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

May 2020 Newsletter

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

We are excited to share this GRASAC newsletter with you!  We aim for this newsletter to share news and stories by and for all GRASAC members on a monthly basis. You are invited to share your GRASAC news with here - see instructions below!

During these times of "social distancing" and isolation it is so valuable to stay in touch with each other, celebrate good news, request assistance, and be in solidarity. This newsletter includes both difficult and inspiring media about how Indigenous artists and experts are addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this newsletter you will find:
  • The historic northeastern collections in Brunswick, Germany, by Rainer Hatoum
  • Wyandot Names Project, by John Steckley
  • Free Downloadable Indigenous Colouring Book and Corn Cob Keychain Crafting Instructions, by Layla Black
  • Ontario Museums Association Award of Excellence Nominations Open
  • COVID-19 Resources from the Indian Arts and Crafts Board
  • Minnesota Jingle Dress Exhibition; Indigenous Artists Struggling During COVID-19: Coverage from Unreserved on CBC
  • Indigenous Communities, Systemic Racism, and COVID-19: Coverage from the Toronto Star
  • Artists Indigenizing Facemasks: Coverage from the CBC
  • Call for Short Insight Papers - Museums and COVID 19: First Responses, from Museums & Society
  • Invitation to Contribute to Future GRASAC Newsletters, from Bradley Clements
1.) Drumhead (A IV b 87), collected by Johann Ludwig von Unger between 1775 and 1783, given to the SMB in 1871 by Ludolf von Unger.

The historic northeastern collections in Brunswick, Germany
by Rainer Hatoum

The largest surviving concentration of ethnographic pieces collected by German mercenaries during the American Revolution (1775-1783) may now be found in the city of Brunswick, particularly in the Municipal Museum Brunswick (Städtisches Museum Braunschweig). Two powerfully painted drumheads are particularly notable among the pieces that can be traced back to that time, as they are said to be the oldest surviving examples of their kind.

A particular strength of the northeastern collections in Brunswick is the number of objects falling into the category of “tourist art.” Again, examples from the time of the American Revolution are particularly strongly represented, but they are by no means limited to that time. Many more examples to be found in Brunswick date to the early 19th century as well. A highlight among the pieces at the Municipal Museum Brunswick is one of the oldest surviving birch bark canoes in Europe. It had been collected by the famous piano-producer-family Steinweg & Sons in 1875, who then donated it to their hometown.

Due to the historic importance of these collections, the Municipal Museum Brunswick is currently working towards the inclusion of its northeastern collections into GRASAC’s Knowledge Sharing System (GKS). Once accessible through the GKS, we would like to encourage users to review these collections to contribute up-to-date knowledge. Given a planned redesigning of our exhibition-space, we especially hope for comments from First Nations community experts. We would also like to extend our invitation to anyone intending to visit Germany in the future to contact us concerning a personal visit.

For further information, please contact Dr. Rainer Hatoum (provenance researcher for the anthropological collections):

2.) Reticule bark base (A IV b 211); collected between 1775 and 1783, from the collections of the Ducal Museum in 1899.

Wyandot Names Project
by John Steckley

For the last few months I have been engaged in an ever-growing project of compiling and analysing Wyandot language personal names, most of which belong to clans. Most of these are for fellow Wyandot (405 so far) and for the French they were dealing with in the Detroit area in the 18th century and English in the 19th and early 20th century in Kansas and Oklahoma (50 so far).  I am learning a lot about the thinking and general culture of the people from these names.  For example, 27 of them, so far, refer to the sky.

I've worked with the Wendat/Wyandot language for over 45 years now.  Since my retirement in 2015, I have been the tribal linguist for  the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma.  This project started off as part of that work, but now is that and much more.  I have named a number of people myself, when I am requested to by Wyandotte citizens.  I thought that I would collect some of the traditional names that the people could have.  I had no idea that I could find and translate so many.

If you might think this might be useful for your work, please ask questions.  It will be a long time before this particular book idea will be completed and then published.  You can contact me at

Time to Colour, compiled by the Woodland Cultural Centre.
Free Downloadable Indigenous Colouring Book and Corn Cob Keychain Crafting Instructions
by Layla Black

The Woodland Cultural Centre is striving to continue to provide Indigenous resources and education for the community even while their gallery and museum are closed. This 50 page PDF Printable will be made available on their website for the Month of May at no cost to the public. Check out their website at
Corn cob keychain tutorial, by the Woodland Cultural Centre.
To encourage the community to stay busy and plug into traditional medicines like Beading, Woodland Cultural Centre has created a Virtual Tutorial to guide you along the process of crafting your own Beaded CornCob Keychain. Video instructions and Material list can be sent directly to your inbox by clicking here:
Receive instructions

Ontario Museums Association Award of Excellence Nominations Open

Do you know individuals or projects that have made outstanding contributions to museum excellence in Ontario?  Consider nominating them for an Ontario Museums Association Award of Excellence!

