Category Archives: Tradition

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

Canoes at Northwestern University: Humanities Without Walls

NU canoe1Ralph 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.

Humanities Without Walls

Pokagons Collaborate with the Field Museum in Chicago on Native Exhibit

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!

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Pokagons collaborate with Field Museum on native exhibit

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.

Pokagon Pow Wow Memorial Day Weekend

Pokagon Pow Wow Memorial Day Weekend

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.

“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.

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Chinese scholar to visit Pokagon Potawatomi nation

Chinese scholar studying Potawatomi community