Past Event

Exploring Two Faces of Illinois's History: A Conversation with Territorial Governor Ninian Edwards and Pottawatomie Chief Gomo

A Road Scholar Program by Brian [Fox] Ellis

Two hundred years ago, the original thirteen colonies were bursting at the seams, pioneers came flooding over the Alleghenies, the tribes of the east were being pushed to the west, and Illinois was struggling to become a state.

A series of events that occurred at that time proved pivotal in shaping the development of our state and influencing our nation’s relations with Native Americans. These developments and their long-term significance are underrecognized today, however.

From the War of 1812 to the burning of the French Village of Peoria, from the Intertribal Council at Cahokia to the Fort Dearborn Massacre in Chicago, this presentation by storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis will challenge audiences to reconsider what they think they know about Illinois’s story. First, they will meet Illinois Territorial Governor Ninian Edwards as he speaks on his role in The War of 1812, the creation of our state constitution, and the Cahokia Council with the Indians. While Fox changes into traditional regalia, a representative of the host organization will lead the audience in reflecting upon Governor Edwards’s stories.

Then, the audience will meet Pottawatomie Chief Gomo and listen as he shares his side of the story of the rescue of the French women and children of Peoria and discusses his relationships with the other principal chiefs of this region, including Black Hawk, Tecumseh, and The Prophet, his relationship to the Fort Dearborn Massacre, and his speech responding to the Governor. A representative of the host organization will then mediate a debate as the audience tries to make sense of the divergent perspectives of Governor Edwards and Chief Gomo. Much of the text for this presentation will be taken directly from the speeches these two men delivered to each other as they squared off to determine the future of this region. Fox will step into the shoes of both Edwards and Gomo, bringing to life a vital and controversial series of developments in the birthing of Illinois.

This presentation will explore American history unvarnished and promises to generate lively discussions.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Elaine Newell at