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

December 2020 Newsletter

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

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

  • Improving Remote Visual Access to Museum Collections, by Laura Peers
  • Doodem and Council Fire: Anishinaabe Governance through Alliance by Heidi Bohaker, from University of Toronto Press
  • From the GKS: A Tuscarora Hat, by Olivia White
  • TODAY: Save the Evidence Giving Tuesday Fundraiser, from Woodland Cultural Centre
  • Join the Sustaining and Advancing Indigenous Cultures Council, from ATALM
  • Exhibition and Virtual Q & A: Witness Blanket, from Woodland Cultural Centre
  • Exhibition and Virtual Tour: Anong Migwans Beam, from Campbell House
  • Virtual Panel: Data & Sovereignty: Resisting Colonial Logics For Racial Justice, from McMaster University Library
  • Call for Virtual Exhibit Proposals
  • Invitation to contribute to future GRASAC newsletters
Image caption: PRM 1952.5.010, GKS ID 26151. Bag constructed of quilled strips, Shirley Collection. Courtesy Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.

Improving Remote Visual Access to Museum Collections
by Laura Peers

Visiting Indigenous collections held overseas/at a distance is difficult, especially during COVID. Adding multiple, detailed photographs to GKS entries has improved remote visual access significantly.  My current research aims to make visual access even better by bringing Indigenous artists who work with images of historic items, or who want live video visits with collections, into conversation with museum staff who provide images and video.

Engaging in dialogue is crucial for artists to direct photography to provide useful images, and for museums to answer Indigenous research questions. Dialogue will also enable us to enhance live video visits with collections and make such sessions a regular feature of museum offerings.

I’m honoured that Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario has selected me as an Isabel Bader Fellow in Textile Conservation and Research for 2021 to support this work. I’ll be focusing on quillwork, but will be having conversations with people doing great video teaching on other media, museums doing online collections visits, and Indigenous artists who work with images of historic items in museum collections. There’ll be a Slack space for sharing tips, examples of great projects, and collaboration. If you’re interested, please contact:

Image from the University of Toronto Press.
Doodem and Council Fire: Anishinaabe Governance through Alliance by Heidi Bohaker
from University of Toronto Press

Combining socio-legal and ethnohistorical studies, this book presents the history of doodem, or clan identification markings, left by Anishinaabe on treaties and other legal documents from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. These doodems reflected fundamental principles behind Anishinaabe governance that were often ignored by Europeans, who referred to Indigenous polities in terms of tribe, nation, band, or village – classifications that failed to fully encompass longstanding cultural traditions of political authority within Anishinaabe society.

Making creative use of natural history, treaty pictographs, and the Ojibwe language as an analytical tool, Doodem and Council Fire delivers groundbreaking insights into Anishinaabe law. The author asks not only what these doodem markings indicate, but what they may also reveal through their exclusions. The book also outlines the continuities, changes, and innovations in Anishinaabe governance through the concept of council fires and the alliances between them. Original and path-breaking, Doodem and Council Fire offers a fresh approach to Indigenous history, presenting a new interpretation grounded in a deep understanding of the nuances and distinctiveness of Anishinaabe culture and Indigenous traditions.

The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History has selected Doodem and Council Fire as its members book for 2020. Members of the Osgoode Society will receive a free copy of the book.

Purchase Doodem and Council Fire here
Caption from the GKS: Hat, made before 1840. Circumference: 56cm. Collected by Lewis Henry Morgan in the 1840s and transferred to the museum in 1970. Catalogue/Accession Number or Reference: 70.89.26. GKS Record ID: 45226
From the GKS: A Tuscarora Hat
by Olivia White

This beaded hat is in the Lewis Henry Morgan Collection at the Rochester Museum and Science Center in New York. According to the GKS, this hat was made before 1840 and is attributed to the Tuscarora Nation. It is constructed of one piece of velvet gathered at the top, with beaded panels attached around the rim decorated with a feather motif, and lined with cotton.  

