinity to place.  “The move was not a quick nor easy decision.  There are still a few members of the community who were there when the Wilson building was first opened as AIC’s home in 1966. There were lots of deliberations and many community meetings to talk through options, said Interim Executive Director, Vincent Romero.”

One of the things the community wrestled with was the need for major rehab on the Wilson property.  The accessibility to public transportation was also becoming a challenge with the dispersion of the American Indian community originally concentrated in Uptown.  Native American families are now scattered throughout the Chicagoland 6-county area where some 65,000 reside.

“There is still a lot of sadness in leaving but also a great sense of commitment to making this new location just as vibrant and memorable”, said Romero.  This is actually the third location for the American Indian Center with their first home located on LaSalle Street just north of downtown.

Father Peter Powell and Sharon Skolnick, elder and former executive director of AIC.

A small group gathered on Sunday to take down the old American Indian Center sign.  Father Peter Powell a longtime community leader offered prayers of thanks for all the blessings provided in the Wilson home. Sharon Skolnick, an elder and former executive director did the honors of locking the door for the last time.   The group then went over to the new location on Ainslie and had the reigning youth representative, Miss Indian Chicago, Alexis Roy ceremoniously open the doors to the community’s new home.   Now the staff begins the task of setting up shop and resuming community programs.

Miss Indian Chicago, Alexis Roy, and Vincent Romero at new location

AIC is planning a formal open house and community celebration in the near future.  See the www.aicchicago.org as details are announced.

Photographs by Warren Perlstein.


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