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

April 2021 Newsletter

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

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

  • GRASAC Awarded $200,000 to Build Mobile Community Research Kits, by Cara Krmpotich
  • First Series of GRASAC Focus Group Sessions, by Olivia White
  • GRASAC Members Share Their Knowledge at Indigenous Collections Symposium, by Cara Krmpotich
  • From the GKS: A Gift of Alliance: Tecumseh’s Pipe Tomahawk, by Autumn Epple
  • Virtual exhibit: Ninaatigwaaboo (Maple Tree Water): An Anishinaabe History of Maple Sugaring, Curated by Alan Corbiere
  • Deyohahá:ge: Indigenous Knowledge Centre - 10th Anniversary, from Six Nations Polytechnic
  • Haudenosaunee Filmmakers Festival, from Friends of Ganondagan and Rematriation Magazine
  • Virtual seminar: Indigenous Environmental Justice, Knowledge and Law, from Princeton University
  • Virtual event: Indigenous Speakers Series presents Logan MacDonald, from University of Waterloo
  • Podcast: The Importance of Amplifying Contemporary Indigenous Voices, from OPENSpace, National Recreation and Parks Association
  • Invitation to contribute to future GRASAC newsletters
GRASAC Awarded $200,000 to Build Mobile Community Research Kits
by Cara Krmpotich

GRASAC is excited to announce that we have received $200,000 from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and Ontario Research Fund to build 20 “Mobile Community Research Kits” – self-contained backpacks that enable digital cultural heritage work to happen in communities, by communities, for communities.
The kits will contain rugged laptops, cameras, audio recorders, portable scanners, mesh networking equipment, and virtual reality devices. The laptops will also be able to connect to the Internet, even if in the bush. GRASAC members will be able to borrow any number of the backpacks to support community-based digital heritage work. GRASAC research assistants are creating guides for how to use the equipment, and can also provide remote or in-person training. The equipment will be maintained and updated by research assistants at the University of Toronto. 
We saw a need for the kits before the pandemic—to support creative, digital work in communities by artists, historians, language warriors, environmental stewards. Universities can’t be the only places where research and digital tools are located. Covid-19 has only emphasized how important community-led and community-based projects are, and we are excited to be able to support independent, land-based, community work.
GRASAC members are already getting creative with digital tools, whether to document collections and their own art work, provide remote access to ancestral belongings during the pandemic, or creating opportunities for intergenerational knowledge sharing. Of course, the Backpacks can also be used during GRASAC group visits to museums and archives!
Equipment is currently being purchased. Stay tuned for further information on how to borrow the backpacks, and for stories that will inspire creative approaches to digital heritage! 

First Series of GRASAC Focus Group Sessions
by Olivia White

On Friday, March 19, the first ​in a series of ​Zoom Focus Group sessions was held to learn more about the uses and users of the GRASAC Knowledge Sharing System (GKS). Led by Ricky Punzalan, Cara Krmpotich, and Olivia White, with support from Sony Prosper ​and Yvette Ramírez, 5 participants offered insight into the functionality of the GKS by walking through their search processes. Participants evaluated the accuracy of the GKS results and made valuable suggestions for user-focused features to be integrated into future database updates. Furthermore, participants discussed alternative search tools and the importance of reflecting Indigenous knowledge practices within a digital repository. Miigwe​tch, nia:wen, thank you to our participants! Special thank you to Irmarie Fraticelli-Rodriquez and Alexandria Rayburn for their important contributions in the focus group planning process.  

These focus group sessions are an excellent opportunity to hear from long-time or recent GRASAC members to improve the structure of the GKS and better serve its users. A second Zoom Focus Group is being planned for Thursday April 22 and/or Friday April 23!

Please email if you'd like to join a focus group. Participants will receive a $50 gift card in recognition of their time and sharing.

