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Great Lakes Research Alliance
for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures

January 2021 Newsletter

Aanii!  She:kon!  Yiheh!  Welcome!  Bienvenue!

Welcome to our first newsletter of 2021, featuring exciting things to come. You are invited to share your news and stories in future newsletters - learn how at the end of this issue.

In this newsletter you will find:

  • From the GKS: A Maskekowiyiniwak (Swampy Cree) Doll, by Sheila Wheesk
  • Interview with Lori Beavis, Executive Director of Centre d'art daphne
  • Call for Papers: Collections Focus Issue
  • 2021-2022 Indigenous Community Research Fellowship, from Library & Museum of the American Philosophical Society
  • Exhibition and Virtual Tour: Uprising: The Power of Mother Earth, Christi Belcourt -  A Retrospective with Isaac Murdoch, from McMichael Canadian Art Collection
  • Exhibition and Virtual Tour: Early Days: Indigenous Art at the McMichael, from McMichael Canadian Art Collection
  • Call for Virtual Exhibit Proposals
  • Invitation to contribute to future GRASAC newsletters
Catalogue/Accession Number or Reference: grasac_3398, GKS ID: 77
From the GKS: A Maskekowiyiniwak (Swampy Cree) Doll
by Sheila Wheesk, Swampy Cree, Taykwa Tagamou Nation, M.A. Student, Department of History, University of Toronto, and GRASAC Research Assistant, 2020-2021.

It may come as a surprise to GRASAC members, but at present the GKS holds 150 records of heritage items labelled Cree. One beautiful example is this Maskekowiyiniwak (Swampy Cree) doll, currently housed in the Cuming Museum, in London, England (GKS ID 77).

Like other dolls described by Cath Oberholzter, in “All Dolled Up: The Encapsulated Past of Cree Dolls,” this doll is a stunning example of Maskekowiyiniwak artistry (Oberholtzer 1998).

This doll is Maskekowiyiniwak (Swampy Cree) and was likely made for personal use or as a gift. The Swampy Cree are a large nation that extends across northern Manitoba, northern Ontario and the coastal area around James Bay. This doll was likely from York Factory, writes Sherry Farrell-Racette. The doll’s head is constructed from wood and it is made in the Queen Anne style. The dress is made of hide. The belt is made up of porcupine quills. Also, quills are found wrapped around the tassels. On the bottom of the leggings are braided woollen cords sewn along the cuff. The beads on this doll range in size from 15  to size 10 or 11. Beads are found on the hood and yoke. The beads on the hair ties are the much smaller 15s. The use of negative space on the tassels create the diamond pattern. Other dolls of this period also have a cape which is typical of how the Cree dressed at the time this doll was made.

What is most remarkable about the Cree doll is the technique on the clothing of the doll.  The dress, yoke, hood and leggings reflect how the Maskekowiyiniwak women dressed during the 18th century.  The skills used in the making of the doll show the women’s ingenuity because they were able to combine European materials such as wooden doll heads, beads and fabric with materials collected and prepared from their own environment, such as hide, hair from an animal, and porcupine quills. This doll may be used as a window to the past as the doll is representative of the fashion these women may have worn at the time. The construction of the clothes of the doll may also be typical of the materials and the techniques the women used. The doll is a testament to the Maskekowiyiniwak women’s superior artistic technique. 

As a personal reflection, what is most significant to me is the design found on the bib of the doll. Here the beaded design is rounded, not squared and oriented in an east/west configuration with three small beaded circles centred between two elongated areas above and below. A lodge is configured similarly. It is an elongated structure with its ends oriented in the same east/west configuration with fires positioned down the middle of the lodge where the men sit on one side of the lodge and the women sit on the other. Although the Mide may not have extended as far north at the time this doll was made, the design may indicate that the doll’s maker may have had knowledge of ceremony and may have chosen to represent this knowledge with the doll.

Works Cited:

Oberholtzer, Cath. 1998. "All Dolled Up: The Encapsulated Past of Cree Dolls." Papers of the Twenty-Ninth Algonquian Conference. Winnipeg: Univerity of Manitoba. 225-242.

