Illinois Humanities’ NEA Big Read Program Offers Free Community Book Groups and Events Focused on Indigenous Stories

For Immediate Release: November 2, 2022Contact: Sarah Sommers at | 773-251-4772

Press Releases

Read Time 4 minutes
November 2, 2022

The NEA Big Read: Indigenous Stories will launch Nov. 19 with a free public event at the Field Museum’s Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories exhibition.


Illinois Humanities will host a series of free book groups, events, and hands-on workshops about contemporary Indigenous stories in partnership with communities native to the greater Chicago area. The NEA Big Read: Indigenous Stories launches in November – Native American Heritage Month – with book groups and events running through April 2023.

The books featured in the series encourage conversations about Native experiences and explore themes of freedom, belonging, and displacement. English-language book groups will read There There by Tommy Orange (Cheyenne and Arapaho) and Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz (Mojave). A Spanish-language book group hosted at the Little Village Public Library will read Spanish translations of There There, as well as Luna Nueva (New Moon) by Enriqueta Lunez, a Mexican poet who writes in Spanish, English, and Tsotsil. Book groups will be hosted by libraries, bookstores, and Illinois Humanities partners throughout Chicago, and more partners will join the series and host groups in the winter and spring. Individuals who join a book group will receive free copies of Indigenous Stories titles. Quantities are limited, and participants are encouraged to sign up soon.

“We are honored to launch this program during Native American Heritage Month in partnership with contemporary Native leaders in Illinois,” said Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director of Illinois Humanities. “Reading together and participating in community events with leaders like SANTIAGO X and the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian helps ensure we can raise awareness about both the historical and contemporary experiences of Native people in Illinois.”

In addition to free community book groups, Illinois Humanities is partnering with several cultural organizations to host public events and workshops throughout Chicago to connect readings with contemporary experiences of local Native communities. Scheduled events include: a launch celebration at the Field Museum on November 19, including a complimentary visit and presentation of the Field Museum’s Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories exhibition; a panel and community discussion with members of Chicago’s Native communities about the lasting impact of the Indian Urban Relocation Program, hosted by the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian on November 30; and a hands-on workshop exploring the Newberry Library’s Edward E. Ayer Collection, one of the strongest collections on American Indian and Indigenous Studies in the world, on January 21. More events to be announced for winter and spring include writing workshops and a presentation by Indigenous futurist artist SANTIAGO X at the Coil Mound installation in Horner Park, hosted by the Chicago Public Art Group.

“The Indigenous Stories program features books by Indigenous authors whose stories have a lot to teach us about what it means to not just acknowledge the history of the land we occupy, but to admit the truth of it, pass it on, and attempt to heal from it,” said Rebecca Amato, Director of Teaching and Learning at Illinois Humanities. “The public events and experiences that Illinois Humanities and our partners have designed to coincide with these texts give us the space to do this work together; because honoring history and ‘living right’ starts with listening to one another.”

The NEA Big Read: Indigenous Stories’ free book groups will begin reading and meeting for book discussions in November and December, 2022. Interested participants can join a book group through Illinois Humanities’ website, or can start a book group of their own using a DIY book group toolkit, available later this November.

Learn more about The NEA Big Read: Indigenous Stories, join or start a book group, and register for the program launch event at

The NEA Big Read: Indigenous Stories is a program of Illinois Humanities made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.


Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.


The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read, a partnership with Arts Midwest, broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Showcasing a diverse range of themes, voices, and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery. Learn more about the NEA Big Read.

Since the NEA Big Read initiative began, many organizations have received funds to participate in the program. Learn more about the other organizations in Illinois that will participate in the 2022/2023 season.

Arts Midwest believes that creativity has the power to inspire and unite humanity. Based in Minneapolis, they grow, gather, and invest in creative organizations and communities throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, and beyond.

Arts Midwest is serving as an organization partner for NEA Big Read.

Arts Midwest small color Logo 1