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

August 2021 Newsletter

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

In this newsletter you will find news from, about, and of interest to GRASAC members and subscribers.

Stories in this issue:

  • Mobile Community Research Kits Update, by Haley Bryant
  • Update on Transforming the GKS into a Public Platform, by Cara Krmpotich
  • GRASAC RA Profile, by Autumn Epple
  • Call for Indigenous Artists, from the Woodland Cultural Centre
  • Indigenous Cluster Hire Initiative, from the University of Waterloo
  • From the GKS, by Bradley Clements
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GRASAC Mobile Community Research Kit backpacks and bags being assembled at the University of Toronto Faculty of Information. Photo by Haley Bryant.

Mobile Community Research Kits Update
by Haley Bryant

Equipment for GRASAC’s Mobile Community Research Kits has begun arriving! So far, we’ve received the backpacks, camera bags, rugged laptops, digital cameras, and various power and data storage accessories. The kits will continue to come together into the fall with the addition of audio recorders, portable scanners, mesh networking equipment, and virtual reality devices.
Once the kits are assembled in full, we will open up requests for kits through the GRASAC website. If you have any questions about the contents of the kits or potential projects you’d like to use the kits for, contact Doctoral Research Assistant, Haley Bryant, at

Laptops for the new GRASAC Mobile Community Research Kits. Photos by Haley Bryant.

Update on Transforming the GKS into a Public Platform
by Cara Krmpotich
This summer, GRASAC continues its work to transform our password-protected Knowledge Sharing Database (the “GKS”) into a public platform. This has included a series of focus groups with a range of people including those using the GKS for their first time to long-standing GRASAC members who have created records in the database. This helps us understand how people search for cultural belongings and information, and the kinds of online experiences that are rewarding and valuable. An intensive effort is also underway to develop multilingual names for heritage items, drawing on the existing Cayuga and Anishinaabemowin language items in the GKS. This will enable heritage items to be identified by their names in three languages (to start!) and encourage Indigenous language use. This effort is occurring in tandem with a philosophical shift in the way heritage items are described and grouped together. Our goal is for Indigenous users of the GKS to feel like they are reading about a relative when they meet a heritage item online.  
We are also excited to welcome back GRASAC member Richard Laurin who is leading the web design of the new platform. A successful funding application to the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative at the University of Toronto has enabled us to hire Laurin, a museum project developer who is Métis from Drummond Island. Laurin brings experience developing digital-first and digitally-augmented projects including Iningat Ilagiit – the digitization of the Cape Dorset Archive intended to be a digital “place for family” that connects Inuit and Northern communities with the artworks, and Spirit Lines at the Manitoba Museum, winner of the 2017 Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Museums, and the 2018 International Guardians of Culture and Lifeways Outstanding Project by a Non-Native Organization award from the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums. Laurin was a GRASAC research assistant during his graduate studies and employment with the Manitoba Museum.
In addition to Laurin, the team includes graduate students and professors at University of Michigan and University of Toronto: Heidi Bohaker, Shenella Charles, Autumn Epple, Irmarie Fraticelli-Rodríguez, Cara Krmpotich, Carlie Manners, Sony Prosper, Ricky Punzalan, Yvette Ramirez, Alexandra Rayburn, Sheila Wheesk and Olivia White. Haley Bryant, Bradley Clements, Jeffery Hewitt and Chantelle Perreault have also made formative contributions to the work.
We will be seeking help to “click test” early iterations of the public platform and to test the beta version when it launches. Stay tuned!

Image from Autumn Epple.
by Autumn Epple

My time spent in the past year as a GRASAC Research Assistant has been one I look back on with fondness. As a graduate student in the History program at the University of Toronto, I saw GRASAC as a way to utilize my passion for public history while working towards my degree. As an RA, I managed material culture records from institutions such as the British Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Since I am Kanien'kehá:ka, Haudenosaunee objects were of particular interest. 

I recently completed my major research paper, A Kanien'kehá:ka Call to Arms in “the Land Where the Partridge Drums”: Akwesasne in the Second World War. The inspiration for this paper was my grandfather, a paratrooper who enlisted underage and was revealed posthumously to be one of the Akwesasne Mohawk Code Talkers. Both he and my grandmother were veterans who continued to protect their community in the years after the war. The pandemic meant I was unable to physically go to Akwesasne to visit family and access archival records, but I made do with what I did have access to from Toronto. 