The GKS describes that the front of the hat has a separate lobed panel that is stiffened with cardboard in between the front and back layers, with wool tape sewn as a tassel on the top. The multi-coloured, lightly raised glass beadwork around the rim consists of fancy beads and tubular faceted beads, creating a stunning group of feathers with green, yellow, red/orange and blue tips. Personally, I enjoy how the combination of colours in the beadwork complements the deep purple velvet. Likewise, the blue and red/orange fabric around the rim is beautiful.

The 2016 team who compiled information on this hat consisted of Wahsontiio Cross, Kate Higginson, Alexandra Nahwegahbow, Melissa Otis, Ruth Phillips and Paula Whitlow, assisted by Jamie Jacobs and Kathryn Murano.

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

Image from the Woodland Cultural Centre.

Save the Evidence Giving Tuesday Fundraiser
from Woodland Cultural Centre

Woodland Cultural Centre is looking for community support this Giving Tuesday December 1, 2020 to help with the final phase of construction at the former Mohawk Institute Residential School and has announced a special contest.

The Save the Evidence team at WCC has released an update on the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence campaign as they work to complete Phase 2, which is the bricks and mortar restoration. Phase 1 saw the condemned site undergo a major restoration of its roof, HVAC, removal of hazardous materials, foundation restoration, floors, electrical, drywall, some historic windows replacement and much more.

The total budget for the physical restoration of the Mohawk Institute Residential School building is $23.5 million. The team is eager to complete fundraising for Phase 2 of the project which includes external masonry restoration, remaining window and important accessibility features. The Woodland Cultural Centre needs to raise an additional $75,000 to complete their $500,000 goal for Phase 2.

December 1, 2020 is Giving Tuesday. It is a great way to support the campaign this year. Not only has a special Donor offered to MATCH donations that come in on Giving Tuesday, but everyone who makes a donation on this day will be entered into a draw to be the first person taken on an in person tour of the renovations thus far.

This year your donations to the Save the Evidence campaign can be twice as powerful. As part of the December 1st, Giving Tuesday campaign Woodland Cultural Centre announced the support of the Dufresne-Ray Fund at Hamilton Community Foundation, who will match donations for that day. Community support like this is so vital for the success of the campaign, and when everyone works together we can achieve so much more.

“We believe in bringing this important national restoration project to fruition and hope many people are inspired to contribute.” Dufresne-Ray Family

Every dollar raised is an expression of community trust and allows them to join us on a path of reconciliation. Your donations on December 1 will be matched, and give you the chance to win the personal tour. 

Learn more and donate here

Join the Sustaining and Advancing Indigenous Cultures Council
from ATALM

With funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums is launching a strategic planning initiative to develop a unified approach for strengthening indigenous cultural institutions.  

The project will be led by a National Strategic Planning Council that will oversee the development of needs assessment surveys, national Planning Summits, public meetings, and the development of a report on Sustaining and Advancing Indigenous Cultures. 

If you are a subject area expert in any of the following, please consider joining the National Strategic Planning Council:

  1. Archives and Records
  2. Digital Inclusion Needs of Native Communities
  3. Historic Preservation and Repatriation
  4. Libraries
  5. Museums and Cultural Centers
  6. Native Language Programs and the Role of Cultural Institutions
  7. Native Artists and the Role of Cultural Institutions

Specialists in the following areas are also sought:

  1. Relationships Between Native and Non-Native Collecting Institutions
  2. Oral History Programs
  3. Federal Support for Indigenous Cultural Institutions
  4. International Repatriation

The Planning Council will become an Action Council at the conclusion of the strategic planning activities and will work to implement the recommendations in the Report.

To join the Planning Council, please complete this form:

To register for one of the seven Planning Summits, complete this form:

As we all can agree, 2020 has been a challenging time.  It is our hope that we can all work together to build a brighter future.  Thank you for your consideration.


