View this email in your browser
Great Lakes Research Alliance
for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures

September 2020 Newsletter

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

We hope that you will enjoy GRASAC's monthly newsletter for September! In this issue we are excited to share the first of a new newsletter feature called From the GKS. If you would like to share your research on GKS (GRASAC Knowledge Sharing System) items with fellow GRASAC members and beyond, consider contributing to future From the GKS features, or a virtual exhibit in response to the call for proposals below.

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:
  • NEW FEATURE: From the GKS, Heidi Bohaker
  • Welcoming a New GRASAC Member: Ricky Punzalan
  • Volunteers sought for GRASAC Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, Cara Krmpotich
  • Call for Virtual Exhibit Proposals
  • Powwow: A Celebration Through Song and Dance, Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane
  • Recent articles: An Historical Anniversary and an Important Court Case, Karl Hele
  • Reclaiming the Ancestors: Indigenous and Black Perspectives on Repatriation, Human Rights, and Justice (Webinar), Wenner-Gren Foundation
  • A Culture of Exploitation: “Reconciliation” and the Institutions of Canadian Art (Report), Yellowhead Institute
  • Invitation to contribute to future GRASAC newsletters
Quillwork box by Josette Debassige (image from GKS).

A New Feature: From the GKS
Heidi Bohaker

In this issue, and in memory of M’Chigeeng Elder and long-time GRASAC member and advisor Lewis Debassige, a gaawyekaajgan or quilled box made by Lewis’ mother Josette Debassige.

The box is in the collections of Royal Ontario Museum (accession number 2001.168.1111, 1 and 2) and was visited by a GRASAC team of Lewis Debassige along with Alan Corbiere, Trudy Nicks, Stacey Loyer, Anne De Stecher, Ruth Phillips, Cory Willmott, Darlene Johnston and  Heidi Bohaker in December of 2008.  The museum records indicate that the original collector bought the box in 1974, but Lewis felt she had made it before that, possibly sometime in the 1960s. According to Lewis, his mother put the turtle on this piece because “she just liked the little animals.” This box is beautifully made.  The record description notes that it “is a round box with lid, top and sides covered with natural quills with turtle motif in centre. Bundled sweet grass sewn around bottom of lid. Lined with thin pieces of birchbark.” This record can be found in the GKS using this link with your login:  Linked to this record is a photo of Josette holding three of her baskets, now in the collections of the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation.  Four Anishinaabemowin words and phrases from Mary Ann Corbiere and Rand Valentine’s Dictionary of Anishinaabemowin are also linked to this quillbox: gaawyekaajgan (a quill box), gaawyike (do quillwork); gaawye (quill of a porcupine) and the verb gsingwaadzi (to do something commendable) with the example provided by Mary Ann Corbiere: Gesnaa gsingwaadzi wa kwezens gaawyeket. Is that girl ever doing a commendable thing doing quillwork.  And indeed, Josette Debassige and her son both did very commendable work.

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

Quillwork box by Josette Debassige (image from GKS).
Welcoming a New GRASAC Member: Ricky Punzalan

We at GRASAC extend an enthusiastic welcome to our newest member, Ricky Punzalan! He has graciously provided the following profile as an introduction.
(Image from Ricky Punzalan)
Ricardo “Ricky” Punzalan
Associate Professor
University of Michigan School of Information
Ricky teaches and researches in the areas of archives and digital curation. His involvement in GRASAC stems from his belief that archives and legacy research data must not only advance academic research, but also contribute to the wellbeing of communities. His research foregrounds critical challenges faced by underserved and Indigenous communities, and has worked to create dialogue between Indigenous communities and cultural institutions. To do this work, he designs and carries out community-based, participatory research projects, which incorporate the perspectives of cultural heritage stakeholders beyond academic researchers, including Indigenous communities, scholars, and cultural heritage professionals. 
At the University of Michigan, Ricky partners with three repositories: the Bentley Historical Library, the Special Collections Research Center, and the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology. With these collections, he works to develop ethical and culturally-informed plans for shared stewardship, including practices and protocols for responsible digital repatriation ethical access. The University has a sizeable collection of archives and artefacts from the Philippines gathered when the county was under U.S. colonial administration between 1898 to 1946. Among this is the archives of Dean C. Worcester (1866–1924), a Michigan alumnus and professor who later became a colonial administrator in the Philippines. The collections at Michigan are far removed from the communities that need them the most, and a significant portion of the materials contains culturally-sensitive information that cannot be shared widely or without appropriate and reasonable restrictions. Nevertheless, there is a high demand to access the materials by Philippine studies scholars and Indigenous Filipinos. Ricky is making strides to bring those collections, the institutions that steward them, and members of Filipino diaspora communities, to engage in meaningful conversations that lead to tangible actions. 
Ricky hopes that through his participation in GRASAC, he will be able to engage in a wider conversation on the presence of Indigenous Philippine materials in the Great Lakes region. The concept of “shared stewardship,” actions that institutions can take to provide reciprocal and reparative access to cultural collections, has grown in interest within the archival community in the last decade. Developing a better understanding of shared stewardship requires understanding questions about ownership of traditional knowledge, the historical development and origins of collections, collection management expertise, and community input. This complex array of perspectives demands participation of various voices, from scholars of different areas and community voices, which need to come into conversation and share knowledge. 

