Chicago Native American community loses Susan Kelly Power at 97


Susan Kelly Power, whose Indian name means “Storm Clouds Gathering,” arrived in Chicago when she was just 15 from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 1942. She was sent to Windy City by her mother in “loan” to a comrade. Native American woman who lived in Chicago but needed a caregiver. Power intended to be there until she was no longer needed to care for her mother’s friend. Her plans changed when she tried to save money for her trip back to Standing Rock, but found she was sending so much money to her family on the reservation that she never came back. . Power remained in Chicago until the end of her life last Saturday. The horsepower was 97.

Power is remembered for being a mother, lifelong activist, friend to many in Chicago, and one of the founding members of the American Indian Center of Chicago, which was established in 1953. She was one of the first urban centers opened in the country. to become a gathering place for the large influx of Native Americans into the cities at the end of World War II and the federal Indian resettlement program. When the relocation program began, there were only about 750 Native Americans living in Chicago. In five years, the number has grown to more than 10,000.

Power said at a community rally at the American Indian Center in Chicago on February 20, 2016, an event covered by Indigenous News Onlinethat it was a lonely existence in a great metropolis of Chicago when she first arrived.

“I know I was pretty lonely. I wanted to be around other Indians, as we were called back then. They didn’t call us Native Americans back then,” Power said of her early days at Chicago. “I would stop anyone with dark skin who looked like Idnian to find out if they were. Most of the time they were of Spanish descent. I was always happy to see an Indian.”

Power’s daughter, Mona Susan Power, said her mother followed the path of her ancestors, feeling the responsibility that comes with being descended from a line of Dakota Yanktonai hereditary chiefs and a mother who was a tribe chief.

“Her mother would often say, ‘The chief’s family eats last’ and Power lived by that belief, always giving generously by putting the needs of the community before her own, sharing what she had. Moreover, she was an outgoing person who cared about people from all walks of life, and deeply felt the pain of the injustices they suffered. She did her best to help,” Mona Susan Power told Native News Online in an email.

Born in 1925 in Fort Yates, North Dakota on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Power was deeply proud of her Yanktonai Dakota heritage and of coming from a line of hereditary chiefs, including her great-grandfather. , Chief Mahto Nunpa.

Her mother, Josephine Gates Kelly, was a revered leader who eventually became Tribal President in 1946 and served three terms as Tribal President. Power had immense admiration for her mother’s accomplishments as a leader and sought to follow in her footsteps, eventually becoming an activist leader herself.

As she grew up in Chicago, Power held a variety of jobs, including working in a factory and later proofreading legal journals for the University of Chicago Law School, working at the Museum of Science and ‘industry. , the Salvation Army and the Census Bureau.

According to her daughter, her favorite job was at AC McClurg’s Book Distributing, becoming an executive assistant to company director Guy Kendall. Power was a voracious reader, who loved nothing better than being at the heart of the book world, meeting authors, enjoying early access to upcoming titles. She regularly visited the city’s libraries and bookstores, gradually building up her own impressive collection of books on Native American history.

In addition to being one of the founders of the American Indian Center of Chicago, Power was heavily involved in the activities of other Native organizations, including the Indian Council Fire and the National Congress of American Indians, of which she was the youngest member when they were founded in 1944. In the early 1970s, Susan became a key activist in the Chicago Indian Village movement, which protested the poor living conditions and inadequate employment opportunities offered to Native Americans lured into the cities during the resettlement period.

“Susan Power will be missed as the founder, activist and leader of the American Indian Center of Chicago. Her dedication, commitment and passion for the Native community will always be her legacy,” said Les Begay (Dine’), co-founder of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Coalition of Illinois told Native News Online.

Power received Cook County’s 2012 Unsung Heroines Award. The prestigious award presented to him by Cook County Council Chairman Toni Preckwinkle.

Power was predeceased by her loving husband, Carleton G. Power, who died in 1973, and is survived by her daughter, Mona Susan Power, son-in-law, Douglas Power, and wife, Jeanann Glassford Power, daughter-in-law , Marjorie Mbilinyi, and grandchildren, Douglas Drew and Alessandra Power, Nnali, Anina and Lyungai Mbilinyi.

A celebration of life for Susan Kelly Power will be held at the St. Kateri Center of Chicago (3938 N Leavitt St., Chicago, IL 60618), on January 22, 2023, which would have been her 98th birthday.

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About the Author

Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertE-mail: This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded the 2021 Native Media Award Best Column for the Print/Online Category by the Native American Journalists Association. He sits on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected]

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