Walter Echo-Hawk, Chairman of the Board
Susan Feller, President & CEO
Melissa Brodt, Director of Programs
Samonia Byford, Treasurer
Jim Enote, Governing Board
Kevin Gover, Governing Board
Rick West, Governing Board

Image from the Woodland Cultural Centre, featuring the artwork of Carey Newman.
Exhibition and Virtual Q & A: Witness Blanket
from Woodland Cultural Centre

Inspired by a woven blanket, the Witness Blanket is a large scale art installation, made by Carey Newman out of hundreds of items reclaimed from Residential Schools, churches, government buildings and traditional and cultural structures including Friendship Centres, band offices, treatment centres and universities, from across Canada. The Witness Blanket stands as a national monument to recognise the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era, honour the children, and symbolize ongoing reconciliation.

Exhibition begins December 12, 2020 at 8 am - February 26, 2021 at 5 pm EST

On December 13, 2020 at 7 pm EST, there will be a virtual screening of the Witness Blanket film and a live Q & A and Artist Talk with Carey Newman.

Learn more and register here
Anong Migwans Beam at Campbell House – Curator's Walk-Through and Artist's Response. Video from the Campbell House Museum YouTube channel.
Exhibition and Virtual Tour: Anong Migwans Beam
from Campbell House

A virtual exhibit walk-through by guest curator, Elka Weinstein, followed by a question and answer period with the artist, Anong Migwans Beam, is available to view here.

Campbell House Museum is pleased to welcome Ojibwe artist Anong Migwans Beam in a solo exhibit of her large-format oil paintings and watercolour studies. In these paintings, she explores themes that have emerged in her work over the past two years:

“Looking at my life, and with my mother entering Alzheimer’s, I have been painting memories. My practice has always centred around water and how it holds and contains us, and is a silent witness again and again to all events, constantly renewed and present in us, as it was for our ancestors.”

Anong was born to artist parents, Carl Beam and Ann Beam, who encouraged her to develop as an artist. She was raised with a meaningful connection to both her artistic family roots and her rich ancestral heritage. This exhibit presents the first series of paintings where the artist has produced work using her own handmade oil paints:

“There is an incredible circuity to making paint from rocks from Bay Fine near Killarney, then painting that same scene with those rocks that are now paint! Each image that I make I feel and I fall immersed in the history of painting, learning devices from those who have already travelled this path.”

The works will be displayed throughout the heritage spaces of Campbell House. Although Anong Beam practises her art in a somewhat isolated place, on Manitoulin Island, her perception and vision reflect the contemporary art world and incorporate elements of daily life. Bringing her work into a historic house museum in downtown Toronto precipitates the contrast of rural and remote with the urban and immediate. By sparking a conversation about contemporary art through the lens of an artist from M’Chigeeng First Nation, the exhibit expands upon a much bigger story of colonialism and of the rural-urban divide of art in Ontario. 

The exhibit is guest-curated by Elka Weinstein, Vice-President of ICOM Canada, Past President of the Board of Directors of the John B. Aird Gallery, and former Director/Curator Campbell House Museum. The artist created these works with the support of an Indigenous Artists grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

Exhibition on now at Campbell House from November 3 – December 19, 2020
More information here
Image from McMaster University Library.

Virtual Panel: Data & Sovereignty: Resisting Colonial Logics For Racial Justice
from McMaster University Library

Recent attentions to the collection, use, dissemination, ownership, and impacts of demographic data have convened several historical contradictions, resurfacing the contours of the false promise of equity from quantitative data collection. COVID-19 has positioned a number of initiatives that claim to address injustice and inequities in health or elsewhere though data collection often without the needs of those mined for data at the centre of these conversations. Regularly, these data are on or about Black, First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Latinx, Asian, South Asian, Caribbean, and other non-white groups, people living with mental health issues, disabilities, those who are houseless or underhoused, low-income, people living with substance use needs, and 2SLGBTQ+ populations while also collecting information on gender. These initiatives that collect and do not deliver have not gone uncontested.

This is a virtual event on Thursday, December 3, 2-4 pm EST.

Learn more and 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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Miigwech, nia:wen, thank you, merci: we hope you have enjoyed these stories!
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