Volunteers sought for GRASAC Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy
Cara Krmpotich

In 2020-21, GRASAC is taking steps to ensure its commitment to decolonization is felt throughout all aspects of our Alliance: from governance to resource and budget models, from climate impact of research to creating solidarities with racialized communities living in the Great Lakes. 

We are seeking volunteers (1 to 3 people) from GRASAC's membership to help us craft a working Equity, Diversity and Inclusion document that identifies short, mid-range and long-term goals for us as an Alliance. The document will then become a site for members to discuss, critique, articulate our collective values and commitments. This dialogue and resulting EDI strategy will also serve as a platform for GRASAC's Steering Committee and leadership to engage in an anti-racism workshop with Tomee Sojourner in 2021. The workshop will help us ensure that all aspects of our Alliance (not only members' excellent research and heritage work!!) uphold Indigenous sovereignty, and work against colonialism and systemic racism.

Members interested in volunteering can email Cara Krmpotich at

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
Calgary Library interview with Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane.

Powwow: A Celebration Through Song and Dance by Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane

Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane - doctoral candidate, jingle dress dancer, and author of Powwow: A Celebration Through Song and Dance - says “because GRASAC is Great Lakes based, I'm honoured and excited to be included. If I may introduce myself, I have spent considerable time in the prairie provinces, mostly Alberta. This time around, I've been out there the past 9 years. I'm also fortunate that I am home (Manitoulin Island) quite a bit. ... The book has done well in its short period. It was released on April 21st, and my publisher has announced that it is in second reprint!”

Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane Jingle Dress Dancing for Water Protection

The book’s publisher, Orca, describes Powwow this way:

The modern powwow has been uniting Indigenous peoples in joyous celebration of culture for decades, but its roots are far older.

Anishninaabe author and educator Pheasant-Neganigwane has crafted a narrative that tells the history of the powwow, a celebration of Indigenous culture that occurs throughout North America. She describes the history of colonization and Indigenous resistance that culminated in the 19th century—a time when song and dance gatherings also were restricted by both the governments of Canada and the U.S. Holding steadfast to traditional culture and expressing it in the unlikeliest of places—the so-called “wild west shows” and harvest fairs—Indigenous peoples gradually developed these gatherings of song and dance into what are now vibrant celebrations that occur across the continent all year long. The powwow includes many aspects of Indigenous culture: rodeos, fashion shows, and even music awards. The gallery of photos throughout the book gives readers seats at a powwow, an event that is described as a continual space to restore kinship and preserve Indigenous identity. Weaving her own powwow experiences into her narrative, the author describes the formal elements of a powwow as well as regional variations. Sidebars look at related topics such as fry bread and victory songs, and the book ends with a brief primer of powwow etiquette and glossary of cultural vocabulary.

Purchase Book
Windspeaker Interview
Fred Loft (image from Six Nations Legacy Consortium Collection, Six Nations Public Library).

Recent Articles: A Historical Anniversary and an Important Court Case
Karl Hele

League of Indians Founding at Sault Ste. Marie

 On 4 September 1919 more than 30 Chiefs assembled at Sault Ste. Marie’s YMCA to draft a constitution along with Frederick Ogilvie Loft for the League of Indians. During the meeting Loft and the Chiefs attempted to present the future King Edward VIII, who was visiting the Sault, with a petition.  The League, according to Loft, wanted to address Parliament directly, see improvements in First Nations’ education and health care, as well as establish Indigenous control of reserves and recognition of treaty rights. Delegates to the convention also critiqued Indian Affairs’ abuse of powers.  Indian Affairs through its agent at the Sault denied that the League spoke for Indians. Others agents attempted to associate the League with the ‘radical left’ of the day – the Bolsheviks.  Regardless, both demands of and opposition to the League of Indians foreshadowed modern day conversations about Aboriginal and treaty rights. The League of Indians disappeared by the 1930s, but its last official vestige became the Indian Association of Alberta (IAA). The IAA then went on to be a key founder of the National Indian Brotherhood and subsequent Assembly of First Nations.  Hence, the League did represent the voice and interests of First Nations.

