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

May 2021 Newsletter

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

We hope that you will enjoy GRASAC's monthly newsletter for May! 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:

  • Indigenous Toronto: Stories that Carry This Place, edited by Denise Bolduc, Mnawaate Gordon-Corbiere, Rebeka Tabobondung, and Brian Wright-McLeod
  • Names of the Wendat, by John Steckley
  • Affective Responses to Normalized Violence in Museums, by Stephanie Mach
  • From the GKS: A cloth woman’s beaded hood, by Sheila Wheesk
  • Thanks and Well-Wishes to Olivia White, by Bradley Clements
  • CBC Unreserved podcast about George Bonga
  • Indigenizing the (Art) Museum Virtual Series: Global Curators In-Conversation with Gerald McMaster, from Onsite Gallery at OCAD University and Wapatah Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge
  • Kitchen Table Talk: The Beauty of Beading, from University of Victoria Legacy Art Galleries
  • Museum Ethnographer's Group Conference 2021
  • Invitation to contribute to future GRASAC newsletters

Indigenous Toronto: Stories that Carry This Place
edited by Denise Bolduc, Mnawaate Gordon-Corbiere, Rebeka Tabobondung, and Brian Wright-McLeod

Rich and diverse narratives of Indigenous Toronto, past and present.

Beneath many major North American cities rests a deep foundation of Indigenous history that has been colonized, paved over, and, too often, silenced. Few of its current inhabitants know that Toronto has seen twelve thousand years of uninterrupted Indigenous presence and nationhood in this region, along with a vibrant culture and history that thrives to this day.

With contributions by Indigenous Elders, scholars, journalists, artists, and historians, this unique anthology explores the poles of cultural continuity and settler colonialism that have come to define Toronto as a significant cultural hub and intersection that was also known as a Meeting Place long before European settlers arrived.

Contributors include political scientist Hayden King, artist and curator Wanda Nanibush, chef Johl Whiteduck Ringuette, poet and broadcaster Duke Redbird, playwright Drew Hayden Taylor, educator Kerry Potts, writer/journalist Miles Morrisseau, dancer and scholar Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane, and photographer Nadya Kwandibens.

Names of the Wendat
by John Steckley

I am currently engaged in a project entitled ‘Names of the Wendat’.  So far, I have about 200 such names that I have been able to translate.  It is the logical sequel to my Names of the Wyandot, which should come out in the summer.  One of the more interesting aspects to me is how they faced the challenge of mainstream society imposing patrilineal dominance of names in the 19th century.  What I have found is that although all the surnames are French, with the exception of Sioui, the names of chiefs tended to be family property of such families as Bastien (Sharenhes ‘He has very tall treetops’), Gros-Louis (Shachiendio ‘He has a very great name’), Picard (Taorhenche ‘when day is dawning’), Romain (Tsohahisen ‘One is very close to the path’), Sioui (Hwenhwen ‘Loon’) and Vincent (Tsohahisen ‘One is very close to the path’).  A surprise for me was that one chief, Stanislaus Kotska, who bore the Wendat name Aharatenha ‘He climbed up,’ was named after a sixteenth century Polish Jesuit novice who became a saint.

The Names of the Wyandot book will be published by Rock's Mills Press.  They will be beginning the editing process at the end of this month. Feedback and requests are appreciated:

Affective Responses to Normalized Violence in Museums
by Stephanie Mach

Over the past year, many museums have reflected on their internal structural inequalities. Anthropology museums face the added challenge of addressing the history of anthropological collecting, display, and research. Reflecting on recent protests concerning the Penn Museum’s ownership and use of human remains, I find myself considering the variability of museological encounters, and the diversity of affective responses to everyday museum practices. I share the following vignette to highlight the emotional impacts of normalizing and encouraging the routine handling and display of ancestors whose bodies—“specimens” in the museum—represent historical violence against Black and Brown people, and others. 