Farrell-Racette, Sherry. 2020. “Re: From the GKS_A Cree Doll-thoughts and queries?” Email Regina: University of Regina. 27 Nov 2020.

GRASAC items have a comment feature, so once you have logged on to the database and viewed this item, you can share a connection or story.

Forgot your password to the database? Contact our project manager, Haley Bryant, who can reset it for you.

If you have a favourite item you would like to share, or want to recommend a particular item whose story we should tell, please contact our communications assistant, Bradley Clements.

Bradley and Haley can both be reached at

Interview with Lori Beavis, with Closed Captioning
Interview with Lori Beavis, Executive Director of Centre d'art daphne
Conducted by Olivia White

I spoke with Lori Beavis about the origins and goals of Centre d'art daphne
Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyang/Montréal’s first Indigenously determined contemporary artist-run centre. The Centre is named in honour of renowned Odawa-Potawatomi artist Daphne Odjig. The physical space will be opening in January 2021.

Lori discussed the Thanksgiving Address in relation to daphne's intentions to build community relations by gathering over food. Lori also provided a written statement regarding daphne's mandate:

Mission Statement
Centre d’art daphne is a non-profit Indigenous artist-run centre committed to serving the needs of emerging, mid-career, and established Indigenous artists through exhibitions and associated programming, workshops, residencies and curatorial initiatives. daphne encourages a culture of peace through critical, respectful exchange with our Indigenous and non-Indigenous peers and audiences.
Summary of Mandate
Centre d’art daphne is an Indigenous led artist-run centre. We are committed to be a strong component of Montreal’s Indigenous visual arts community. We will be active in the community and support Indigenous groups and initiatives. We will welcome and work with strong allies.
The primary purpose of daphne is to curate exhibitions of visual artwork by First Nation, Inuit and Métis artists at all stages of their career. daphne will focus on, though not exclusively, Québec-based artists as these artists are often left out of national and international conversations on art and art practices. Centre d’art daphne will also act as a gathering place for community members to come together for regularly scheduled events. These events will be workshops for artmaking and bead working, artist talks, film screenings and readings. We will also have feasts throughout the year to mark the changing of the seasons or the solstice, Indigenous People’s Day, and for days of remembrance such as the Annual Women’s Memorial Walk. 
Our mandate as a gallery will be to support artists at all levels of their career. We will create contracts and commit to paying artists and curators fees based on the current year’s CARFAC Fee Schedule. Accordingly, we will pay an honorarium to people giving addresses or prayers at openings; artist talks; and for commissioned writing. It is daphne’s intention to, in time, create curatorial and technician internships so that the next generation of Indigenous cultural workers learn skills and gain the experience to work as professionals in the visual arts.
Part of daphne’s mandate is also to curate lengthy solo exhibitions for the following reasons:  

  • prioritizing 10-12 week solo exhibitions build artists’ practices and careers 
  • the work can be viewed and contextualized and thus create stronger connections to the work
  • lengthier exhibitions open a space for more contemplative public and critical responses
  • solo exhibitions affirm and support both the artist and their work as a milestone that empowers individual First Nation, Inuit and Métis artists as they create work that coalesces with their narrative
  • such exhibitions resist the weight of the commercial gallery and museum’s mandates that too often centralizes the European gaze.

In addition, daphne has recognized how few Indigenous artists, queer artists, and artists of color have a solo exhibition opportunity. Even in 2020, exhibitions with a single artist are much likelier to be devoted to white Euro-American male artists, despite the fact that racialized people are 28 percent of the population. An analysis of major public art galleries by Canadian Art (2015) found that only 11 percent of solo exhibitions were given to non-white artists. At this juncture we need to recognize that the dominant Euro-centric cultural canon, and existing power and class structures are still actively in place. daphne will work constructively to curate and exhibit work by Indigenous artists. daphne’s mandate is to build relationships and community. We will work to increase the visibility and understanding of contemporary Indigenous art within Québec as we also work to increase the visibility of Québec-based Indigenous artists within and outside of the province. 

