Author plants seeds of Native American History

Waukegan could join a host of other communities along the Lake Michigan shoreline that have put up interpretive memorials to Native Americans and the trail-marker trees that used to dot the landscape throughout the county.

Local artist and author Dennis Downes of Antioch is a trail-marker tree researcher and gives frequent talks about Native American sign posts and culture, including one this week in Waukegan for the Waukegan Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Group (CAG).

CAG chairwoman Susie Schrieber said she first saw his talk in Glencoe and then she went to his art show at The Grove in Glenview. Schrieber added that she thought it was fascinating enough to bring it up the idea of having a Native American element added to the Waukegan Park District’s Bowen Park.

“With the natural restoration of Bowen Park’s natural areas and Sheridan Road being the old lakefront, this could be a nice way to honor the past,” she said following Thursday night’s meeting.

Park District Executive Director Greg Petry said district officials have meet with Schrieber and Downes, who has re-created council tree circles and trail marker trees, to discuss a possible project.

“We have talked about it. We are looking at the possibilities for a Native American interpretive display of some kind,” he said on Friday.

In Winnetka, trees shaped liked trail-marker trees are in Indian Hill Park, a roadside landscaped area near the village’s Metra station, and at Sunset Park, where Downes also did a council circle of trees.

There is another tree Downes shaped at Sunset Park in Highland Park, and for the past three years, he has returned to the Joseph Sears School in Kenilworth to talk to third graders about Native American culture and tend to a trail-marker tree he helped the students plant.

“It’s educating children about American Indian history, and maybe they will study more,” he said. At the Roosevelt University campus in…

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