Category Archives: Sovereignty

Exhibit: “Pokagon Potawatomi Black Ash Baskets: Our Storytellers” at The Field Museum in Chicago until February, 20 2022

Strawberries and blueberries are sacred fruits to the Pokagon Potawatomi people. This strawberry basket by Jamie Chapman is covered in curled spikes called curlicues, which require time and masterful skill to weave. (Michelle Kuo)

Link to Exhibit Page at the Field Museum: Pokagon Potawatomi Black Ash Baskets: Our Storytellers

Press Release:

New exhibit featuring Pokagon Potawatomi basket making to open at the Field Museum

This April, a new exhibit will open at the Field Museum that explores the artistry, tradition and the importance of basketmaking among the Pokagon band of the Potawatomi people. For the Pokagon Potawatomi, these baskets are regarded with the utmost honor, treated as living members of the community. However, over the past century, the practice of basket weaving has been threatened; first by the enforcement of oppressive government regulations and now by the ecological threat presented by the Emerald Ash Borer beetle. This exhibit tells a story of survival and resilience of the Pokagon Potawatomi. But it also contains a cautionary tale and a warning of environmental catastrophe.

For centuries, baskets have been an important part of Pokagon life. Historically they were used for storage, to contain food, fibers and collect berries. These baskets have always had important roles to play in their communities. However, as the Federal Government claimed lands from Native American tribes it also enforced a set of laws that stripped these communities of their rights to continue cultural practices. Communities had to be recognized as a tribe by the Federal Government which required much momentum and perseverance. The Pokagon sought federal
recognition in the 1930s, but the energy for this movement dwindled. For decades, the cultural identity of the Pokagon Potawatomi weakened. Basket weaving was nearly lost until Agnes Rapp and Julia Wesaw began a co-op that reintroduced the Pokagon to the art of basketmaking. Thanks to the co-op reinforcing the importance of maintaining these traditions, the movement for federal recognition was re-energized. Finally in 1994, the Pokagon Potawatomi won their fight for sovereignty.

Today, basketmaking remains an important part of the cultural heritage for the Pokagon Potawatomi. It is a tradition passed from one generation to another. “The Pokagon Potawatomi peoples are familiar with the traditions of our ancestors and know the multiplicity of stories within baskets. The baskets — assumed silent, static, and lifeless — speak to many of us,” says Dr. John Low, the exhibit’s co-curator and Pokagon Potawatomi tribal citizen.

Now Pokagon basketmaking faces a new threat, the Emerald Ash Borer. Black Ash trees
provide the wood needed to create these baskets. In the 1990s, the emerald ash borer, a beetle native to northeastern Asia that feeds on ash trees, found its way to the U.S aboard shipping crates. With no natural predators, the emerald ash borer is an invasive species, and highly destructive. Since it arrived, it has destroyed over 60 million ash trees. This begs the question, what will the Pokagon do without Black Ash trees? Will the tradition of basketmaking be lost as the trees perish?

For the Pokagon Potawatomi people, these baskets have souls and stories to tell. “The hands heard weaving are the same hands that make bread and plant seeds for food. Seeds of knowledge and wisdom are also planted with those busy hands,” says Dr. John Low. “Stories emanate from the baskets. Like the songs, prayers, and plantings of our grandmothers, we hear those stories. Because we know to listen. We know the songs the baskets sing. We listen, and smile, and say a prayer of gratitude.”

Pokagon Potawatomi Black Ash Baskets: Our Storytellers opens to the public on Friday, April 16 in the Marae Gallery at the Field Museum. The exhibit will feature handmade baskets by prominent members of the Pokagon Potawatomi tribe, a media piece that features Agnes Rapp and other basket makers at work and Emerald Ash Borer specimens. This exhibit is free with the cost of museum admission and open to visitors of all ages. It will be on display for the public until February 20, 2022.

“Native Pathways to Democracy: Collaborations, Histories, and Pedagogies of Place in the Greater Chicago Region” at the Organization of American Historians (OAH) annual conference on Friday April 16th, 2021

I am presenting as part of a panel of scholars at the Organization of American Historians (OAH) annual conference on Friday April 16 at noon ET. For Native Pathways to Democracy: Collaborations, Histories, and Pedagogies of Place in the Greater Chicago Region, I am focusing on Potawatomi activism in Chicago.  The other panelists are Drs. Philip Deloria, Kelly Wisecup, Aaron Luedtke, and Blaire Topash-Caldwell. 

Here
is a link to the conference panel.

 

MAPPING CHICAGOU/CHICAGO: The Settler Colonial City Project

mcc-cover

I was honored to have the opportunity to write the foreword to a publication for Decolonizing the Chicago Cultural Center at the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial by the research collective The Settler Colonial City Project.

You can read and download the entire publication here.

Foreword

This booklet is an important step toward acknowledging the colonial project we now call Chicago. Frankly, I was unfamiliar with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and was surprised when members began contacting me about “an Indigenous perspective” and “de-colonizing” the biennial to clear a space for native voices. Who knew? Since then, I have had the pleasure of making a small contribution to these efforts by consulting with Andrew Herscher, Ana Maria Leon and Paulo Tavares. Now, I am honored with providing a foreword to their document. This is significant – when individuals from distinctly different backgrounds, disciplines, and professions can organize and ally around a theme or issue, common understandings and common ground.