Continue Reading
The Daphne Cockwell Gallery dedicates the beaded hood to the First People’s art & culture exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. This women’s cloth beaded hood is an acquisition from the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust.
From the GKS: A cloth woman’s beaded hood
by Sheila Wheesk

Beaded hood
Maker: James Bay Cree
Medium: Wool, cotton, silk, sinew, glass beads
Geography: Hudson Bay Lowlands, Ontario
Date: c. 1850s
Dimensions: 64.5 x 29.5 cm
ROM catalogue number: 2007.41.1.3
Credit Line: This acquisition was made possible by the generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust.
GKS number: 58892
The northern Cree made traditional hoods from animal hide, dyed porcupine quills, caribou hair, and sinew from the earliest of times. Cath Oberholtzer (Brown, Long, and Preston 2016) indicates the James Bay Cree women made hood masterpieces, wore them, and danced in front of their tent’s poles to honour the animal’s spirit so their husbands would have a successful hunt. In time, the Cree women transferred their clothes-making and design expertise onto imported stroud trade cloth, cotton fabrics, glass beads, yarn, and sinew or thread. In this picture of a 19th-century, modern traditional hood, one can visualize its construction (“Woman’s Hood” n.d.). The James Bay Cree women folded the woolen stroud in half and sewed along one edge. They lined it with a cotton fabric and made a tassel of yarn. The tassel at the peak of the hood represents the wearer’s soul, and the design on the hood represents the cosmos. For example, Laura Peers (Brown, Long, and Preston 2016) indicates that many other hoods incorporate three Cree worldview divisions: Earth, Sky, and Water. 
The three panels of this hood are representative of her environment. Ellen Smallboy, of Moose factory, says the Cree words for beaded hood is 'miska studen.’ There are two left and right panels and one panel along the hem. The panel along the hem meets the left and right panels diagonally at the corners. She uses glass beads and sinew to create double-curved, floral motifs such as flower buds and leaves. All flowers are bilaterally symmetrical except for the white-edged flowers, which are radially symmetrical. The artist arranged the leaves along the stems in a fern-like pattern. The stems and leaves create an illusion that the flowers are alive and moving. Contributing to the illusion of movement are the long, free-hanging fringes of blue, brown and white that end in beaded loops at the hem. First Nations have always known of the environment’s animacy, and this hood reflects this understanding.
The art this beaded hood represents showcases the artist’s skills in creating lifelike images. Still, the clothes are not only designed as a sophisticated response to protect the wearer from the elements, but they are also beautifully decorated to show the animal’s spirit that their sacrifice was not a waste of skin. These spiritual considerations for the lifeforce of the animals who gave their lives to clothe people are an ancient tradition that carries into decorating clothing made of imported, manufactured materials. Research shows that only married women wore hoods matched to garments with detachable sleeves and matching capes and leggings. More specifically, Cath Oberholtzer learned through interviews that older James Bay Cree women wore beaded hoods as practical attire (Brown, Long, and Preston 2016). The clothing also represented how well their husbands could provide Hudson Bay trading post material goods. Furthermore, the women in James Bay wore these hoods to church to express their pride and maintain their culture. Therefore, this beautifully beaded 19th-century hood not only represents an artisan’s skill but also represents how Cree women held their worldview during the religious conversion processes of the same period.
More information here
Brown, Jennifer S. H., John Long, and Richard J. Preston, eds. 2016. Together We Survive: Ethnographic Intuitions, Friendships, and Conversations. McGill-Queen’s Native and Northern Series 79. Montreal ; Kingston ; London ; Chicago: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

“Woman’s Hood.” n.d. Royal Ontario Museum Collections. Accessed April 27, 2021.;jsessionid=F9320CC8A82E63DA347B6460170BA8D6.

Invitation to submit a "From the GKS" feature

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

GRASAC items have a comment feature, so once you have logged on to the database and viewed the 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.

Bradley and Haley can both be reached at

Image from Olivia White.
Thanks and Well-Wishes to Olivia White
by Bradley Clements
Olivia White has been a huge help in producing the last seven newsletters as a GRASAC Research Assistant. Now she is going on to a position as an Archives Assistant at the Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County, Ontario. There, she will be will be part of a digitization project to make historical newspapers and taxation records more accessible. Next fall she will be returning to the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto for the final year of her combined Masters in Information and Museum Studies. Olivia reflects that she has appreciated engaging with GRASAC's "extremely important decolonizing and Indigenizing goals, as well as interacting and learning from other GRASAC members. I always felt very welcome." It is with great appreciation for Olivia's contributions to GRASAC that we wish her well in her coming endeavors!
George Bonga, St. Paul, Minnesota, c. 1865, by Charles Zimmerman (MNHS Neg. #94486).
CBC Unreserved podcast about George Bonga

