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.
I wanted to thank everyone at the Snite Museum of Art for their kind hospitality. I also wanted to thank my co-speaker, Christine Rapp-Morseau. Above is a pic of Christine speaking (I am to the left). I also received nice comments. Thank you to all who attended!
Posted with permission:
Dear Christine and John,
Thank you for all of the time and thought you put into making Saturday’s program such a success. I have heard from many people since how much they enjoyed the event and how much they learned (me included!). I especially appreciated the generous ways in which you each worked to make your particular areas of expertise accessible to a general audience.
Snite Museum of Art
University of Notre Dame
And a note from Christine:
Migwetth Frances. I think it worked great together. John’s slide show was very informative and made me emotional seeing my grandmother, my teacher on screen. Much thanks for your work at the Snite Museum. I didn’t really understand some of the art there until your colleague/friend explained to me in detail about them. It was amazing and took on a whole new meaning to me. Job well done Frances, I loved it!
Set for this Memorial Day weekend is the tenth annual Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Pow Wow next weekend. The gathering in Dowagiac will feature traditional singing, dancing, and culture, and everyone is invited. The Pokagon name for the event literally translates as “we are honoring the ones we’re tied to through generations.” The grand entries for the pow wow will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 26, and 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 27. On both mornings, vendors will set up before the dancing starts, and the gates will open at 10 a.m. The event is considered a traditional pow wow where dancers compete before judges in different categories. The pow wow will take place at the Sink Road campus of the Pokagon band in Dowagiac.