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.
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.)
At the conference I gave a presentation Simon Pokagon – Pokagon Potawatomi: Storyteller & Writer which was very well received. There are 58 ethnic minorities in China and they struggle with many of the same issues (language and cultural preservation, etc.) as my own tribal nation. My hosts at the conference were wonderful and very kind. It was my first trip to China and I look forward to returning in the future. The opportunities for collaboration and alliance with other indigenous people on a global level is inspiring.
The International Symposium on World Minority Literature was held on the campus of Southwest University for Nationalities (西南民族大学; SWUN), Oct. 29, 2016 in Chengdu, Sichuan. The sponsoring units were Southwest University for Nationalities and the China Ethnic Literature Society (中国少数民族文学学会). Over 40 speakers delivered papers under the headings of Oral Tradition and World Ethnic Minority Literature, Multiple Narratives and World Ethnic Minority Literature, Cross-ethnic Interaction and World Ethnic Minority Literature, and General Topics.
The chair of the meeting was Prof. Luo Qingchun (aka Aku Wuwu), dean of the Yi College at SWUN. Speakers included Prof. Wang Feng, Vice-chair of China Ethnic Literature Society, Prof. Xu Xinjian of Sichuan University, Ai Lian, Director of Sichuan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences and Secretary General of the association of Literary Critics, Native American scholar John N. Low of The Ohio State University, and others. ~ Mark Bender (The Ohio State University)