Urban Prairie Waldorf School sits on the ancestral homelands of the Council of Three Fires—the Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi tribes—and a place of trade with many other tribes, including the Ho-Chunk, Miami, Menominee, Sauk, and Meskwaki.
In this time of massive shifts in social consciousness, Urban Prairie acknowledges the complex social history – stretching across the centuries, up to and including present time – of this land where we work and learn:
- The immigrants who lived in this area during the 1800s were primarily Italian and, just south of the nearby train viaduct, Czech. We are situated close to the vast network of railways that made Chicago a hub of industry and distribution.
- In this part of Chicago Jane Addams, the early American feminist and social activist, took up her work. She believed that the way to empower immigrants and the working class was through art, literature, and practical arts, such as sewing, practiced in community.
- South of our current building, in our former home neighborhood of Pilsen, Mexican immigrants built their community. To the southeast is the immigrant community of Chinatown. Our proximity to these communities informed our choice of language instruction at Urban Prairie.
- For the second half of the 20th century, this area was dominated by the public housing projects that were home to a large African-American community. Those homes were shuttered and dismantled in the early 2000s, and those families were dispersed. The removal of those homes was a complex and tragic breaking up of community that left empty lots and a sense of emptiness.
- The Moses Montefiore School was named for a 19th century Italian-Jewish philanthropist and immigrant in London whose philanthropic investments in business, health, and education helped found and support the first Jewish settlement in the Levant.
- This building was built and the asphalt was laid by the laborers and union members who are integral to the history of the City of Big Shoulders.
- From 1929 until it was defunded by Chicago Public Schools in 2016 (and our purchase in 2017), the Montefiore School was a Special Education school that served students with severe emotional issues. Among the many children who attended Montefiore was Laquan McDonald, a Black foster child who was shot and murdered by white Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014.
- In our building, Irma Ruiz, the second-ever woman and first-ever Latina Chicago Police officer to be killed in the line of duty, was shot on September 23, 1988. She died protecting the children of the Montefiore school.