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

March 2021 Newsletter

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

Today is the first anniversary of GRASAC's first newsletter, sent on March 1, 2020! For reflections on this past year and on things to come, see the full anniversary article 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:

  • Celebrating the First Anniversary of GRASAC Newsletters, by Bradley Clements
  • New and Renewed Institutional Relationships, from multiple contributors
  • GRASAC Focus Groups - Call for Participants, from the GRASAC Research Team
  • Call for Artworks: Ga:hǫh ne’ hni’ ga:howe:kso/Covered and Uncovered – An Online Auction of Face Masks, from the Woodland Cultural Centre
  • Virtual Exhibition: No, not even for Picture: Re-Examining the Native Midwest and Tribes’ Relations to the History of Photography,
    by Veronica Cook Williamson and Lindsey Willow Smith
  • Virtual Panel Recording: Indigenous Epistemologies - Restorative Justice in Settler-Colonial Collections, from University of Michigan Museum Studies
  • CROYAN – the French Royal Collections from North America, by Leandro Varison
  • Indigenous Collections Symposium 2021: Mashkawatgong-mamawewiziwin – strengthening our bonds, sharing our practices, from the Ontario Museum Association
  • Art Talk Tuesdays, from the Art Gallery at the University of Toronto
  • Smithsonian Mother Tongue Film Festival, from the Smithsonian Institution
  • Save the Dates: 7th Annual Repatriation Conference, from the Association on American Indian Affairs
  • From the GKS Feature: Pipe, by Bradley Clements
  • Invitation to contribute to future GRASAC newsletters
Celebrating the First Anniversary of GRASAC Newsletters
by Bradley Clements

To begin this first anniversary issue, I want to thank every person who has contributed content to the past year of newsletters. Many subscribers have told the GRASAC team how much they have appreciated your contributions. Thank you.

We also thank you, the readers! Whether you have been subscribed for a year or a week, we hope the newsletter helps you connect to the work of your friends and colleagues in GRASAC and beyond. Almost 100 new subscribers have joined in the last year - a growth of nearly 30%.

When we sent the first newsletter on March 1st, 2020, we could not have known how timely it was. As lockdowns ended in-person gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19 the importance of digital means of maintaining regular connections in a time of physical isolation became clear. 

In September 2020 GRASAC was delighted to hire Olivia White, a Masters student in the University of Toronto Faculty of Information, to assist with the newsletter's administration. She continues to provide valuable support and content for the newsletter.

Looking forward, we aim to continue the newsletter and increase its benefit to subscribers and contributors. I am drafting a Communications Strategy to this end, for which your feedback will be valuable. Please be in touch if you have ideas, and stay tuned for surveys to come.

We hope that the newsletter has been helpful and engaging, and that it will continue to be in the months and years to come.

Read the March 2020 Newsletter here
A map of GRASAC’s institutional relationships (image from Google Earth).
New and Renewed Institutional Relationships
from multiple contributors

In GRASAC’s inaugural newsletter on March 1, 2020, Laura Peers updated us about her work of renewing GRASAC’s official institutional relationships with museums, cultural centres, galleries, and archives around the world. This work is resulting in new and renewed connections, some of which are introduced below and others of which will be featured in upcoming newsletters. Please join us in welcoming these individuals and institutions to GRASAC’s network!

For a “global view” of GRASAC’s institutional connects, check out this view of them mapped on Google Earth. This gives a visual sense of the range, number, and extent of institutions which are part of GRASAC (note, however, that this image does not represent a complete, updated, or authoritative list).

Image of the Ganondagan State Historic Site.
Image of the Ganondagan State Historic Site, Glimpses of the Everyday exhibit.

Ganondagan State Historic Site - Michael Galban


 My name is Michael Galban and I am Wašiw (Washoe) and Kutzadika’a (Mono Lake Paiute) and am the curator for the Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan State Historic Site. We are a multi-faceted facility that’s main goal is to present the history, culture and art of the Seneca people to the public. We maintain a large gallery space where we unite oral history with the documentary and archeological record. We prioritize the contemporary presence of Seneca and to a large extent Haudenosaunee people as a vibrant living and thriving culture.


Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, Cambridge - Dr Jocelyn Dudding and Rachel Hand

The Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology (MAA) was founded in 1884 as part of the University of Cambridge. The current museum has a limited display space in the historic building and currently no Great Lakes material is exhibited, though we have an active loans programme. We care for a small group of c.90 Woodlands and Great Lakes pieces and c.70 photographs. Some of the objects date to the 18th century and came to us via older institutions. Others were collected later by travellers, military men, researchers such as folklorist Mary Alicia Owen, or purchased after 1884 with little documentation.  All of MAA’s collections are available on with existing images downloadable via Creative Commons.

 We were delighted to welcome a GRASAC delegation to MAA in 2009 and many new attributions and details were added to around 60 objects and photos, most of which are listed on the GRASAC G4 database.

 We’re always happy to answer enquiries about these and the other collections we care for and these should be directed to the collections address, or to the relevant Collections Managers, Rachel Hand (objects- or Dr Jocelyn Dudding (photographs


National Museum of Denmark - Mille Gabriel and Rikke Ruhe

Mille Gabriel is the senior researcher and curator of the North and South American collections at the National Museum of Denmark. She holds a PhD in Anthropology (2011) and a MA degree in Archaeology (2002). Her research centers on cultural heritage and identity issues with a particular focus on the relationship between museums and communities of origin.

Mille Gabriel is a member of the Danish National Commission for UNESCO (2016 -) and a former board member of ICOM Denmark (2010 – 2017).

Rikke Ruhe is a curator and registrar at The National Museum of Denmark. She holds an MA degree in both Ethnology (2001) and Museology (2007). She works with collections, archives, loans and digital resources.

The Collections at The National Museum of Denmark dates back around 400 years with the former Royal Collections being a small and early backbone of the current and much larger collections. The Ethnographical Collection holds ca. 230,000 items, a substantial part being from Greenland, Canada, Northern Siberia and Alaska, represented by both archaeological finds and items with a more recent history. 

Image of Monika Zessnik, curator of the North American Collection in the Ethnologisches Museum.

Ethnologisches Museum Berlin (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz) - Monika Zessnik

The Ethnologisches Museum (Ethnological Museum) evolved from the collections of the royal cabinets of art in Berlin and was founded in 1873. Currently the museum is preparing the moving of the exhibitions to the Humboldt Forum, a place for culture and science, for exchange and debate in the center of Berlin, which will host permanent exhibitions from a range of partner institutions.

The North American collections from the east of the US and Canada mainly consist of objects from the late 18th, early 19th century. From the period up to 1850, the collections gathered by Prince zu Wied, Duke Paul Wilhelm of Württemberg and Friedrich Köhler are particularly noteworthy. A collection of painted bison robes dates to before 1850.

Through the work of Franz Boas and Adolf Bastian’s contacts with North American museums and collectors, numerous collections of objects from the prairies and plains and the southwest of America came to Berlin around 1900. The only museum expedition to North America organized by Berlin was undertaken by J. Adrian Jacobsen from 1881-83along the Northwest Coast and Alaska. Nearly 7,000 objects were brought to Berlin as a result of Jacobsen’s travel activities.

Monika Zessnik is curator of the North American Collection in the Ethnologisches Museum. Prior to that, she worked as a curator of education at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, head of communication at the Ibero-American Institute and project coordinator at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Her field research includes topics like religious influences on indigenous socio-economic systems. Currently her work is focusing on the interface between curating and education as well as on transcultural knowledge exchange with different communities and interest groups.



National Museums Scotland - Dr. Ali Clark

Dr Ali Clark is the new Senior Curator for Oceania and the Americas at National Museums Scotland

Prior to her appointment at National Museums Scotland she was a post-doctoral research associate on the ERC funded project, ‘Pacific Presences: Oceanic Art and European Museums’ (2013-2018) based at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), Cambridge. She has previously worked on a Getty Funded project (2007-2009) to document photographs from Oceania and the Americas at the British Museum, and an exhibition of contemporary Anishinaabe art at the October Gallery in London.

National Museums Scotland cares for over 12 million objects from around the world. The collections represent applied art and design, Scottish history and archaeology, world cultures, natural sciences and science and technology. The Department of World Cultures cares for over 3000 cultural heritage items from North America.