More information here

COVID-19 Resources from the Indian Arts and Crafts Board

The Indian Arts and Crafts Board has provided a repository of COVID-19 related resources for Indigenous artists in the USA.

More information here
Image from Ziibaaska' iganagooday: The Ojibwe Jingle Dress at 100. It includes artwork by Steve Premo and dresses by Adrienne Benjamin. (Submitted to the CBC by Brenda Child)
Minnesota Jingle Dress Exhibition; Indigenous Artists Struggling During COVID-19: Coverage from Unreserved on CBC

Historian and curator Brenda Child speaks about the exhibition Ziibaaska' iganagooday: The Ojibwe Jingle Dress at 100 at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post in Onamia, Minnesotta, and about the origins of the jingle dress during the Spanish Flu pandemic.
Read or hear the full story
Indigenous artists, performers, and consultants discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on their work and lives.
Read or hear the full story
Indigenous Communities, Systemic Racism, and COVID-19: Coverage from the Toronto Star

Dr. Janet Smylie, one of Canada’s first Métis doctors and a lead researcher on the inequities of health care for Indigenous people in the era of COVID-19, explains why First Nations, Inuit and Métis people are at a disproportionate risk and what must be done to fix the problem now.
Hear the full story
Marlana Thompson from Akwesasne created this mask 'so that we don't forget what happened.' (Submitted to CBC by Marlana Thompson)
Artists Indigenizing Facemasks: Coverage from the CBC

Some Indigenous artists have been creating indigenized facemasks to commemorate and express their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read the full story and see images
Call for Short Insight Papers - Museums and COVID 19: First Responses
from Museums & Society

As COVID 19 has struck around the world, museums face multiple challenges. While it is too early to draw conclusions regarding the effects of the pandemic, the editors of Museum & Society seek initial responses for their November 2020 issue – short (1000-1500 words) papers reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 on cultural organisations; new challenges, realities, and practices emerging during the pandemic; and the impact of the pandemic on planning activities and institutional discourses.
Museum and Society also seeks short (1000-1500 word) opinion pieces on museums and COVID-19. Do fundamental social changes caused by the pandemic present a call to action for our field?
By publishing brief articles in a timely fashion, we seek to serve the profession and to contribute to the initial stages of a thoughtful conversation. Submissions may address the following topics, among others.
Museums’ public/community roles:
  • (How) have museums prepared for this pandemic, and to what extent do mitigation plans work?
  • What can/are museums offer(ing) during a global crisis such as a pandemic?
  • How are individual museums adapting and responding to this catastrophe, especially in their roles as public institutions forced to close? What is happening behind the scenes and on line?
  • (How) are museums working with communities where coronavirus and its consequences have hit particularly hard because of healthcare or income disparities?
  • The pandemic has brought to the fore issues related to isolation, mental health, domestic violence, and racism. How can affected museums address these social issues?
  • Are museums reaching new and different publics during the lockdown and pandemic?
Specialized museums and audiences:
  • What are the implications for independent museums that rely on earned income?
  • What is the role of museums online with children out of school?
  • (How) do medical museums play distinctive roles during a health care crisis?
Conceptualizing the museum during the crisis:
  • (How) are museums useful and relevant during lockdown?
  • How do museums mediate catastrophes? What are the challenges of being digitally creative during lockdown? How are new digital activities engaging with questions of access, ethics, and resistance?
  • How do notions of time and space shift during quarantine, and what does this imply for the temporality of museums?
Collecting around COVID 19:
  • How can museums ethically collect tangible objects or digital/social media related to COVID-19?
  • When is the right time to collect coronavirus materials, given that many are overwhelmed with caring for the ill or grieving?
  • How does collecting a pandemic under lockdown challenge documentation and collecting practices?
Looking ahead:
  • (Why) should museums reopen after the lockdown?
  • How do we begin to assess the practical and economic effects of the crisis on the cultural sector?
  • Should the role and purpose of cultural institutions be re-evaluated as we prepare for a post-pandemic era?
DEADLINE: June 30, 2020
Questions may be addressed to: Professor Amy Levin,

Submission guidelines are available here:
Submission guidelines
Invitation to contribute to future GRASAC newsletters
from Bradley Clements

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.

As many GRASAC members struggle with the effects of COVID-19, sharing stories of success, struggle, and adaptation, requests for assistance, activities to do from home, and any stories particularly relevant to the moment are encouraged.

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.

Going forward, these newsletters will also be shared on GRASAC's Twitter feed!  Be sure to follow us: @grasac_org
Miigwech, nia:wen, thank you, merci: we hope you have enjoyed these stories!
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