My upcoming research in my PhD studies at York University will study the life of Louis Cook, an Afro-Indigenous leader known to be the highest ranking person of colour in the American forces during the War of Independence. Despite this considerable achievement, Cook is a relatively unknown figure. I plan to investigate how he is viewed by both colonial states and his own people. Through this research, I am hoping to shed light on the importance of BIPOC historical memory, as well as add to Afro-Indigenous representation in historical scholarship.

I hope to continue to be a part of GRASAC in the future.

Call for Indigenous Artists
from the Woodland Cultural Centre

Woodland Cultural Centre is pleased to announce return of the annual Indigenous Art 2021 Juried Exhibition.

Established in 1975, this is one of the longest running multi-media exhibitions that provide artists an opportunity to exhibit and sell their work in a fine art gallery setting. Artwork that challenges, celebrates and investigates is encouraged.

The exhibition will be presented both on-site and virtually with a downloadable PDF publication. Artist profiles will be made available through WCC website.

The invitation is open to all emerging, mid-career and established artists (18+) of Indigenous ancestry. Artists may submit up to three works of art. All media will be accepted and works must be original and completed within the last two years. A Guest Curator will adjudicate the submissions.

Deadline for entry is Friday, August 6, 2021 by 4:00pm.

Information and Submission Form Here
Indigenous Cluster Hire Initiative
from the University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo has announced it will take a step in addressing the systemic underrepresentation of Indigenous and Black faculty with the launch of new cluster hiring initiatives that will see the addition of 10 new Indigenous and 10 Black faculty members.

Thank you to Karl Hele for sharing this news with GRASAC.
Learn More
View the Job Postings
A page of the minutes recorded at the 1764 Treaty of Niagara council, published in 1953.

Niagara Congress Minutes, July 28, 1764. In “The papers of Sir William Johnson, Volume 11,” prepared for publication by the Division of Archives and History, pg 303-307. Albany: University of the State of New York, 1953. GKS ID: 58857.
From the GKS: Niagara Conference Minutes, July 28, 1764
by Bradley Clements

Last month, many questioned and challenged “Canada Day” as the celebration of a colonial and genocidal state. July 1 was designated as the date of Canadian confederation by the 1867 British North America Act. This Act also unilaterally asserted Canada’s jurisdiction over “Indians and lands reserved for the Indians,” the legal rationale for much colonial violence that followed.
Some have argued, though, that the colonial claims of confederation be rejected as the bases of settler presence in northern Turtle Island, suggesting a turn to the Treaty of Niagara: “the most ‘fundamental agreement’ yet entered into between First Nations and the Crown, and much more than a unilateral declaration of the Crown’s will,” according to John Borrows (1997, 169). During July of 1764, approximately 2,000 people from 24 Indigenous nations travelled from as far as the Mississippi, James Bay, and the Atlantic to Niagara where they negotiated a relationship with the British Crown. Reciprocal responsibilities were agreed upon, sanctified, and represented by various wampum belts, such as the 24 Nations Belt and the 1764 Covenant Chain Belt. The gathering and negotiations concluded on August 1.
As a settler Canadian I wonder what it might mean to commemorate August 1 and uphold the mutual sovereignties, responsibilities, and relationships recognized 257 years ago, rather than July 1 and the unilateral imposition that it represents?
The publication of the council minutes from the Treaty of Niagara pictured above is one of the few items that I could easily identify in the GKS related to this event. However, this agreement is most pertinently recorded in wampum belts, as referenced in the text. Recuperating wampum and other treaty items in museums is one important role that GRASAC artists and researchers (and partners in projects such as On the Wampum Trail) play in reconnecting material heritage with their diverse and important relationships.

Borrows, John. 1997. “Wampum at Niagara: The Royal Proclamation, Canadian Legal History, and Self-Government.” In Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in Canada: Essays on Law, Equity, and Respect for Difference, ed. Michael Asch. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Hele, Karl. 2011. “Treaty of Niagara, 1764.” The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Invitation to submit a "From the GKS" feature

If you have an 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

Miigwech, nia:wen, thank you, merci: we hope you have enjoyed these stories!
Copyright belongs to authors, artists, and photographers credited above.

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