Image of Jonathan Lainey, Curator, Indigenous Cultures at the McCord Museum.
McCord Museum - Dr. Jonathan Lainey

A member of Huron-Wendat of Wendake, Jonathan Lainey is a historian conducting research on Wendat history and culture, wampum belts and Indigenous heritage in general. One of his main research interests is documenting the stories of specific heritage items, from their early origins when they were still in the hands of their original owners to today as items of museum collections.
He has been the Curator, Indigenous Cultures at the McCord Museum in Montréal since February 2020. Prior to that held the position of Curator, Indigenous Peoples, at the Canadian Museum of History, where he worked on developing the content of the section on recent Indigenous history in the Canadian History Hall that was launched in 2017. Before his time at CMH, he was Archivist, Aboriginal Archives, at Library and Archives Canada for almost 10 years.
The renowned McCord Museum’s Indigenous Cultures collection is composed of over 16,000 archaeological and historic artefacts recounting nearly 12,000 years of history. Moosehair and porcupine embroidered objects, “tourist art” and crafts, weapons, clothing and accessories from the Eastern Woodlands and Great Lakes region are among the oldest and rarest and, worthy of notice, for a museum McCord has the largest number of wampum belts (13) in Canada (which is more than European collections as well).

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University - Dr. Diana DiPaolo Loren and Cindy Mackey

Founded in 1866 by philanthropist George Peabody, the Peabody Museum is among the oldest anthropology museums in the world, and still occupies its original nineteenth-century building. The Museum engages in, supports, and promotes the study and appreciation of ancient and contemporary peoples from around the world. The Museum collects, preserves, and interprets cultural and related materials and offers unique opportunities for innovative teaching, research, and enrichment at Harvard and with communities worldwide.
As one of the oldest museums of anthropology, the history of the Peabody Museum is intricately linked to legacies of settler colonialism and imperialism both in the United States and around the globe. The Peabody Museum is committed to addressing this past and shaping future practice by partnering with Indigenous communities towards goals of relationship building, collaborative dialogues, and fostering diverse perspectives on Museum collections and in Museum spaces.
Diana DiPaolo Loren (PhD, SUNY Binghamton) is Senior Curator at the Peabody Museum. Loren is an anthropological archaeologist focusing on the colonial Northeastern United States, particularly issues of the body, health, dress and adornment. She co-directs the Archaeology of Harvard Yard Project, which examines the early multicultural beginnings of Harvard College in the 17th century.
Cindy Mackey is the Associate Registrar for Rights and Reproductions at the Peabody Museum. She handles image and permission requests, works with object photographers and researchers on various imaging projects.
GRASAC Focus Groups - Call for Participants
from the GRASAC Research Team

Aanii! She:Kon! Yiheh! Welcome! Bienvenue!

If you are an artist or maker, Indigenous studies student, language learner, or secondary education teacher who has previously interacted with the GRASAC Knowledge Sharing System (GKS) database, we would like to invite you to participate in a focus group discussion. Your participation will help us to further develop and enhance the GKS database to meet community needs. You do not need to have deep familiarity with the GKS database to participate.

The focus group will last approximately two hours and will be conducted via Zoom (or other virtual platforms) on March 19March 20March 26, and March 27, 2021. Each focus group will have 3-5 participants, and participants will be required to attend only one session. We will compensate all participants with a $50 gift card. Please fill out this form with your availability and additional information about your technical setup, and any concerns you may have. We will promptly follow-up with more details once we receive your form. If the dates don’t work for you, please still fill out the form as we plan on hosting more dates soon. 

The study is part of an ongoing research collaboration by Ricky Punzalan at the University of Michigan and Cara Krmpotich at the University of Toronto. Research Assistants from both institutions have been examining strategies to integrate Indigenous knowledge into the database to serve its users better. The focus group’s objectives will be to measure the effectiveness of the current and proposed features to the GRASAC GKS database. For more information about GRASAC please visit our websites and

Miigwech, nia:wen, thank you, merci,

GRASAC GKS Database 
Research Team

Image from Woodland Cultural Centre's website. Photo Courtesy of Santee Smith. 