I am a citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians of southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana. I grew up in that community and know that Chicago is a part of our ancestral lands. I had the opportunity to write about our connections to the city in Imprints, The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi & the City of Chicago (Michigan State University Press, 2016). I love Chicago. Our tribal nation is less than one hundred miles from the Loop – we are the closest Native nation to the city. I have fond memories of visiting the city as a child, going to the museums, planetarium, aquarium, and sporting events, including my beloved Bears, Cubs, Bulls, and Blackhawks.  Later, I would earn an MA from the University of Chicago, lived in Hyde Park, Lincoln Park, and Bucktown. I taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University, and finished my dissertation while a scholar in residence at the Newberry Library. Yes, I love Chicago.

Chicago has been ancestral home for many native peoples; Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, Meskwaki, Fox, and others. It didn’t become an urban cosmopolitan place after the settler-colonists arrived. That is a false narrative. It has been a bustling place of interaction, trade, and habitation for thousands of years. But after 1833 and the last treaty of Chicago, American Indians were not expected to be included in “the American dream.” We were cultural patrimony, relics of the past. Modern America had no time for modern Indians. Pokagon Potawatomi author and activist, Simon Pokagon “talked back” to that notion with his oration at the World’s Columbian Exposition and his raising a birch bark tipi on the Midway during that event. Pokagon spoke before 70,000 people on Chicago Day in September of 1893; his booklet “The Red Man’s Greeting” was sold at the Fair and expressed his thoughts about the celebration.

On behalf of my people, the American Indians, I hereby declare to you, the pale-faced race that has usurped our lands and homes, that we have no spirit to celebrate with you the great Columbian Fair now being held in this Chicago city, the wonder of the world. No; sooner would we hold the high joy day over the graves of our departed than to celebrate our own funeral, the discovery of America. And while . . . your hearts in admiration rejoice over the beauty and grandeur of this young republic and you say, ‘behold the wonders wrought by our children in this foreign land,’ do not forget that this success has been at the sacrifice of our homes and a once happy race.

Clearly, it was difficult for him to celebrate this new Chicago. As he rode the Ferris Wheel at the Fair, Pokagon described his thoughts on how the place of his youth had changed.

As we were lifted up a strange sensation came over me, and I thought, the dominant race will yet invent a way for their sinners to reach heaven. For some cause, while our car was at its highest point, the monstrous wheel stood still. My companion said, “Pokagon, it stopped for you to view Chicago.” I surveyed the White City, stretching along the lake beneath me. Then, casting my eyes northward, I surveyed the white man’s Chicago. But how unlike the Chi-Kog-Ong of the red man! The shoreline of the lake, with its fleet of canoes; the marsh and winding river, with flags and rushes fringed, the scattering wigwams and the red men were nowhere to be seen. But in place rose roof o roof, steeples tall, smoking towers and masts of ships as far as eye could see. All had changed, except the sun and sky above, they had not, because the Great Spirit, in his wisdom, hung them beyond the white man’s reach.[i]

In large part, due to the U.S. governments plan of Indian relocation in the 1950’s, a new intertribal Indigenous community has emerged in Chicago. Simon Pokagon’s “talking back” against the erasure of Indigenous presence in Chicago has continued – reflected in the creation of Indigenous monuments including the bricolage at Wilson Avenue under Lakeshore Drive, and the historical marker and naming of “Battle of Fort Dearborn Park”.

Migwetch (thank you) to the authors of this booklet and to the reader as well. It tells an important story about Chicago that you usually don’t learn in school; one that is too often ignored. This little booklet, like Simon Pokagon’s little booklet of 130 years ago, is evidence that things are changing – not only in Chicago but around the world. Indigenous peoples are not just talking back; we are being heard.

[i] Simon Pokagon, “The Chi-Kog-Ong of the Red Man,” The New York Times, The Sunday Magazine, December 5, 1897; 7-10, 10.

Warrior Women

Warrior Women Project

We at Ohio State University – Newark had the opportunity to screen the film Warrior Women on September 19th, and we were joined by Madonna Thunder Hawk, her daughter Marcy Gilbert and the film’s co-producer/Director Beth Castle. The movie is about the American Indian Red Power Movement from it’s inception to today. It focuses on the essential contributions of women, including Madonna and Marcy, to that movement. I was honored to introduce our esteemed guests and secured a photo with Madonna and Marcy during their visit. They are inspiring leaders and I highly recommend the film. It is excellent.

Warrior Women Visit Cropped
L to R: Madonna Thunder Hawk, me, Marcy Gilbert.

