Ralph Frese canoe at the at Skokie Lagoon. (Photo credit: John Low)
On May 30th I had the opportunity to visit Northwestern University and the folks affiliated with the Humanities without Walls grant group organized by Dr. Kelly Wisecup to discuss canoes and the relations of the Potawatomi people to the Chicago area. Specifically, I spoke about how the geography of the area made it a perfect place for Wigwas Jiimaan (birch bark canoes). Echicagou (Chicago) is at the North-South continental divide and with the many rivers there the first peoples of the region could travel east to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence river, west to the Mississippi and then north to Minnesota, west along the Missouri River, east along the Ohio River or south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
We were able to secure a canoe made by Ralph Frese to also talk about the Chicago American Indian Center’s Canoe Club which revived canoeing in Chicago in the 1960’s and 1970’s. We put canoes in at Skokie Lagoon to try out the magic of canoeing and the day was completed with a workshop led by Dr. Margaret Pearce on mapping Indigenous homelands.
It was a great opportunity for me to make new friends and see old friends too. Thank you to everyone for your kind hospitality on a memorable journey.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the City of Chicago: Special Guest Dr. John Low
Dr. John Low from the Ohio State University will be speaking about this book Imprints: the Potawatomi Indians & the City of Chicago (2016, Michigan State University Press). Dr. Low will examine the ways some Pokagon Potawatomi tribal members have maintained a distinct Native identity in Chicago, their rejection of assimilation and their desire for inclusion without forfeiting their “Indianness.” This event is part of our campus programming to commemorate the Illinois bicentennial.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the City of Chicago: Special Guest Dr. John Low?
Join Pokagon Potawatomi Indian John N. Low as he discusses the history of the use of a vast network of trails and portages in Northeastern Illinois between two great water systems: the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.
Indigenous peoples had long settled in villages in what is now northeastern Illinois, prior to contact with Europeans. Northeastern Illinois was one of the best places to portage between two great water systems: the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. Native peoples could paddle to the St. Lawrence River or Allegheny River in the east, and on to the Atlantic Ocean or south to the Gulf of Mexico or to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the west. Native Americans understood the importance of this geography and took advantage of this portage system to trade goods for hundreds of years before European settlers arrived. Today’s residents of Aurora and surrounding communities also know the richness of the soil and the resources that made the region a very special place to live.
In July the Pokagon Band welcomed Wen Peihong, a Chinese scholar currently completing a translation of Simon Pokagon’s 1899 novel Queen of the Woods into Mandarin Chinese. Wen learned more about the people and culture while meeting with the tribal archivist, interviewing Pokagon tradition bearers, and observing a language class.A professor at China’s Southwest University for Nationalities, Wen researches indigenous and ethnic minorities and their cultural preservation and revival efforts.
Dr. John Low, a Pokagon Band citizen and professor at Ohio State University, met Wen at an international conference on ethnic minority languages and invited her to his Potawatomi community.
Wen spent the last year visiting and studying in the U.S. and meeting with other native communities. Translating Queen of the Woods is complicated, as each Chinese symbol represents syllables in English words. Wen and her colleague, Aku WuWu, a poet who writes in the Yi language, are very interested in preservation and promotion of Yi, and in Native Americans as an ethic minority. WuWu is the author of Coyote Traces, a book Wen helped translate about the Yi and the indigenous people of American and the interconnections between cultures and languages.
“Leading members from the Oneida Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and United Houma Nation of Louisiana discuss vital issues of tribal citizenship in Indian Country. By exploring topics such as constitutional reform, tribal enrollment, blood quantum, and descendancy, the speakers discuss the many different ways Native tribes and nations define, grant, and express indigenous citizenship.”
The Tribal Education Departments National Assembly (TEDNA) through collaboration with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi is hosting the 2018 TEDNA Regional Conference on Education Sovereignty and Data, will be held from April 10-11th, and on the 12th is the TEDNA Annual Board meeting and Michigan Tribal Education Directors meeting, at New Buffalo, Michigan. The conference is a unique chance to meet different leaders and practitioners in the field of education sovereignty focused on: data collection, implementation, and sharing innovative practices. All attendees will examine research and development of how Tribal Education Departments organize and analyze their education data. Our goal is that every attendee will walk away with policy insights, identification of critical challenges, and foster a solution-based collaboration to improve data quality and result in an increased capacity over tribal education data.
I had the honor to be the keynote speaker for National Native American Heritage Month celebrations at Wright State University, the Ohio National Guard, and Defiance College this month. At each venue I was impressed with the desire of the audiences to learn more about the indigenous peoples of the United States.
I was also interviewed by Michigan Public Radio for their program “Stateside with Cynthia Canty.” broadcast in Ann Arbor (the statewide NPR affiliate). Stateside includes a Michigan History Center (MHC) production of a weekly Michigan History segment. With November being Native American History month, the folks at the Michigan History Center and the station wanted to do a couple of history segments focusing on Native Michiganders. I joined Cynthia and the MHC’s Sandra Clark to discuss the story of Leopold Pokagon and how decisions he made in the 1800s still impact lives today. Here is a link to the program:
I also had the opportunity to participate in the symposium “Collaborative Curation of North American Human Remains.” at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago this month. Participants included museum professional and tribal nation representatives, as well as those like myself who have written about and/or engaged in repatriation efforts. While it was obvious to me that there is much work to yet be done to get everyone on the same page, I was heartened by the sincere effort that everyone made to listen to the views and suggestions of others. Special thanks to Helen Robbins from the Field Museum for inviting me!
It was my honor to co-curate with Marcus Boroughs an exhibit presenting the aesthetic beauty of tapa/ngatu weavings with block printed art reflecting iconic imagery of Oceania. It is quickly obvious that these artistic creations take a community to construct. A sense of connection, tradition, and pride fills the LeFevre Gallery at the Newark campus. The exhibit is free and open to the public until May 1, 2018.
“The Art of Ngatu: Tradition, Innovation and Community in Polynesia” comprises original artwork, traditional tapa (beaten bark cloth), photography, film, and ephemera. Exhibition content focuses on artists Dame Robin White (New Zealand) and Ruha Fifita (Tonga), their process and practice in Polynesia. Collaborating with communities of indigenous women, the artists use traditional methods to produce tapa while also incorporating innovation and contemporary narratives related to the history of Polynesian communities.” (From the prospectus.)