After smallpox nearly wiped out several Haida Indian villages in Canada at the turn of the last century, anthropologists sold the victims’ remains and other artifacts to museums around the world. Since 1995 the Haida, who still live on the Queen Charlotte Islands off the coast of British Columbia, have been struggling to recover their ancestors from institutions in Britain, Canada, and the United States. Last spring four Haida Nation representatives visited the Field Museum, where they inventoried the 132 bones and burial artifacts collected there in preparation for the largest repatriation ever of Haida remains from the U.S. Once back where they belong, the remains will be wrapped in button blankets and buried in bentwood boxes decorated with family crests. Today at 10 AM more than two dozen members of the Haida Repatriation Dance Group will perform a series of songs and dances to celebrate. There’ll also be a discussion of Haida culture and a repatriation ceremony followed by a press conference. It’s at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago, and it’s free with museum admission ($10, $7 for students and seniors, $5 for children). Call 312-665-7400 for more information.

Magician David Parr is always on the lookout for spots to stage his brand of interactive theater that explores “the gray area where history meets myth.” He says Evanston’s Charles Gates Dawes House, the 1895 mansion that’s now home to the Evan-ston Historical Society, is the perfect setting for Haunting History, his adults-only Halloween tour. “We’re not trying to attract the hockey-mask-and-chain-saw crowd; it’s not about shock and gore,” says Parr. “We’re going for that atmospheric feeling you get from a great ghost story.” Tours begin at 7, 8, and 9 tonight, Saturday, and Sunday, October 18 and 19, and October 24 through November 1 at the century-old house, 225 Greenwood in Evanston. Tickets are $20 (half of which goes to Dawes House); no one under 17 will be admitted. Call 847-475-3410 for more information.


The relationship between Grant Wiggins, a burned-out schoolteacher in 1940s Louisiana, and Jefferson, the death row inmate he tries to counsel, is what got Edward Sobel interested in directing Steppenwolf’s production of Ernest J. Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying. But when he discovered that the novel had been adapted for the stage by Romulus Linney–the Obie-winning playwright Sobel once studied under at the Univer-sity of Pennsylvania–he was sold on the project. “Most of what I understand about how a play is put together comes from his classes,” Sobel explains. “It’s gratifying to be continuing that circle.” Linney will be on hand today for a free postshow discussion of the play, which opened last Saturday and runs today and Saturday, October 25, at 11 AM in the Steppenwolf Down-stairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted in Chicago. Tickets are $10; call 312-335-1650.

Steven Spielberg, Bette Midler, Brad Pitt, and a couple of Saudi Arabian princesses have all ordered from the Ravenswood-based Lowitz & Company, which specializes in rustic ceramic and hand-carved bronze tiles. In conjunction with today’s open house at the neighboring Lillstreet Art Center, Lowitz is allowing the public into the studio for the first time for a sale on slightly imperfect pieces. It’s today from 1 to 6 at 4401 N. Ravens-wood, studio 206, in Chicago; call 773-784-2628. Browsing is free, but serious buyers should bring measurements, photos, and cash or a check–they don’t take credit cards.

Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and other Star Wars characters will appear with the West Suburban Symphony Orchestra and Women’s Chorus tonight for Out of This World, a concert that includes Elgar’s Cello Concerto with soloist Mark Johnson (of the Vermeer Quartet), Holst’s The Planets, and Williams’s Star Wars theme. Before and after the show patrons can take photos (bring your camera) on Star Wars sets re-created in the lobby by the Chicago Force Star Wars fan club. A talk by conductor Peter Lipari begins at 7:15; the concert starts at 8 in the Morton West High School theater, 2400 S. Home in Berwyn. Tickets are $17, $12 for seniors, $5 for teens, and free for kids 12 and under. Call 630-887-7464.