Upcoming Exhibit: The Black Ash Baskets of the Potawatomi

Exhibit Opening: The Black Ash Baskets of the Potawatomi

The public is invited to the opening of an exhibit celebrating the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, and their art of black ash basket making. On Friday, September 13 at 4 p.m., the exhibit, “Art & Artifact: Material Culture & Meaning Making – Bodéwadmi Wisgat Gokpenagen, The Black Ash Baskets of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians,” will open at The Ohio State University at Newark in the LeFevre Hall Art Gallery located at 1199 University Drive.

According to exhibit curator John N. Low, PhD, Potawatomi basket making is a reclamation and recovery of a piece of native knowledge and technology, and it represents a potent counter-colonial and counter-hegemonic act with lasting implications. Low is an associate professor of comparative studies at Ohio State Newark and an enrolled citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

“This exhibit reflects an understanding that objects are not lifeless things that occupy space.

They have spirit and meaning,” he said. “Centered upon intellectual and material property, basket weaving is an opportunity for native women and men to make their own histories by using the past to ‘read’ the present.”

The exhibit is sponsored by grants from The Ohio State University Global Arts and Humanities’ Indigenous Arts and Humanities Initiative, American Indian Studies program, Ohio State Newark Milliken Fund and the Newark Earthworks Center. It will be available at Ohio State Newark until December 15.

“This is an opportunity to learn about and enjoy the artistry of American Indian peoples of the Midwest. The exhibit explores the ways in which objects like baskets communicate to those who take the time to ‘listen’,” said Low. “See the iconic black ash basketry of the Potawatomi Indians, and join in the celebration of the revival of this art.”

Low received his PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan. His most recent book, Imprints: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians & the City of Chicago, was published by the Michigan State University Press (2016).

The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.

Insights at Night – The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi at the History Museum in South Bend, IN on July 24th, 7-9PM (RSVP)

SB flyerInsights at Night – The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi (Wednesday, July 24, 2019)

John Low Presents Program on the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi

The History Museum welcomes Dr John N. Low, Associate Professor at The Ohio State University and an enrolled citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, for a presentation at Insights at Night, taking place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24. In his talk, Pokagnek Bodewadmik: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, Dr. Low gives an overview of his tribal nation.

As part of the program, guests may visit the museum’s new exhibit Keepers of the Fire: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. Flavored iced coffees will be offered. Admission is $5/general and $4/members. Reservations are required by July 22 and can be made online at historymuseumSB.org or by calling (574) 235-9664.

For information, call The History Museum at (574) 235-9664 or visit www.historymuseumSB.org

Armour Seminar at the Field Museum, Jun 5th from 12:00PM – 1:00PM

Armour Seminar: Dr. John Low

Event summary

When: Jun 5 12:00PM – 1:00PM See more dates

Location: Field Museum 1400 S Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605

Ticketing: This event is Free

About this event

Hear about a variety of Native American topics from Dr. John Low.

Every week the A. Watson Armour III Research Seminar features invited speakers and their innovative research in natural history and culture.

Enjoy a lecture by Dr. John Low, Associate Professor of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University. A Q&A session will follow.

This event is free to attend, and museum admission is not required. Guests may enter through the West Entrance to join us in the A. Montgomery Ward Lecture Hall on the ground level.

Questions? Contact armourseminars@fieldmuseum.org.

Video from: A Crossroads of Nations Talk, a Spirit and Place event at the Eiteljorg Museum

Video: The Power of Place: The Indigenous Peoples of Northeastern Illinois & The Fox River Valley” Lecture

The Power of Place: The Indigenous Peoples of Northeastern Illinois & The Fox River Valley” Lecture

“The Power of Place: The Indigenous Peoples of Northeastern Illinois; the Fox River Valley”; 11/15/18 at Aurora University (IL)

Lecture: John N. Low, PhD

Thursday, November 15, 2018, 7 p.m.

Aurora Flyer

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.

Chinese scholar visits Pokagon Potawatomi nation

Chinese scholar visits Pokagon Potawatomi nation

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.

More here:

Chinese scholar to visit Pokagon Potawatomi nation

Chinese scholar studying Potawatomi community

Citizen Indigenous || Radcliffe Institute

“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.”

Turtle Talk

Here:

View original post

Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology Occasional Papers

A Native’s Perspective on Trends in Contemporary Archaeology by John N. Low is available in the MCJA Occasional Paper Number 2 – Spring 2018

Cover MAC-Occasional-Papers

You can download the pdf here:
Encounters, Exchange, Entanglements: Current Perspectives on Intercultural Interactions throughout the Western Great Lakes

I Will be Presenting at The 2018 TEDNA Regional Conference on Education Sovereignty and Data on April 11th, 2018

https3a2f2fcdn-evbuc-com2fimages2f387426052f2014160012302f12foriginal

The 2018 TEDNA Regional Conference on Education Sovereignty and Data

TEDNA 2018

 Description

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.

Date and Time

Tue, Apr 10, 2018, 8:00 AM –

Thu, Apr 12, 2018, 5:00 PM EDT

Add to Calendar

Location

Silver Creek Event Center
Four Winds Casino Resort11111 Wilson Rd
New Buffalo, MI 49117

Cost

$25 – $450

Refund Policy

Refunds up to 7 days before event