Call for Artworks: Ga:hǫh ne’ hni’ ga:howe:kso/Covered and Uncovered – An Online Auction of Face Masks
from the Woodland Cultural Centre

WCC’s National Call for Submission is requesting Indigenous artists to create new original works of art in the form of a face mask in response to the new realities created by the global coronavirus pandemic impacting so many Indigenous communities across the country. The artful masks created may include any mixed media inclusive of but not limited to glass bead, quill, leather, found objects etc. The mask can be either functional or sculptural. WCC will host our first online fundraising auction in mid-April with 50% of proceeds shared with artists and 50% to support WCC programs, specifically School Visits & Educational Programming and Exhibitions.

Submission Deadlines
  • Pre-registration/expressions of interest required by March 12, 2021
  • Masks must be received at the WCC by April 26, 2021
  • Submissions will be juried and accepted from invited artists only
  • Artists will be notified of confirmation of participation by March 29, 2021
More information here
Portrait of a man named Shoppenagon, taken by George H. Bonnel circa 1890.

Virtual Exhibition: No, not even for Picture: Re-Examining the Native Midwest and Tribes’ Relations to the History of Photography
by Veronica Cook Williamson and Lindsey Willow Smith

No, not even for Picture: Re-Examining the Native Midwest and Tribes’ Relations to the History of Photography is an online exhibit that seeks to re-historicize and re-humanize the contexts, subjects, and circumstances leading to the production of the Richard Pohrt Jr. Collection of Native American Photography at the University of Michigan’s William L. Clements Library. Using just a handful of photographs from the collection, the exhibit touches on themes of photography as a tool of settler colonialism, photographic assertions of sovereignty and agency, and raises questions about (in)visibility and voice. The exhibit is currently accessible online and features further resources and teaching materials as well. Components of the exhibit are currently being adapted into physical, printable poster exhibit for wide use in flexible exhibition spaces across the Midwest and beyond.

For further information on this virtual exhibition, see the panel discussion featured in the following section of this newsletter.

Indigenous Epistemologies - Restorative Justice in Settler-Colonial Collections panel recording
Virtual Panel Recording: Indigenous Epistemologies - Restorative Justice in Settler-Colonial Collections
from University of Michigan, Museum Studies

This panel considers collections relating to Native American past, present and future. Panelists discuss decolonizing museum practices, settler-colonialism visually presented in postcards of Native American people, and projects at the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Garden that have deep connections to Indigenous culture and agriculture.
Image of the musée du quai Branly's website.

CROYAN – the French Royal Collections from North America
by Leandro Varison

The musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac preserves an important set of objects obtained in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in the current territory of Canada and the United States. These objects were part of the so-called "royal collections" – pieces belonging to the aristocracy and the church. After the French Revolution and the subsequent confiscation of nobility properties, they were integrated into French national institutions. This is an exceptional collection for the knowledge of Native Peoples living in these regions, as well as for better understanding their relations with Europeans.

We have implemented an interdisciplinary approach for the study and the dissemination of this exceptional set: the CROYAN Project – the French Royal Collections from North America. It combines studies on written and pictorial sources of the time, material analysis of the objects, conservation-restoration interventions and collaboration with Native American and First Nations specialists. Our aims are to shed new light on the objects preserved in France, on the value and function attributed to them in the past and today, and to ensure its transmission to future generations.

To learn more about the CROYAN Project and the French Royal Collections from North America, we invite you to visit our website and share your insights with us.

Indigenous Collections Symposium 2021: Mashkawatgong-mamawewiziwin – strengthening our bonds, sharing our practices
from the Ontario Museum Association

The Ontario Museum Association, our partners and members of the Indigenous Collections Working Group are pleased to invite you to join us online on March 25-26, 2021 for the Indigenous Collections Symposium: Mashkawatgong-mamawewiziwin – strengthening our bonds, sharing our practices. Following from the Indigenous Collections Symposium: Promising Practices, Challenging Issues and Changing the System, this symposium takes inspiration from the ideas discussed at that event and continues the conversation. With a focus on putting ideas into practice, this two-day event aims to support and connect museum professionals from Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations and members of Indigenous communities.