Caption: Left image - From Left: Renee Dillard, Rebecca Migwans, Mik Migwans, bulrush mat. Mille Lacs Museum, MN. Right image - From Left, at table: Jennifer Neptune, Cherish Parrish, Kelly Church, Renee Dillard, basket. NMNH Smithsonian. Source: Ontario Museum Association.
GRASAC Members Share Their Knowledge at Indigenous Collections Symposium
by Cara Krmpotich
Over two days, March 25-26, the Ontario Museum Association in partnership with the Canadian Museums Association, Canadian Museum of History and Canadian Heritage, hosted Mashkawatgong-mamawewiziwin, Strengthening our bonds, sharing our practice, the 2021 Indigenous Collections Symposium. GRASAC members were part of the organizing committee, and the program featured presentations by Naomi Recollet, who shared the history and distinct practices of the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, a founding partner of GRASAC; Laura Peers, who advised on how to access and navigate European collections, including through the use of the GKS; Mikinaak Migwans and Renée Wasson Dillard, who shared their experiences learning with and from bulrush mats in collections, and expressed their philosophy of mats as teachers and relatives. There were also a number of long-time friends of GRASAC in attendance and presenting their work with libraries, archives and museums.
Image of Marge Bruchac (left) and Laura Peers (right) Source: Ontario Museum Association.
This was the second Indigenous Collections Symposium hosted by the Ontario Museum Association (open-access proceedings from the first Symposium are available online), and it covered topics such as removing barriers for collections visits, Indigenous museum histories and Indigenous collections practices, current Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee research projects, conducting and caring for oral histories, and long-term strategies for upholding and enacting reconciliation within museum spaces. Guests from Haida Gwaii, Winnipeg, and Nunavut added perspectives from across Turtle Island, giving strong voice to Indigenous curatorial and heritage practices. Attendees were also treated to singing performances and dance lessons—all through the medium of Zoom!
The Symposium drew over 150 people, from small, volunteer-run centres to provincial and national institutions. Indigenous leadership was front and centre, represented by individuals who have worked for decades to make museums more welcoming spaces for Indigenous communities, and the next generation of Indigenous curators who are continuing to re-define the role of museums for their nations.
Caption: Left image: Renee Dillard and Kaye Rowland, AMNH, NY. Right image: From left - Jennifer Neptune, NMNH staff member, Adriana Greci Green, Kelly Church, Renee Dillard, NMNH Smithsonian, DC. Source: Ontario Museum Association.
911.3.181 a. 45cm × 14 cm. This pipe tomahawk, a gift from Brock to Tecumseh during the War of 1812, is an iconic representation of Indigenous and settler alliances during colonial war. Photo by Cory Willmott. (Image from the GKS, for research and community use only).
From the GKS: A Gift of Alliance: Tecumseh’s Pipe Tomahawk
by Autumn Epple

The Royal Ontario Museum hosts several objects from one of the most decisive conflicts in North American colonial history, the War of 1812. This handsome brass tomahawk pipe, with its detachable wood stem, fine lead mouthpiece and sharpened edge, was a gift from British Major General Isaac Brock to Shawnee leader Tecumseh. It was part of an exchange that took place during their first meeting at Fort Amherstburg, Ontario, on August 13, 1812. King George III had several of these specific tomahawk pipes made to be offered as gifts to Indigenous leaders in hopes of gaining their support, and knowing this, Brock respectfully presented the Shawnee chief with the object. Accounts from the meeting suggest that Tecumseh and Brock were greatly impressed by one another, and agreed to form an alliance between the British and Shawnee that would aid the weak defences of Upper Canada. Three days later, Brock and Tecumseh claimed an impressive victory together at Fort Detroit.

This tomahawk pipe came to represent their enduring agreement as allies, and Tecumseh kept it with him even in battle. The GKS notes that there is a small hole made in the tip of the blade, perhaps made by Tecumseh himself for attachment. The wooden detachable stem unsurprisingly has a few marks, which indicates it was certainly used by its owner. Shortly after the Siege of Detroit, Brock was killed in action at Queenston Heights in October 1812. Nearly a year later, with the pipe tomahawk tucked behind his belt medal, Tecumseh also fell at the Battle of the River Thames in what is today Chatham-Kent, Ontario. Tecumseh’s chief warrior, Oshawana, an Anishinaabe man and future chief of Walpole Island, carefully removed the belt medal and the pipe tomahawk for safe keeping. Tecumseh’s burial place is unknown, but thanks to Oshawana’s efforts, the pipe tomahawk and its story are visible and celebrated today.