Call for Papers: Collections Focus Issue - Indigenous Collections: Belongings, Decolonization, Contextualization

Guest Editors:

Victoria Van Orden Martínez, PhD candidate in History, Linköping University, Sweden, and Editorial Board Member of Collections journal

Adriana Muñoz, PhD, Curator at Världskulturmuseet (National Museum of World Culture) in Gothenburg, Sweden

Laura Phillips, PhD candidate in Cultural Studies, Queen’s University, Canada

Nathan Sentance, Project Officer, Cultural Programs, Australian Museum, and contributor to Indigenous Archives Collection

Heather George, PhD candidate in History, University of Waterloo, Canada

Historically, the art and artefacts of Indigenous peoples have been appropriated or neglected by non-Indigenous national institutions. When Indigenous belongings have been placed or incarcerated in such institutions, there often exist and persist fundamental problems relating to issues like ownership and the re-contextualization of these belongings into foreign world views. In recent years, these issues have come to the forefront of discussions on and in scholarship relating to both the reconsideration of existing Indigenous collections and the creation of new ones. This focus issue of Collections aims to highlight Indigenous collections – often referred to in non-Indigenous contexts as ‘art, artefacts and archives’ but equally recognized as belongings and Ancestors by Indigenous peoples – from across the globe and to understand how these collections or populations are being problematized, conceptualized, reconceptualized, created, and reconsidered in different contexts.

Article topics may be related to any aspect of Indigenous collections, including the following:
  • Indigenous conceptions of ownership, rights and archiving/collection practices;
  • Transfers or repatriation/rematriation of Indigenous materials in former (and ongoing) imperial collections;
  • Decolonizing and transforming Indigenous collections in existing non-Indigenous institutions;
  • Creating original concepts of and new sites for Indigenous belongings;
  • Digitizing Indigenous belongings and digitalization practices; considerations and implications;
  • Protocols, sharing, interactions, and rights;
  • Problems, challenges and opportunities related to contextualization/recontextualization;
  • Overall issues and challenges relating to the collection/extraction of Indigenous belongings, such as authority, representation, terminology, practices, etc.
We are particularly interested in proposals that openly grapple with the implications of decolonizing frameworks for extracted collections / populations of Indigenous belongings / Ancestors, especially contributions that work to apply the principles discussed in the framing references below. For this issue, we are seeking articles, essays, and case studies of 2,000-3,000 words (8-12 pages doublespaced, plus notes and references).

Authors should express their interest by submitting a 300-word abstract and any relevant information (such as short bio or pertinent URLs) to the guest editor,, and the journal editor,, by March 1, 2021.

Notification of acceptance will be made by May 1, 2021, with the deadline for submission of final papers of July 1, 2021 through the SAGE online submission portal. Publication is anticipated for volume 17 or 18 with an issue date of 2021/2022. For additional information or to receive samples of the journal, please contact the journal editor, Juilee Decker,

Framing References:

Archibald, Jo-Ann, et al., eds. Decolonizing Research: Indigenous Storywork as Methodology. Zed Books, 2019.

Collections Stewardship: Lexicon Task Force Report 2018, “Words Matter: Lexicon Usage and Indigenous Cultural Belongings” retrieved from, 22 February 2019.

Garneau, David. “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation: Art, Curation, and Healing.” Arts of Engagement: Taking Aesthetic Action In and Beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, edited by Dylan Robinson and Keavy Martin, Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2016, pp. 21–41.

Hunt, Sarah. “Ontologies of Indigeneity: The Politics of Embodying a Concept.” Cultural Geographies 21, no. 1 (2014): 27–32.

Lonetree, Amy. Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.

Morin, Peter. “My Life as a Museum, or, Performing Indigenous Epistemologies.” In Embodied Politics in Visual Autobiography, edited by Sarah Brophy and Janice Hladki, 137–52. Cultural Spaces. University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing, 2014.

