Naperville’s North Central College unveils new Potawatomi and Fort Payne historical marker

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Over 50 people attended a dedication on Tuesday for an updated Native American marker on the North Central College campus.

North Central honors the Potawatomi tribal nation

The Potawatomi and Fort Payne marker, located between the Ward and New Residence Halls, details events from the Black Hawk War.

In the early 1800s, federal policies and U.S. militia began displacing Potawatomi and other tribal nations from their native lands.

In 1832, a Potawatomi chief informed local settlers in the Naperville area that people were being massacred south of the settlement by Chief Black Hawk. After hearing the news, militia Captain Morgan L. Payne guided local pioneers to construct a wooden fort stretching one-half acre, surrounded by a 10-foot high stockade.

The Potawatomi and other area nations were eventually forced west of the Mississippi River, but the new marker notes the Potawatomi leaders’ work to remain neutral and keep peace in the area during the time of conflict.

Why was the marker replaced?

A new, comprehensive marker replaced the old one due to outdated language from its establishment in 1964.

For the last three years, the Illinois State Historical Society has been reviewing all 650 Native American markers in the state. Several local historical organizations, and senior at North Central College Raygn Jordan, teamed up to bring a modernized marker to Naperville.

“Today, 60 years later, our understanding has broadened and deepened,” said Jordan. “We recognize that this marker stands not only as a way to honor Captain Payne but also to acknowledge the Potawatomi people, whose roots and connection to this land extend far beyond any physical structure or historical event recorded by those who came after them.”

The marker notes tens of thousands of indigenous people, including Potawatomi, live in the Chicago area today.

After the unveiling, George Godfrey of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation offered a silent prayer to honor the new marker.

North Central President Dr. Anita Thomas called the dedication “an incredibly proud moment” in the school’s history.

“Our mission is that we are a diverse community of learners dedicated to preparing students to be curious, engaged, ethical, and purposeful citizens and leaders in local, national, and global contexts,” said Thomas. “And this, I think, is the perfect demonstration of us living our mission statement.”

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