Read Article Here

Recent Court Decision on Enfranchisement from 1951 to 1985

On 31 July 2020 the Quebec Superior Court in Montreal ruled that the Indian Registrar’s application of voluntary enfranchisement to single unmarried Indian women from 1951 to 1985 was erroneous.  This case arose out of the denial of application for registration based on the rational that the child’s grandmother had voluntarily enfranchised under the terms of the Indian Act, specifically section 108(1) in 1965. During the submission process and the verbal arguments it became apparent that the modifications to registration reinforced or codified the enfranchisement provisions pre-Bill C-31 though the various clauses of section 6 of the modern Indian Act. Justice Barin held that in denying the application the Registrar “in a way required the Indigenous peoples of Canada and Canadian society at large to continue to assume the unfortunate consequences of an undesired past.” This decision, if the Crown does not appeal, will help many women who were incorrectly allowed to voluntarily enfranchise between 1951 and 1985. It also potentially sets a precedent or a guideline for judges interpreting the application of the Indian Acts’ provisions – for one must assume that “the legislature says what it means and means what it says”.

Read Article Here
(Image from the Wenner-Gren Foundation)
Reclaiming the Ancestors: Indigenous and Black Perspectives on Repatriation, Human Rights, and Justice, Wenner-Gren Foundation

On Wednesday, September 2nd from 4-6 PM (Eastern) the Wenner-Gren Foundation would like to welcome you to join us for the webinar,”Reclaiming the Ancestors: Indigenous and Black Perspectives on Repatriation, Human Rights, and Justice”.

To register for this event click here.

Over the last several centuries, Indigenous, Black, and other colonized peoples’ remains have been turned into objects of study for archaeologists, anthropologists, and other scientists. This can be seen most clearly in the collection of their ancestors, often excavated from cemeteries and burial grounds and taken to museums around the world. Today, more than 100,000 Native American ancestral remains are still held in U.S. public museums alone, while an unknown number of remains of people of African descent are stored in museum collections.

What does it mean to turn human beings into artifacts? What happens to the living communities who lose control and ownership over their own ancestors and heritage? In exploring these questions, this panel will discuss how repatriation–the process of reclaiming and returning ancestral and human remains–can address inequality. The discussion will further ask how repatriation might encourage a reckoning with the colonial violence experienced by Native and Black Americans in the past, which still reverberates in the injustice their descendants face today. Bringing together Indigenous and Black voices, this panel discussion finds common ground in the struggle for repatriation and assertion of sovereignty and human rights.


Michael Blakey, PhD, NEH Professor, College of William and Mary

Dorothy Lippert (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), PhD, Tribal Liaison, National Museum of Natural History

Shannon Martin (Gun Lake Pottawatomi/Ojibwe), Director, Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways

Rachel Watkins, PhD, Associate Professor, American University

Moderated by Sonya Atalay (Anishinabe-Ojibwe), PhD, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst

CART captioning by Lori Yeager Stavropoulos

Sponsored by the Society of Black Archaeologists, Indigenous Archaeology Collective, Peabody Institute of Archaeology, Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and SAPIENS

A Culture of Exploitation: “Reconciliation” and the Institutions of Canadian Art
Yellowhead Institute 

This Special Report by Lindsay Nixon considers themes in the historic relationship between Indigenous people in the Institutions of Canadian art and culture to contextualize a series of interviews conducted with cultural workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, which reveal a renewed exploitation of their labour and their works. The Report offers 15 Standards of Achievement that can serve as a guide for institutions and governments to begin reversing this exploitation and renewing the relationship.

Read the Report 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.
View previous newsletters here
Miigwech, nia:wen, thank you, merci: we hope you have enjoyed these stories!
Copyright belongs to authors, artists, and photographers credited above.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
GRASAC · 140 St. George St. · Toronto, On M5S 3G6 · Canada

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp