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

October 2020 Newsletter

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

We hope that you will enjoy GRASAC's monthly newsletter for October! 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:
  • Call for Interest (due October 2): Smithsonian Recovering Voices at Home, Haley Bryant
  • Accomplishments of GRASAC Work Study Students, Haley Bryant
  • Announcing AIISP Project and Blog on Cornell’s Relationship to Indigenous Dispossession, Urszula Piasta-Mansfield
  • Challenging Colonial Spaces, Krista McCracken
  • (En)Gendering Shoreline Law, Madeline Whetung
  • Event: Decolonizing Virtual Reality, Bradley Clements
  • Repatriation Conference: Growing Community & Moving Forward after 30 Years of NAGPRA, Association on American Indian Affairs
  • Ontario Museum Association Annual Conference, Ontario Museum Association
  • From the GKS, Bradley Clements
  • Call for Virtual Exhibit Proposals
  • Invitation to contribute to future GRASAC newsletters
Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History Recovering Vocies graphic

Call for Interest (due October 2): Smithsonian Recovering Voices at Home
from Haley Bryant

GRASAC has been invited to partner with the Recovering Voices Initiative at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in the pilot phase of a new, virtual and intergenerational knowledge sharing program, “Recovering Voices at Home.” GRASAC members share Recovering Voices’ desire to learn effective ways of using technologies to support cultural recuperation and learning through cultural belongings. Recovering Voices invites expressions of interest from our network by October 2nd, 2020. Recovering Voices has committed to funding one (1) community coordinator who will serve as the point person and liaison between Recovering Voices staff, GRASAC coordinators, and community participants. Therefore, at this time Recovering Voices has capacity to invite one (1) community to participate in this pilot phase. The selection will be made based on availability of relevant collections of belongings housed at the Smithsonian and the capacity of interested communities to commit to this ongoing virtual program. High speed internet or specialized technology are not required for this program.

Information on the Program:

Prior to 2020, Recovering Voices’ “Community Research Program” (CRP) funded groups of community researchers from around the world to travel to the Smithsonian to examine belongings, specimens, and documents related to their heritage, and to engage in a dialogue with Smithsonian staff. “Recovering Voices at Home” is designed to virtually continue the work of
the CRP, which has been put on hold due to COVID-related travel restrictions. Recovering Voices has developed new digital programming that seeks to connect community members with their ancestral belongings at the Smithsonian remotely. Recovering Voices at Home will allow the Smithsonian to continue to serve communities during the pandemic and beyond by broadening the accessibility of their programs and testing a new approach to knowledge-building around museum collections.

Recovering Voices At Home aims to empower youth in communities to learn about their ancestral belongings at the Smithsonian through intergenerational discussion. The goal of this process is to encourage learning about one’s own history and culture while building new relationships within the community and developing new skills. Here’s how it works:

  • Community liaisons help pair youth participants with a local Elder or knowledge holder.
  • Recovering Voices staff help identify ancestral belongings at the Smithsonian and share reports of what exists and what is available digitally.
  • Community liaisons, supported by Recovering Voices staff and GRASAC coordinators Haley Bryant and Cara Krmpotich, work to identify knowledge-building priorities in community that can be strengthened by bringing together cultural belongings, youth and knowledge holders.
  • These themes and selections will be developed into weekly assignments that encourage youth participants to learn through the collections and through discussion with a local knowledge holder, and to share this learning through follow-up reflective and/or creative activity.
  • Recovering Voices will provide the funding, logistical support, and help connect you with your ancestral belongings at the Smithsonian.
  • Communities lead the conversation and have final say on setting priorities and choosing themes, with no obligation to share the outcomes of this process with the Smithsonian or GRASAC.

GRASAC is committed to supporting this work by providing technical and logistical support. We are able to provide technical resources to help you and your community digitally capture the work you are doing in whatever way may be most useful to you. This includes furnishing you with necessary hardware and software and hosting the content you produce on the GKS or our public website, though use of these resources is not a requirement for participation in the project and can be discussed on a case-by-case basis at any point. GRASAC and Recovering Voices at Home will also support communities in evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, and potential of this approach for cultural recuperation and recovery.

Please reach out to Haley Bryant ( with an expression of interest or any questions by Friday, October 2nd. In your response please include a brief description about why this program appeals to you and your community, and if known, what kinds of cultural belongings are of greatest interest.

Accomplishments of GRASAC Work Study Students
by Haley Bryant

GRASAC members at the University of Toronto would like to extend an enormous thank you to our summer Work Study students, Chantelle Perreault, Olivia White, CJ Pentland, Rachel Barber-Pin, and Alesha Grummett-Roesch. CJ, Rachel, and Alesha prepared a batch of new records from the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin to be added to the GKS and provided a set of important recommendations for web and social media Rights and Reproductions Protocols as we continue our move toward a more public-facing GKS. Chantelle and Olivia spent the summer researching Controlled Vocabularies, or frameworks for organizing knowledge and information for retrieval in a database, in order to make recommendations on how we can better organize the information stored in the GKS. Their recommendations will help us make searching the GKS more straightforward and intuitive and move us toward our goal of building a database that recognizes and reflects relationality. We are lucky to have Chantelle and Olivia continuing their work and taking up new projects during the 2020-2021 academic year as interns with GRASAC. We are also excited to welcome a new group of Work Study students for 2020-2021: Autumn Epple and Sheila Kebokee who are MA students in the Department of History, Jessica Ye who is an undergraduate student in the Department of History, and Kelisha Peters who is an undergraduate in the Department of Linguistics and Graphic Media. They will continue to edit and add records in the GKS and research best practices for redeveloping the GKS as a public-facing platform.
Infographic titled "Whose endowment raised the most from Indigenous land?"
Whose endowment raised the most from Indigenous land? Top ten beneficiaries by principal and value of unsold land, ca. 1914. Cornell University and its Morrill Act Parcels map. Image adapted from High Country News.
Announcing AIISP Project and Blog on Cornell’s Relationship to Indigenous Dispossession
from Urszula Piasta-Mansfield

In March 2020, High Country News published an article that connected the awarding of federal “public” lands through the Morrill Act to the forcible dispossession of Indigenous Nations from their traditional territories. Cornell University occupies a prominent place in this narrative as Cornell received the most land of any U.S. land-grant university under the auspices of the Morrill Act, almost 1 million acres in 6,716 parcels spread across 15 current states.
A preliminary Cornell-based examination of this data suggests that as many as 167 Indigenous Nations and communities could have been affected by Cornell’s actions under the Morrill Act. This does not account for the dispossessions within New York State that have more obviously benefitted Cornell – land for its various campuses, farms, research stations, and cooperative extension offices.
To better understand this history and the specific impacts Cornell has had on Indigenous communities, the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP) has formed a faculty committee to examine the issue and launched a  blog to address the ongoing results of this research project. Among the project’s goals is to seek the consultation with the affected Indigenous nations and communities about possible remedies. The blog presents factual information about the history of Cornell’s actions, as well as opinion by faculty, staff, students, alumni, affected communities, and the authors of the High Country News article.
View the Blog
GRASAC works to amplify scholarship by members or related to members' interests. This month the newsletter is highlighting Madeline Whetung's "(En)Gendering Shoreline Law" and Krista McKracken's "Challening Colonial Spaces." Both articles won the Canadian Historical Association's Best Article in Indigenous History Prize in June 2020, and GRASAC extends a belated congratulations to them both!

If you have a recent publication or know of one that is relevant to GRASAC, please submit it to a future newsletter by following the instructions at the end of this issue.
Challenging Colonial Spaces
by Krista McCracken

I wrote, “Challenging Colonial Spaces: Reconciliation and Decolonizing Work in Canadian Archives” while thinking about the ways in which archives in Canada manage, share, and care for records created by and about Indigenous peoples. As a settler archivist who works in an Indigenous community archives I am constantly listening and working to break down what I thought I knew about archival records and systems.
The piece aims to unpack the complex power relationships embedded within the colonial archival system, by drawing on decolonization and settler colonialism literature and my personal experience working at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre. The article illustrates that the archival community must change its practices in order for Canada to be compliant with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the United Nations Joinet-Orentlicher Principles.
Read the Article
(En)Gendering Shoreline Law
by Madeline Whetung

This article examines the colonization of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg territory by the Trent Severn Waterway. By examining legal bracketing as a process within Canadian common law alongside prevailing Nishnaabeg philosophy and legal thought, I consider how the construction of a canal system connecting Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay disrupted practices integral to Nishnaabeg law. I offer up the concept of shoreline law as a way to understand particular place-based relationships that Mississaugas hold with water and land and other beings with which they share territory. In particular, I show how colonial domination of Nishnaabeg territory resulted in a gendered dispossession of land that continues to have reverberations throughout Nishnaabeg political systems today. Shoreline law offers up a way to rethink international relations by showing the importance of multiple relationships within the shared space of the shoreline.
Read the Article
Decolonizing Virtual Reality event banner
(Photo by Danis Goulet; design by Camille-Mary Sharp)
Event: Decolonizing Virtual Reality
from Bradley Clements

Join media producer and scholar Dr. Jennifer Wemigwans (Anishinaabekwe) in conversation with virtual reality (VR) filmmakers Nyla Innuksuk (Inuk), Danis Goulet (Cree/Métis), and Lisa Jackson (Anishinaabekwe) for a discussion about Indigenous VR, multimedia, data sovereignty, and storytelling practices.

