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

March 2020 Newsletter

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

We are excited to share our first GRASAC newsletter with you!  This aims to be a monthly newsletter by and for all GRASAC members and you are encouraged to share your GRASAC news here (see the invitation to contribute below).

In this newsletter you will find:
  • GRASAC Partnership Grant Workshop at Rama First Nation, by Haley Bryant
  • Renewing (official) relationships, by Laura Peers
  • Interview with Ruth Phillips upon her retirement, by Bradley Clements
  • In search of wampum in England, by Margaret Bruchac
  • Professor Heather Howard wins national grant, by the Whiting Foundation
  • Congratulations to Alan Corbiere on defending his PhD and joining the faculty at York University
  • Call for Papers, from Cara Krmpotich
  • Indigenous Collections Symposium
  • Invitation to contribute to future GRASAC newsletters
Photo credit Haley Bryant
GRASAC Partnership Grant Workshop at Rama First Nation
by Haley Bryant

From May 26th to May 29th of 2019, GRASAC members and guests gathered together at the Black River Wilderness Park on the Rama First Nation for the GRASAC Partnership Grant Workshop. The meeting, which consisted of two full days of discussions and activities, had a particular focus on archival work, digitization, and digital initiatives. Invited guests included Dr. Diana Marsh from The Smithsonian Institution’s National Anthropological Archives, Dr. Ricardo Punzalan from the University of Maryland, Dr. Michelle Caswell from the University of California, Los Angeles, and Dr. Wendy Duff from the University of Toronto. The first day of the workshop centered the work of these archival scholars who led discussions about the personal impact of archival work, how to measure the impact of the kind of work GRASAC members do in terms familiar to granting agencies, and the special forms of responsibility that come with digital heritage projects. On day two of the workshop GRASAC member Dr. Heidi Bohaker of the University of Toronto led discussions about the future of the GRASAC Knowledge Sharing Tool (GKS) which included presentations by a group of undergraduate user experience design scholars from the Jackman Institute for the Humanities at the University of Toronto and several brainstorming sessions. The workshop participants are grateful to Seanna Savoie and the Chippewas of Rama First Nation for the opportunity to spend time on the beautiful Black River Wilderness camp grounds and to Tami Lamb and Cornucopia Catering for providing the delicious food.
Renewing (official) relationships
by Laura Peers


Dr. Laura Peers is in the process of contacting all institutional partners from whom GRASAC hosts data and images on the GKS. As we move into a phase of renewal for the GKS, it’s a good moment to ensure that we have institutional permissions to continue to include information and images and to touch base with our research partners who have helped to make the GKS the amazing comprehensive resource that it is. Some institutions wish to arrange a formal Memorandum of Understanding; others have gone open source and don’t need a written agreement; others are somewhere in between. We are happy to work with each institution to ensure that we have the solution that suits you.

Institutional partners are also indicating that they wish to have feedback and advice on collections. This seems especially important in the UK where the museum profession is working to consider colonial legacies and restitution: UK museums are looking to reach out to GRASAC members which is good for all of us! This process that looks like bureaucracy is—like everything else GRASAC—about strengthening relationships.

Click here to view the video interview with Dr. Ruth Phillips on YouTube.
Interview with Ruth Phillips upon her retirement
by Bradley Clements

Congratulations to Dr. Ruth Phillips, GRASAC co-founder, on her retirement and amazing career!  To celebrate, GRASAC research assistant Bradley Clements sat down with Dr. Phillips for an interview about her reflections on the past and hopes for the future.
Margaret Bruchac with a zig-zag wampum belt (#Am1931-.12, possibly Lenape) at the British Museum.  Photo credit Margaret Bruchac.
In search of wampum in England
by Margaret Bruchac


In December 2019, with support from Arts Council England (ACE), Dr. Margaret Bruchac and Dr. Laura Peers travelled to the British Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum, Saffron Walden Museum, Canterbury Cathedral, Horniman Museum, and Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to survey surviving collections of historic wampum. ACE is collaborating with Wampanoag people from Mashpee and Aquinnah, through the organization Smoke Sygnals, to develop events to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage. The Wampanoag have long been in search of Metacom’s (King Philip’s) wampum regalia taken in 1676, and ACE wanted to ensure a thorough search in British museums. North American Indigenous collections in England are not well catalogued, and some of the most significant items in royal repositories may have been lost in London fires. Yet, some remarkable examples of early materials survive.

Margaret Bruchac and Laura Peers with double calumet wampum belt (#1896.7.7, possibly Wyandot) at the Pitt Rivers Museum.  Photo credit Margaret Bruchac.
While we have not yet found Wampanoag wampum, we have created a better inventory of surviving wampum in England as the basis for future research with other Indigenous nations, and hope to facilitate their re-connections with heritage objects in English museums. Preliminary reports on this research can be found on the Wampum Trail Facebook page. Peers and Bruchac are also planning a symposium to bring together Indigenous knowledge-keepers and UK museum professionals to discuss wampum history, materiality, and artistry.
Laura Peers with a quilled girdle (Bargrave collection, possibly Cree) at Canterbury Cathedral.  Photo credit Margaret Bruchac.
An unfinished quill box used for teaching and demonstration, made by Yvonne Walker Keshick using all natural quills.  Image courtesy of MSU Museum collections, ID 2017:24.1. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong.
Professor Heather Howard wins national grant for a new digital portal for Waganakising porcupine quillwork and other heritage
by the Whiting Foundation