Almost a year ago Sherry Farrell Racette and Cory Willmott researched and wrote an extended article for this newsletter, following several generations of the Bonga family and their legacy in the Great Lakes. Those whose interest was piqued may be interested in an interview between Falen Johnson and Robert Keith Collins about George Bonga that aired last week on CBC.
Listen to the Interview Here
Read GRASAC Article Here
Caption: Square bag with short rectangular flap decorated on one side with quillwork in a geometric design with human figures and edged with metal tubes (detail), Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, Photograph by Dr. Gerald McMaster.
Indigenizing the (Art) Museum Virtual Series: Global Curators In-Conversation with Gerald McMaster
from Onsite Gallery at OCAD University and Wapatah Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge

Each week, The Indigenizing the (Art) Museum series will engage with a different curator from (art) museums around the world. The series was developed as a way to increase Indigenous community and institutional awareness of and involvement in Indigenous-led digital projects, resources, and knowledge building tools, including the Virtual Platform for Indigenous Art.

This series is hosted with Indigenous protocols in mind and with the aim of addressing questions around Indigenous curation, ceremony, and research in digital spaces. Join Wapatah and Onsite Gallery for an engaging conversation that fosters global Indigeneity and sustainable scholarship of Indigenous cultural heritage at OCAD University and beyond. 

Gerald McMaster, O.C., is one of Canada’s most revered and esteemed academics. He is a curator, artist, and author, and is currently professor and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair of Indigenous Visual Culture and Curatorial Practice at OCAD University where he leads a team of researchers at the Wapatah: Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge. He is nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) and a citizen of the Siksika First Nation.

Gerald McMaster In Conversation with Patricia Norby
Thursday, May 6 at 1:00 PM EDT

Patricia Marroquin Norby 
(Purépecha) is the Associate Curator of Native American Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, with a specialization in Native American art history and visual culture, as well as a MFA in printmaking and photography from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Norby also brings extensive teaching experience to The Met, including a position as Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where she taught historical and contemporary Native American art history and culture at graduate and undergraduate levels.

Register here

Gerald McMaster In Conversation with Kathleen Ash-Milby
Thursday, May 13 at 1:00 PM EDT

Kathleen Ash-Milby
 is curator of Native American art at the Portland Art Museum. Previously as associate curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York she organized numerous exhibitions including Transformer: Native Art in Light and Sound, with David Garneau. Ash-Milby was the curator and co-director of the American Indian Community House Gallery in New York City and has published widely on contemporary Native American art, including essays in Art in America, Art Journal, and contributed to and edited numerous exhibition catalogues. A member of the Navajo Nation, she earned her Master of Arts from the University of New Mexico.
Register here

Gerald McMaster In Conversation with John G. Hampton
Thursday, May 20 at 1:00 PM EDT

John G. Hampton
 (they/them or he/him) is a curator, artist, and administrator who joined the MacKenzie team as Director of Programs in October 2018. He holds a Masters of Visual Studies – Curatorial Studies from the University of Toronto, and a BA in Visual Arts from the University of Regina. John is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, the United States, and Canada, and grew up in Regina. In addition to his role at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Hampton holds an adjunct curator appointment at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, adjunct professorship at the University of Regina, and is the co-chair of the Indigenous Curatorial Collective board of directors.
Register here
Kitchen Table Talk: The Beauty of Beading
from University of Victoria Legacy Art Galleries

Join Gregory Scofield, poet, beader and associate professor of Writing at UVic and Sherry Farrell-Racette, artist, curator and associate professor of Visual Arts at the University of Regina as they share stories and images and chat the heck out of beads and bags!

This event offers live captioning. Questions about accessibility can be directed to

The event will take place over Zoom on Thursday, June 3 at 9:00 to 10:00 PM EST / 6:00 to 7:00 PM PDT
Register here
Museum Ethnographer's Group Conference 2021

This year's Museum Ethnographer's Group Conference will be happening virtually on May 6-7, hosted by The Box in Plymouth, UK. During the second day, GRASAC member and On the Wampum Trail researcher Margaret Bruchac will speak with Paula Peters about the search for Metacom's wampum belt in the UK.
Full Program here
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.
View Previous Newsletters
Miigwech, nia:wen, thank you, merci: we hope you have enjoyed these stories!
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