OCAP Principles [Ownership, Control, Access, Possession]

Raibmon, Paige. “Provincializing Europe in Canadian History; Or, How to Talk about Relations between Indigenous Peoples and Europeans”,, 24 October, 2018,

Sentance, Nathan. “Archival Decolonist.” Archival Decolonist - blog posts, 2017-2020

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai, Eve Tuck, and K. Wayne Yang. Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education: Mapping the Long View, 2018.

Tuck, Eve, and K Wayne Yang. “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1, no. 1 (2012): 1–40.

Wilson, Jordan. “Gathered Together: Listening to Musqueam Lived Experiences.” Biography 39, no. 3 (2016): 469–94.

Wrightson, Kelsey R. “The Limits of Recognition: The Spirit Sings, Canadian Museums and the Colonial Politics of Recognition.” Museum Anthropology 40, no. 1 (March 2017): 36–51.

Indigenous Community Research Fellowships
from Library & Museum of the American Philosophical Society

The American Philosophical Society (APS)’s Indigenous Community Research Fellowships support research by Indigenous community members, elders, teachers, knowledge keepers, tribal officials, traditional leaders, museum and archive professionals, scholars, and others, regardless of academic background, seeking to examine materials at the APS Library & Museum in support of Indigenous community-based priorities.

This permanent, endowed program awards new fellowships once a year, which may be used by individuals or used to enable a group of researchers to visit the APS in Philadelphia. We encourage any community to apply whose cultural or linguistic heritage is represented in the APS Library & Museum's collections. University-based scholars and independent researchers working on projects in collaboration with Native communities are also eligible to apply. Such applicants are expected to provide letters of support from relevant tribal entities or community members. Indigenous community members are not required to go through or work with third parties such as university-affiliated individuals or consulting firms to access APS collections.  

Funding is limited and competitive.  Applications will be evaluated based upon the applicant’s demonstrated need to use APS Library & Museum resources to advance the project. Normally, funds must be used within one year of receipt of the award, but given travel restrictions and safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, awardees during this cycle may put off determining their travel dates until safe conditions for travel and research are in place again. 

Archivists at the APS’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR) will assist fellowship recipients with research support before and during the research visit. CNAIR focuses on helping Indigenous communities and scholars to discover and utilize the APS collection in innovative ways. The APS collections consist of a vast amount of archival materials, from 1553 to 2020, including manuscript materials, audio recordings, maps, and photographs, relating to over 650 Indigenous cultures, predominantly from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The Indigenous Subject Guide provides extensive information on these materials. 

Note: Indigenous community-based researchers are not required to receive a fellowship in order to access the APS collections in person or through online requests. CNAIR archivists can be contacted at any time for assistance with finding and accessing materials, which can be digitized for free when in support of Indigenous community-based initiatives.

Deadline: March 5, 2021 at 11:59pm EST

More information here
Image from McMichael Canadian Art Collection's website
Exhibition and Virtual Tour: Uprising: The Power of Mother Earth
Christi Belcourt -  A Retrospective with Isaac Murdoch

from McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Uprising: The Power of Mother Earth, co-produced by the Thunder Bay Art Gallery and Carleton University Art Gallery, is the first retrospective of Christi Belcourt’s work, and spans more than twenty-five years of her art-making career. The exhibition traces her practice from its beginnings in the early 1990s to the present, and concludes with recent works made collaboratively with Isaac Murdoch, an Anishinaabe knowledge keeper and emerging visual artist. Uprising: The Power of Mother Earth brings together more than thirty major Belcourt paintings on loan from numerous private and public collections including National Gallery of Canada, Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, Art Gallery of Ontario, Canadian Museum of History, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. The exhibition also includes a selection of Murdoch’s iconic works, which have been featured prominently on the front lines of the Indigenous resistance movement against resource extraction. Together, these two artists produce powerful images that champion the restoration of balance between all living beings and the natural world, reflecting the deep traditions of Indigenous culture.