This free, virtual event is open to all and will be happening on October 13th, 2020, at 3 pm EDT. It is organized by the University of Toronto Faculty of Information Doctoral Students Association, including Camille-Mary Sharp and GRASAC RAs Haley Bryant and Bradley Clements.
Learn More and Register
Ledger artwork by George Curtis Levi.
This artwork was created especially for the 6th Annual Repatriation Conference by George Curtis Levi, who is a member of the Southern Cheyenne Tribe of Oklahoma and is also Southern Arapaho. This ledger art painting depicts how repatriation builds community and strengthens culture. It was painted on an antique mining document from Montana that dates from the 1890s. India ink and liquid acrylic paints were used.
Repatriation Conference: Growing Community & Moving Forward after 30 Years of NAGPRA
from the Association on American Indian Affairs

The Association on American Indian Affairs and the University of Denver Museum of Anthropology is partnering for the 6th Annual Repatriation Conference on October 26-28, 2020.  Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Conference will be completely virtual and formatted for active participation and networking among participants from Indian Country, institutions, federal agencies,  international institutions, attorneys, academics and others interested in repatriation and Indigenous human rights work.

November 16, 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. NAGPRA is the first and only Native American human rights legislation that requires the repatriation of cultural heritage that has been held by museums and government agencies. The Conference will look backwards to recognize and commemorate the importance of this landmark legislation and provide forward-looking strategies to grow and strengthen the repatriation community. In essence, this 30th anniversary of NAGPRA will allow us to look backward “to find tools that allow us to walk into the future.”
Learn More and Register
Ontario Museums Association Annual Conference 2020 banner
(Image from the Ontario Museums Association)

Ontario Museum Association Annual Conference
from the Ontario Museum Association

This year the Ontario Museum Association Conference is going virtual! With this new format comes new possibilities; the OMA is planning on taking advantage of all a virtual conference can offer.

The OMA 2020 Annual Conference will occur on two Thursdays, October 29 and November 5, and will be accompanied by a webinar series presented on each Tuesday of November.

The OMA Conference program is inspired by the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also plans to address the many challenges facing museums during the COVID-19 pandemic and social upheaval that have made 2020 an extraordinary year. We look forward to welcoming delegates from across Ontario this fall, and are excited to share our program with youI

Learn More and Register
An Anishinaabe child's doll and tikinaagan (cradleboard) from the 1800s, currently in the collection of the British Museum. (Image from the GKS, for research and community use only)
From the GKS: An Anishinaabe Child's Tikinaagan and Doll
by Bradley Clements

Yesterday was Orange Shirt Day, an event to remember the children who were taken to Indian residential and boarding schools for over 120 years throughout the Great Lakes region and across Turtle Island. This day honours the Survivors, the families, and every child who never came home. For many who went to Indian residential, boarding, or day schools or who have intimate relations who did, the memory and effects of these systems are felt every day of every year. GRASAC works to reconnect Great Lakes Indigenous individuals, communities, and nations with material and linguistic heritage that culturally genocidal systems like residential schools have sought to separate them from.

There is currently little information in the GKS about this tikinaagan (cradleboard) and doll, but it is believed to have belonged to an Anishinaabe child in the 1800s. It may have been cherished before the time when residential schooling became widely institutionalized, and it represents the care for the young that was learned and practiced throughout life in Anishinaabeg communities. It is telling that tikinaaganan like this were common belongings of children in communities but would not have been permitted in residential schools, which did not teach or practice care for young people or families. Teachings for Anishinaabe community care are embodied in tikinaaganan and can be reconnected with through them, as demonstrated in the wonderful thesis of former GRASAC RA Alexandra Kahsenniio Nahwegahbow, "Springtime in n’Daki Menan, the Homeland of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai: Babies, Cradleboards and Community Wrapping."

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

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.
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