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

October 2021 Newsletter

Today, the day after Orange Shirt Day and the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, this newsletter is sent with love and compassion to Survivors of residential and boarding schools, the children who did not return home, and Indigenous nations across Turtle Island.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the residential school system and access or provide support can access a resource list, compiled by GRASAC RAs, here.

Stories in this issue:
  • Virtual Fingerweaving Course, from Carole James & Claire Spalding
  • Seeking Collaborators, from Jana Harper
  • Hodinöhsö:ni’ Art Show Call for Artists, from Ganondagan
  • Events and Exhibitions:
    • Indigenous Peoples' Day: Black Indigenous Youth Advancing Social Justice, National Museum of the American Indian
    • Built on Genocide, Luminato Festival
    • Tree Protection Zone and Plastic Heart Exhibitions and Programming, Art Gallery at the University of Toronto
    • Exhibition Review: Away From Home and Close to Home at the Dennos Museum Center, by Bradley Clements
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Nine colourful strips of fingerweaving with geometric designs
Image from Carole James
Virtual Fingerweaving Course
from Carole James & Claire Spalding

Fingerweaving is an ancient traditional textile method. There is no loom. The fingers manipulate the threads to create a sturdy cloth, which then can be used as bag, belt, or strap. Carol James learned of this method because of her husband’s Quebecois roots. Impressed by her ability to explain the technique, people around her in Winnipeg encouraged her to teach. She developed handouts for her students, and her students urged her to publish the handouts. The book Fingerweaving Untangled, has sold more than 10,000 copies.

Since the start of COVID, Carol and her daughter Claire Sparling have been exploring ways to teach on-line. They have led a number of students through to success with a variety of braiding techniques.
Image from Carole James
Carol and Claire are happy to announce an on-line class titled Introduction to Fingerweaving. This online zoom class will lead participants through the basics of finger weaving, starting with a basic friendship bracelet, and progressing through several different motifs found in diverse traditional finger woven sashes.

The online Zoom classes will take place from 6 PM to 8 PM Central time, starting Tuesday, November 2, 2021, and will run for six weeks through to December 7. Students will receive a kit in the mail, which will contain two starter pieces already set up, and assorted other materials. Included in the kit, students will find a copy of Carol James's book Fingerweaving Untangled as well as her DVD Fingerweaving Instructions. In addition students will have access to a webpage containing extra support materials. Each zoom class will be recorded and posted to this webpage for the students to view as many times as they wish. Students will have access to this page for a month after the end of class.

The registration price, including kit and postage within North America is $250. GRASAC members are eligible for a 10% discount. Enter the coupon code GRASAC10 during the checkout process. 

The finger weaving class application form can be found at: 

The deadline for registration for this class is October 11, 2021. 

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us at
Register Now!
Image from Carole James
Artwork with photo of a forest scene and the letters "NANA" and "BOOZHOO" repeated on each side of it.
Image from Jana Harper

Seeking Collaborators
from Jana Harper

Looking for Nanaboozhoo is a multi-disciplinary project looking at the spiritual and physical traces of the Anishinaabe migration through mapping, collections research, physical travel, conversation, and performance. With help from the Mellon Foundation, the project is in its initial phase and goals for 2021-2022 include building digital infrastructure, connecting with scholars and curators, and starting the podcast.

If you are interested in contributing/collaborating, please contact

Jana Harper is a visual artist, a member of the Mackinac Band of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians, and Associate Professor of the Practice in the Department of Art at Vanderbilt University.

Map of the Great Lakes region with lines and icons
Image from Jana Harper
Banner with text reading: Ganondagan 2021 Hodinöhsö:ni’ Art Show. 6 Divisions: Basketry; Beadwork; 2D Fine Art; Fine Art Sculpture; Photography; Traditional Arts. Submission Deadline: Wednesday, October 20th, 2021
Hodinöhsö:ni’ Art Show Call for Artists
from Ganondagan

Ganondagan is pleased to announce its fifth juried Hodinöhsö:ni’ Art Show to be exhibited at the Seneca Art & Culture Center – Saturday, November 20th, 2021 followed by an online exhibit. Our 2021 show will include a new division, Photography, which will include both traditional photography as well as modern methods.

We are calling for Haudenosaunee artists in the six divisions of: Beadwork, Basketry, Traditional Arts, Fine Art 2D, Fine Art Sculpture, and Photography to enter up to three pieces of new work for consideration in the show. (First Place - $1,250; Second Place - $750; Third Place - $400; Best in Show - $2,500). Each artist may submit up to three pieces of their own work for the show. All pieces must be available to purchase, and Ganondagan will have right of first refusal (the right to purchase before any other offers are considered).

Complete applications must be received by Wednesday, October 20th, 2021; incomplete applications will not be considered. Artists will be notified on Thursday, October 28th if their submissions have been accepted into the show. Artists will then have to deliver their work by Wednesday, November 17th, 2021 for installation and judging. Awards will be presented at the opening reception on Friday, November 19th, 2021; we encourage participating artists to attend the opening reception.

Please review the rules and application carefully.
Apply Here
Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Black-Indigenous Youth Advancing Social Justice
from the National Museum of the American Indian

October 11, 2021, 1 PM ET (Available on demand afterwards), Free

How are Black-Indigenous youth working to advance social justice? This Indigenous Peoples’ Day program highlights youth of blended Black and Native heritage who use art, activism, and policy to advance Black and Indigenous solidarity and affect positive change in their communities.