Despite coming from incredibly different worlds, Brock and Tecumseh were both experiencing invasion from American forces on the territories in which they lived. Even after their deaths, British and Indigenous forces fought side by side to end the United States’ conquest of Canada. The icon status attributed to the British Major General and Shawnee chief is one that reigns powerfully two centuries later, and there is no denying the spirit of strength and friendship that is still alive within this simple pipe tomahawk.

For more information about Brock and Tecumseh, see:
Benn, Carl. The War of 1812. Mississauga: Osprey Publishing, 2002.

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

Ojibwe woman tapping a sugar maple, photograph by Roland Reed (1908). US Library of Congress (cph.3c05740):
Virtual exhibit: Ninaatigwaaboo (Maple Tree Water): An Anishinaabe History of Maple Sugaring, Curated by Alan Corbiere

In recognition of the spring thaw in April, Alan Corbiere's virtual exhibit on maple sugaring is being highlighted. The text for this exhibit was first published by Alan Corbiere in the Newsletter for the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (6:4 May 2011). Updates for the online version on GRASAC's website were done by Kate Higginson (2017).

Excerpt from the exhibit:

"Some Anishinaabeg call April Ziisbaakwadoke-giizis ‘sugar making moon’ others call it Namebine-giizis ‘sucker moon,’ but it depends where you are from. Different regions have some different names for the moons of the year. However, all across Anishinaabe-akiing (Indian country), the Anishinaabeg make syrup, sugar, taffy and candy from the sap of the maple tree.

I have heard the sap called ninaatigwaaboo ‘maple tree water’, wiishkabaaboo ‘sweet water’, and ziisbaakwadaaboo ‘sugar water.’ I have heard that the birch tree is tapped sometimes as well, for medicinal purposes as well as flavouring. I imagine the sap from the birch tree is called wiigwaasaatigwaaboo, or if it is the yellow birch, wiin’zikwaaboo.

I presume it was easy enough for the Anishinaabe to figure out that the trees would give water, but how did they know to boil it down to make sugar? The answer is in a story called 'Bgoji-nishnaabenhsag – Little people' which was related by Wiigwaaskingaa (Whitefish River) Elder Nmenhs (Arthur McGregor)."

View the exhibit 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.

Deyohahá:ge: Indigenous Knowledge Centre - 10th Anniversary video
Deyohahá:ge: Indigenous Knowledge Centre - 10th Anniversary
from Six Nations Polytechnic

Deyohahá:ge: Indigenous Knowledge Centre is a research facility and archive housed within Six Nations Polytechnic (SNP) on the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, Ontario, Canada. Six Nations is the largest First Nations reserve in Canada and home to the Six Nations Confederacy: the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Tuscarora, and Seneca nation people.

Deyohahá:ge: officially opened its doors on November 30, 2010, after several years of planning by community members and under the guidance of Hodinohso:ni Indigenous Knowledge Guardians. Starting with a only few boxes of resources and a couple dozen objects in the basement of SNP, it has grown into a storehouse of information for Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and a landmark for visitors to Six Nations. Deyohahá:ge: has amassed a collection of archival documents, several hundred digital files including photographs, transcriptions and manuscripts, audio and video recordings, and over 100 objects from the donations of supporters near and far - all pertaining to Six Nations and Hodinohso:ni history, language and culture.

Special thanks to Thru the Red Door in Ohsweken, Ontario for their dedication to this project and Shane Powless at Thru the Red Door for his patience and guidance. Niá:wen.

Haudenosaunee Filmmakers Festival
from Friends of Ganondagan and Rematriation Magazine

The Friends of Ganondagan and Rematriation Magazine are proud to announce the first Haudenosaunee Filmmakers Festival. We invite you to join us from April 19 - April 25, for seven days of virtual screenings and panel discussions. Films will be shown throughout the week and ticket holders will have on demand access to all featured films until May 1.  