Heather Howard, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Michigan State University, will receive a $50,000 Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship to support the collaborative development of a digital portal for the heritage of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa (LTBB) in Northern Michigan, traditionally known as the Waganakising Odawak. Building on digitization work undertaken by the Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures (GRASAC) and led by Tribal members, the new portal will initially focus on porcupine quillwork and its meanings, supporting the perpetuation of this art for a new generation of Tribal members and opening a window onto Tribal ways of life for non-Indigenous neighbors.
Image credit Manitoulin Expositor.
Congratulations to Alan Corbiere on defending his PhD and joining the faculty at York University

GRASAC member Dr. Alan Corbiere defended his doctoral dissertation in September 2019, was hired as a tenure-track associate professor at York University in February 2020, and is applying for a Canada Research Chair position!  Read more about Dr. Corbiere's journey by clicking on the link below:
Full story in the Manitoulin Expositor

Call for Papers (due April 5, 2020)
from Cara Krmpotich, Margaret Bruchac, Heidi Bohaker, and Alan Corbiere

Research as Alliance: Recovering Great Lakes Heritage in the Dish With One Spoon Territory

Book Editors: Margaret Bruchac, Cara Krmpotich

Academic Journal Editors: Heidi Bohaker, Alan Corbiere


The Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures (GRASAC) has long been focused on the challenge of developing innovative research with and for (rather than merely about) Indigenous communities. As a research alliance of university-based, museum-based, and community-based scholars, we navigate important questions of intellectual property, sovereignty, ethical engagement, and reconciliation.

We are currently developing, and requesting contributions to, two new publications: a peer-reviewed edited book focused on collaborative methodologies and research as alliance; and a special academic journal issue focused on members’ research findings. In both, we hope to demonstrate how Indigenous/non-Indigenous alliances can fundamentally shift how we create, govern, share and create knowledge in museums, in universities, and in communities.

The Great Lakes region presents a complex arena for studying alliances, sovereignty, heritage, and knowledge. It has long been a multi-national sphere with distinct cultural and political systems among Indigenous nations (Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat) and between Indigenous and settler nations (France, Britain, Canada, United States). GRASAC's work, which began with surveys of displaced cultural heritage objects in North American and European museums, has always been imagined as recuperative or restorative, rooted in a desire to restore relations between Indigenous knowledges, people, and heritage items. “Reunification” was the earlier term; the terms “recuperative” and “restorative” reflect more recent Indigenous and allied scholarship. In many of our articles and books published in the 1990s and 2000s, we aimed to both study and reunite Indigenous heritage items dispersed globally in museums and archives. Much of that work was focused on correcting errors in historical records, art historical representations, museological categories, and anthropological interpretations.

What we seek now is to collect and share articles that talk and teach about strategies and methods. How can we encourage researchers to more broadly Indigenize and decolonize disciplines and knowledge? How can we center heritage relations, digital sovereignty, economic equity, and environmental sustainability within our research programs? How can we extend these values, which originate in our research with Indigenous communities, to science, social science, and humanities research programs broadly? We hope to address more than merely an Indigenous-settler binary; we hope to model ways to contend with the sovereignties and localized knowledges of multiple Indigenous nations situated around the Great Lakes, and the sometimes idiosyncratic and incommensurable knowledge practices within museums, universities, and communities. We are particularly interested in sharing insights into interdisciplinary and collaborative research methodologies that can put Indigenous and non-Indigenous histories and intellectual traditions into conversation, by weaving together historical research (for example, on treaties, alliances and political expression), heritage research (on displaced objects far from home), and emerging research from museum studies, information, education, and digital humanities.

All proposals are welcomed, especially those that highlight collaborative scholarship with Indigenous youth, artists, and communities. Suggested length for articles, essays, or case studies is 6000 to 9000 words including references and endnotes. Shorter submissions in written form – such as poetry, narrative, art exhibition review, etc. – will also be considered.

Directions for Potential Contributors:

For the edited book on collaborative methodologies, send your proposed article title and abstract (maximum 300 words) to editors Margaret Bruchac at and Cara Krmpotich at by April 5, 2020.

For the academic journal highlighting GRASAC members' research findings, send your proposed article title and abstract (maximum 300 words) to editors Heidi Bohaker at and Alan Corbiere at by April 5, 2020.

If you are not certain which publication is the best fit for your work, please feel free to submit your proposal to both sets of editors. Notification of acceptance will be conveyed by April 25, 2020.

Invited contributors will be encouraged to attend an expenses-paid writers’ retreat hosted by GRASAC in collaboration with Indigenous community members in Nbissing (Nipissing) Territory, Ontario between June 14-16, 2020.

Indigenous Collections Symposium

The Ontario Museums Association Indigenous Collections Symposium 2020: Mashkawatgong-mamawewiziwin – strengthening our bonds, sharing our practices is coming up on
March 25-26, 2020.

Information and registration 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.
Miigwech, nia:wen, thank you, merci: we hope you have enjoyed these stories!
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