Exhibition on from October 24, 2020 – January 24, 2021

More information here
About the Virtual Tour
Mondays, Fridays (Jan. 8, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29) at 12:30-1:30 pm EST

Join a McMichael Docent on a journey through 25 years of Christi Belcourt’s artwork in this new, interactive virtual presentation exploring the special exhibition Uprising: The Power of Mother Earth.

This free tour provides visitors with the opportunity to examine the artwork featured in the McMichael’s latest special exhibition while remaining safely social distanced in the comfort of their own homes. Each virtual 60-minute tour will be limited to 30 participants to allow for questions and discussion, so please register to ensure your spot.

Register here
Image from McMichael Canadian Art Collection's website
Exhibition and Virtual Tour: Early Days: Indigenous Art at the McMichael
from McMichael Canadian Art Collection

From its beginnings, the McMichael has had a long and proud history of collecting Indigenous art, now with more than 1,500 works ranging from eighteenth-century ceremonial regalia, through to items made for trade with settlers, to works by the vanguard of artists coming of age in the ’60s, 70s and 80s — among them Robert Houle, Carl Beam, Norval Morrisseau, Alex Janvier, Greg Staats, Faye HeavyShield and Shelly Niro — and onward to leading contemporary artists like Kent Monkman, Meryl McMaster and Rebecca Belmore. The McMichael also holds the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op’s landmark collection of original drawings from Cape Dorset (Kinngait) dating back to the 1950s, to be displayed alongside our deep holdings in Inuit drawings, prints, textiles, and sculpture. Early Days: Indigenous Art at the McMichael will gather the remarkable artworks together, and the stories that go with them, in an eight-month celebration of these powerful legacies. The show will also include recent acquisitions reflecting the diversity and vitality of Indigenous art in Canada today.

Exhibition on from November 28, 2020 – June 6, 2021
More information here
About the Virtual Tour
Tuesdays (Jan. 5, 12, 19, 26) at 12:30-1:30 pm EST

Follow along with a McMichael Docent to learn about the gallery’s long and proud history of collecting Indigenous art and the stories that go with them. With works ranging from eighteenth-century ceremonial regalia, through to items made for trade with settlers, to works by the vanguard of artists coming of age in the 60s, 70s and 80s —The interactive presentation will also include recent acquisitions reflecting the diversity and vitality of Indigenous art in Canada today.

This free tour provides visitors with the opportunity to examine the artwork featured in the McMichael’s latest special exhibition while remaining safely social distanced in the comfort of their own homes. Each virtual 60-minute tour will be limited to 30 participants to allow for questions and discussion, so please register to ensure your spot.

Register here

Call for Virtual Exhibit Proposals

Virtual exhibits can provide context and new ways of understanding GKS items and their relationships, and can share research in accessible, exciting ways. As GRASAC works to engage with and develop resources for broader audiences, members are invited to make virtual exhibit proposals using items from the GKS. 

If you have an idea for a virtual exhibit please identify the GKS item(s) you are interested in with a short description of the topic in an email to There is no deadline for proposals, they will be considered on a rolling basis. Accepted virtual exhibits will be hosted on and web development will be provided.

GRASAC Virtual Exhibitions
Invitation to contribute to future GRASAC newsletters

We are accepting submissions for inclusion in GRASAC’s monthly newsletter. Any submissions related to GRASAC and the interests of members are encouraged! Submission suggestions include GRASAC member news, community happenings and events, exhibition reviews and announcements, calls for papers from relevant journals or conferences, grant opportunities and programs, GKS object highlights and stories, and bios of GRASAC-associated Elders, members, and RAs.

Your submission can be in text, image, or video form, or in the form of links to other accessible platforms. Submission deadlines are the 25th day of each month. Submissions received on or before the 25th will be sent out on the 1st day of the following month.  Please contact Bradley Clements (GRASAC research assistant) at for further information and to submit materials.

This newsletter is compiled and edited by Olivia White and Bradley Clements, GRASAC research assistants.
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