The grassroots social and environmental justice organization Bustan L’Shalom (Grove of Peace) describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, anti-war, and anti-occupation.” Founded by Israeli human rights activist Devorah Brous, it focuses on poverty relief and raising awareness of the discrimination faced by indigenous peoples in Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan, establishing schools and medical clinics in impoverished areas and planting “peace groves.” Brous will discuss her work today at 3 at the Dole Branch Library, 255 Augusta in Oak Park (708-386-9032), tomorrow, October 20, at 7:30 at the Jewish Reconstruc-tionist Congregation, 303 Dodge in Evanston (847-328-7678), and Tuesday, October 21, at 1:40 in room 2094 of Northeastern Illinois Univer-sity’s Classroom Building, 5500 N. Saint Louis in Chicago (773-442-4660). All events are free; for more information call 312-427-2533 or see www.bustanlshalom.org.

The new fiction anthology The Thing About Hope Is… is third in the series that started with The Thing About Love Is… Published by Polyphony Press, which was founded in 1999 as a venue for midwestern fiction writers, it collects work by 28 established and emerging writers from the flyover states. Several contributors will read at today’s free book release party: E. Donald Two-Rivers, Hillary Isaacs, Lynn Crawford, Bob Georgalas, Patti McNair, Jo-Ann Ledger, Ed Underhill, and Mike Burke. The jazz band Horizon will also perform; editor David McGrath will emcee. The party starts at 3 PM at Cafe Luna, 1742 W. 99th in Chicago; call 773-239-8990.


“They carried the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down,” wrote Tim O’Brien in his 1990 Vietnam war tale, The Things They Carried. “It required per-fect balance and perfect posture.” The book, a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, is now the city’s pick for this year’s One Book, One Chicago program. Tonight at 6 a group of Vietnam-vet writers and scholars of Vietnam war literature will discuss it on a panel moderated by DePaul English professor James Fairhall in room 120 of the DePaul Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield in Chicago; call 773-325-7840. O’Brien will give a free reading Thursday, October 30, at 6 at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State in Chicago; call 312-747-1194.


When Truman College English professor Robert Hughes learned that his three-year-old son Walker was autistic, he and his wife refused to take the diagnosis lying down. Though a doctor told them there was “no hope” for the boy and predicted he would be best off institutionalized, the couple decided to raise him at home. Their struggle to bring up “a happy, loving, smart little boy who had his whole life ahead of him” is the focus of Hughes’s memoir Running With Walker. He’ll read from and discuss the book tonight at 7:30 at Barbara’s Bookstore, 1350 N. Wells, Chicago. It’s free; call 312-642-5044.


In his 2001 book Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human, University of Kansas religion professor Robert Minor argues that the American take on gender stifles the humanity and creativity of all its citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. “The system has a conditioned role that is called ‘straight’ or ‘heterosexual acting,'” he writes, “and the system’s goal is to condition every human being to live and value that role.” He’ll give a free talk tonight at 7 called Scaring Our Chil-dren Into Masculinity and Femininity. It’s at Francis W. Parker School, 330 W. Webster in Chicago; call 773-797-5101.


When poet Allison Joseph decided to study creative writing at Kenyon College, her father bitterly disapproved–mostly because there were only two other black students in her class. Born in London to Jamaican parents, Joseph grew up in the Bronx and now teaches writing at Southern Illinois University. Her work is often autobiographical, touching on issues of family, childhood, race, and her estrangement from her dad. “My father would thunder about / my clumsiness as I’d sweep up shattered glass / or china,” she wrote in “Clumsy.” “Clumsy and stupid–he’d say, / contempt in his voice, dismissal on his face. / No wonder I’m no less awkward than at / 17, his voice embedded so deep I can’t / pull it loose. I’m clumsy, but not backward.” Joseph will give a free reading from her new book, Imitation of Life, tonight at 5:30 at the Columbia College Concert Hall, 1014 S. Michigan in Chicago. It’s part of the school’s Fall Poetry Series, which runs through December; call 312-344-8100.