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?
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.
“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!