Online. Participants will access the event through the Attendify online event platform and sessions will be streamed on Zoom.

Dates of Event:

March 24, 2021, 7pm-8:30pm EST - Pre-symposium Strengthening Our Bonds Networking Event hosted by the Indigenous Internship Program at the Canadian Museum of History (separate registration - see link in confirmation email)
March 25-26, 2021, 9am-4pm EST - Symposium sessions and discussions

Symposium Registration Rates:

OMA and GOG Members: $100+HST
Non-Members: $160+HST
Students: $50+HST


A limited number of bursaries have been allocated for individuals representing Indigenous-run organizations.

  • These bursaries are available on a first-come-first-served basis.
  • Bursaries cover the cost of registration.
  • Bursaries will be awarded to no more than two people per organization.

If you have any questions, please email

More information here

Art Talk Tuesdays
from the Art Museum at the University of Toronto

Bi-weekly every Tuesdays, 12pm EST
January 26–March 23, 2021

Bring your coffee and join Art Museum’s Public Programming and Outreach Assistants Claire, Melody, and Yuluo for an hour of lively art discussion! Learn more about works from the Art Museum’s permanent collections as well as previous exhibitions, and meet or get reacquainted with fellow art-lovers. Each week, we’ll explore unique themes with a variety of works.

Free and open to all levels of art appreciation. Registration is open to all, priority will be given to UofT Students.

Tuesday, March 9:
Morris Lum, Ho Tam, Rebecca Belmore and Osvaldo Yero

Tuesday, March 23: TBD

Location: Online on Zoom
Spaces are limited, Register early!
Register here
2021 Mother Tongue Film Festival trailer
Smithsonian Mother Tongue Film Festival
from the Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian’s Mother Tongue Film Festival celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity by showcasing films and filmmakers from around the world, highlighting the crucial role languages play in our daily lives. This year, the festival will be hosted entirely online.

Since 2016, the annual festival has celebrated International Mother Language Day on February 21. The sixth annual festival will take place via a monthly online screening series from February 21 to May 2021.

The Mother Tongue Film Festival is a public program of Recovering Voices, a collaboration between Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

More information here
Save the Dates: 7th Annual Repatriation Conference
from the Association on American Indian Affairs

An ALL VIRTUAL Community Conference
November 3, 10, and 17, 2021

The Association on American Indian Affairs is excited to announce that the 7th Annual Repatriation Conference will be November, 3, 10, and 17, 2021. This will be a virtual conference again this year for everyone's safety and to increase accessibility.
Repatriation is the return of stolen and looted Ancestors, their burial belongings and other items of cultural heritage from museums, federal agencies, private collectors and dealers and from collections around the world. The repatriation of these items to their original peoples restores identity and cultural practices, and supports healing from historic traumas caused by federal policies that sought to eliminate diverse Native American peoples and their cultures. 
We hope that you will join us and consider sponsoring the conference to provide free registration to Tribal and museum practitioners, students and Elders!

For questions and sponsorship inquiries, contact us at
Unknown Haudenosaunee artist, pipe. Currently in the British Museum, Am,Dc.44. Item photographed and described as part of a GRASAC research trip December 2007; GRASAC item id 27141.
From the GKS: Pipe
by Bradley Clements

In his doctoral dissertation, Alan Ojiig Corbiere (2019, 80) explains that:

Smoking the pipe together and making a pledge was a way of expressing sincerity but the giving of a pipe was also an expressive and communicative act. At St. Joseph’s Island in 1829, Ojibwe Chief Shingwaukonce, tied these two ideas together when he stated to the British commanding officer, while holding strings of wampum in his hands, “Father – The Great Master of Life gave us pipes and Wampum for the purpose of conveying our ideas from man to man."

In the case of this Haudenosaunee pipe that entered the British Museum in 1882, the pipe appears to be literally looking at the smoker, witnessing their relational commitment. On the anniversary of GRASAC's first newsletter, as we plan communications for the future, it is humbling and inspiring to consider teachings of pipes. They remind us to communicate honestly and with commitment to our relations: to each other as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, to the earth, and to ancestral and other-than-human witnesses.

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

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
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