The Haudenosaunee Filmmakers Festival is the premier showcase and network for Haudenosaunee film writers, directors, producers and actors from across the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The event is FREE and open to the public. Donations are accepted. Email with questions and comments!

Schedule poster
Featured Films poster

More information here
Film pass available here

Virtual seminar: Indigenous Environmental Justice, Knowledge and Law
from Princeton University

Deborah McGregor, who is Anishinaabe from Whitefish River First Nation, Birch Island, Ontario, is an Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice. Professor McGregor’s research has focused on Indigenous knowledge systems and their various applications in diverse contexts including environmental and water governance, environmental justice, health and environment, climate change and Indigenous legal traditions. 

Professor McGregor remains actively involved in a variety of Indigenous communities, serving as an advisor and continuing to engage in community-based research and initiatives. Professor McGregor has been at the forefront of Indigenous environmental justice and Indigenous research theory and practice. Her work has been shared through the IEJ project website and UKRI International Collaboration on Indigenous research

The seminar will take place over Zoom on Monday, April 26 at 12:15pm EST. To request accommodations for this event, please contact at least one week prior to the event.

More information here
Illustration by Luke Swinson and Alanah Astehtsi Otsistohkwa Jewell, located on University of Waterloo website.
Virtual event: Indigenous Speakers Series presents Logan MacDonald
from University of Waterloo

The Indigenous Speakers Series proudly presents Logan MacDonald, professor in the Department of Fine Arts and Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Indigenous Art. The Indigenous Speakers Series is co-presented by the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, the Faculty of Arts, the Department of History, and the Department of Communication Arts.

Logan MacDonald is a visual artist of mixed European and Mi’kmaq ancestry, belonging to the Elmastukwek people of Ktaqmkuk territory (Bay of Islands, Newfoundland). His interdisciplinary practice explores notions of belonging in contexts of cultural erasure, queer and disability experiences. MacDonald has been featured as a solo artist exhibiting in competitive and critically engaged galleries throughout Canada, and in 2019 he was longlisted for the Sobey Art Award. MacDonald has taught at three post-secondary institutions and joined the Department of Fine Arts at Waterloo in 2019. In 2020, he was named a CRC in Indigenous Art.

No registration required. Join the event via Teams Events livestream link on Thursday, April 8 at 12:00 to 1:00 PM EST
Please note, if you join via the link on a mobile device or tablet, you’ll need the Teams app. Computer users can join with no Teams app.

More information here
Image of Sara Sinclair (left) and Stephanie Lozano (right) from OPENSpace's website.
Podcast: The Importance of Amplifying Contemporary Indigenous Voices
from OPENSpace, National Recreation and Parks Association

This episode, we’re welcoming Sara Sinclair, an oral historian of Cree-Ojibwa and German-Jewish ancestry, Columbia University professor and editor of How We Go Home: Voices from Indigenous North Americawhich is a book of first-person stories in the long and ongoing fight to protect the land, rights and life of Indigenous people in North America.

We’re also excited to welcome Stephanie Lozano, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation tribe — a federally recognized tribe with traditional territory across Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri — and tribal liaison for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, which works with the eleven federally recognized tribes located within Wisconsin to provide child welfare, support for families and other critical services.

Tune in to our conversation to learn more about Sara and Stephanie and the importance of amplifying contemporary Indigenous voices to help change the narrative for future generations, as well as:

  • What real equity looks like from each of their perspectives and lived experiences.
  • The role of climate resiliency in discussing Indigenous people.
  • The history of Ho-Chunk Nation and the tribe’s participation in advocacy efforts.
  • How activism plays a role in addressing the needs of tribal communities.
  • What Deb Haaland’s confirmation as Secretary of the Department of the Interior will mean for the future of tribal consultation and where priorities lie.
  • How baking a cake can be used as a good metaphor for explaining equity, and more!
Listen to the podcast 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.

This newsletter is compiled and edited by Olivia White and Bradley Clements, GRASAC research assistants.
View Previous Newsletters
Miigwech, nia:wen, thank you, merci: we hope you have enjoyed these stories!
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GRASAC · 140 St. George St. · Toronto, On M5S 3G6 · Canada

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