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.
I was honored to give an Armour Lecture yesterday June 5 at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. I spoke on the power of native baskets and the importance of the Black Ash Basket Coop to the Pokagon Potawatomi community. Highlighted were cofounders Julia Wesaw, Agnes Rapp, Judy Augusta, and Rae Daugherty.
I was also honored to be invited to guest curate a temporary exhibit on Black Ash baskets at the Field Museum scheduled for Autumn 2021.
Many thanks to my hosts Alaka Wali, Debra Yepa-Pappan, and Eli Suzukovich for their kind hospitality and to everyone who came out for my talk! Chi Migwetch!
When Pokagon history professor John Low Ph.D., heard that The Field Museum in Chicago would embark on a project to revamp its dated Native North America Exhibit Hall, he brought that to the attention of the tribe’s Traditions and Repatriation Committee and the Department of Language & Culture. Committee members Christine and Gary Morseau and Jason S. Wesaw, as well as Marcus Winchester, director, and Blaire Topash-Caldwell, archivist, from the Department, went to view the museum’s collection. They met with Debra Yepa-Pappan, a Pueblo artist and community engagement coordinator for the Native American exhibit renovation project at the museum, who asked for Pokagon participation in the project. Topash-Caldwell is now serving on the committee reviewing the museum’s renovation.
Recently, Winchester spoke at a ceremony dedicating and installing an acknowledgment of the original inhabitants of the land the museum occupies. The new plaque sits in a garden full of native plants and states: “The Field Museum resides on the traditional homelands of the Three Fires Confederacy: Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi. The area was also a site of trade, travel and healing for more than a dozen other native tribes.”
It is a “much, much needed renovation,” Field president and CEO Richard Lariviere said in the Chicago Tribune’s article about the ceremony and project. “This project intends to correct the way the museum tells the Native American history by doing so through the lens and voices of Native Americans.”
“It means a lot for such an influential museum in the United States to put themselves out there and acknowledge indigenous people as traditional land owners,” Winchester said after the ceremony that included a hand drum singer and a jingle dress dancer.
“I met people from other museums there,” he said. “I would most definitely like to see other museums follow their lead.”
The museum’s current exhibit will remain open throughout the three-year overhaul, with fall of 2021 as the targeted completion date.
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?