In 1871, a group of Pimas took a young Yavapai boy named Wassaja captive. From there, he would begin on a journey that would eventually lead him to Urbana, Illinois. Political activist, writer, physician, and the first Native American graduate of the University of Illinois, his legacy is far-reaching.
Wassaja, a term that could be translated to “beckoning” or “signaling,” was born to the Yavapai in Arizona circa 1867. Drought in the area around this time and the appearance of settlements encroaching on Native American land contributed to an increase in violent clashes between the Yavapai and the Pimas. It was in such a clash that Wassaja and his sisters were taken captive. Shortly thereafter, he was sold for a sum of thirty silver dollars to Carlo Gentile, an Italian immigrant and photographer. 
Gentile gave Wassaja the name Carlos Montezuma. After Gentile’s quest for gold proved fruitless, the pair spent time in several locations before settling in Chicago. It was there that Montezuma found himself briefly working as a performer in an early Buffalo Bill stage production. The association with the production only lasted a short time and by 1875 Carlos was completely focused on his studies. Continue reading “Beckoning Forward: The Extraordinary Life of Carlos Montezuma”→
The Cosmopolitan Club was founded in 1907, making it the oldest international student organization on the University of Illinois campus. The purpose of the club was to cultivate social and intellectual relationships between persons of different nationalities though a variety of activities and services. These activities included ethnic dinners, international coffee hours, parties, and various outings to cultural and social events and local attractions. The Cosmopolitan Club, or “Cosmo” Club for short, wished to offer opportunities for Americans and those from other countries to share experiences and exchange ideas. In addition to the programs, the Cosmo Club house on John Street served as a “home away from home” for several members and as a meeting place close to campus.
Recently, the Student Life and Culture (SLC) Archives acquired more materials related to the Cosmopolitan Club. These items included brochures, international dinner menus, club calendars, newsletters, and various items related to social activities and administrative proceedings of the club. All of the newest material was donated by Susan Taylor, faculty advisor of the Cosmopolitan Club and Assistant Professor of English as an International Language from 1964 to 1999.