  • Joy SpearChief-Morris (African American and Kainai Blood Tribe)
  • Kyle T. Mays (Black and Saginaw Chippewa) he/him/his
  • Autumn Rose Williams (Black and Shinnecock)
  • Amber Starks (African American and Muscogee [Creek]) she/her
Register Here
Built on Genocide
at Luminato Festival

September 22 - October 24, 2021 (Online Premiere, October 13, 7:40 PM ET)

Ontario Square, Harbourfront Centre
235 Queens Quay W., Toronto, Ontario

Built on Genocide is a large-scale installation by multidisciplinary Indigenous artist Jay Soule | CHIPPEWAR, reflecting the historical events and colonial policies throughout Canada’s history that have deliberately undermined and destroyed Indigenous livelihoods. 
Visit CHIPPEWAR's Website Here
Construction hoarding around a tree outdoors, with black and white text and backgrounds, reading "Land / Kin / Tree / Life Protection Zone."
An installation in Tree Protection Zone, curated by Mik Migwans and Maria Hupfield. Photo by Bradley Clements.
Tree Protection Zone and Plastic Heart Exhibitions and Programming
at The Art Museum at the University of Toronto

Tree Protection Zone
Curated by Mik Migwans and Maria Hupfield

September 8, 2021 - Spring/Summer 2022

Hart House Circle

Works by Shuvinai Ashoona, Susan Blight, Carrie Hill, Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch (Onaman Collective), Taqralik Partridge in collaboration with Nils Ailo Utsi, Que Rock/Manitou Nemeen (Quentin Commanda)

In preparation for the Indigenous Landscape Project at Hart House Circle as part of the University of Toronto’s Landmark Initiative, Hart House Commons is transformed by a number of large tree-protection hoardings which have inspired a public art project entitled Tree Protection Zone (TPZ). TPZ involves artists who elaborate these hoardings into a celebration of the garden and trees, the buried waterway (Taddle Creek) that remains under the soil, and the community that is centred here. The project will feature specially commissioned mural-sized works by eight artists and their collaborators considering the preservation of life, water, and kin and how each is inextricably linked to the protection of trees.
Read More

Plastic Heart Exhibition Dialogues

Dialogue 2: Plastic Pollution in the Laurentian Great Lakes: Industry and Invisibility
Wednesday, October 6, 6pm–7:30pm EDT
With Ian Arturo, Dr. Sara Belontz, Tegan Moore, Mary Mattingly, and Alice (Xia) Zhu
Moderated by Kelly Jazvac

Dialogue 3: The Plastic Conservation Conundrum: Preserving Plastics in Museum Collections and Plastics’ Durability in the Environment
Wednesday, October 13, 6pm–7:30pm EDT
With Courtney Asztalos, Roger Griffith, Sherry Phillips, and Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza
Moderated by Kelly Jazvac

Dialogue 4: Sustainable Museums
Wednesday, October 27, 2pm–3:30pm EDT
With Suzanne Carte, Maya Ishizawa, and Sarah Sutton
Moderated by Kirsty Robertson

All programs will be held online. 
More about Plastic Heart
The entrance to the Away From Home exhibit, under an arch reading "Indian Training School" and flanked by text and image panels.
The opening of Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories at the Dennos Museum Center. Curated by Janet Cantley at the Heard Museum. Photo by Bradley Clements.
Exhibition Review: Away From Home and Close to Home at the Dennos Museum Center
by Bradley Clements

Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories touches on many experiences of Indian boarding schools throughout the USA over their history from 1879 to the present. The exhibition emphasizes the agency of Indigenous peoples and children in resisting and reshaping these institutions. It features extensive didactic texts and archival images, as well as video interviews with Indigenous scholars and former boarding school students, and historical items and props.

Looking down at a wooden small classroom desk and chair. The desk has a clear pane set in its lid, under which are three books.
A child's classroom desk, converted into a case displaying children's books about Indigenous peoples published in the 1950s and 1960s. Curated by Janet Cantley at the Heard Museum. Photo by Bradley Clements.
The range of topics and experiences spanning the 142-year history in this ambitious exhibition can be overwhelming, especially when being adapted to new spaces in its travels across the USA. The exhibition does not simplify this diversity, setting evidence of the system's violence next to testimonies of the use of school experiences to Indigenous ends. Nevertheless, commonalities emerge across this long American history, with parallels in Canada: the genocidal intent of the system's formation, for the colonization of Indigenous land, and the responses of Indigenous peoples to resist these aims.
An exhibit panel and display case. The panel features the heading "Physical Health" and a quote from the 1913 Commissioner of Indian Affairs reading "We cannot solve the Indian problem without Indians. We cannot educate their children unless they are kept alive."
Historical and interpretive texts, archival images, replica and historical materials relating to poor health and care conditions at Indian boarding schools. Curated by Janet Cantley at the Heard Museum. Photo by Bradley Clements.
Away from Home was curated at the Heard Museum by Janet Cantley, as a travelling iteration of the Museum's long-standing and influential Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience. It is visiting the Dennos Museum Center on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City from September 1 to October 20, 2021.

The exhibition and its local installation have been informed by committees of outstanding Indigenous experts, including Anishinaabek heritage experts Brenda Child and Eric Hemmenway.
More About Away from Home
A COVID-19 style face mask made of stitched-together triangular pieces of quilled birch bark, mounted on a white plinth.
Mask by Jenna Wood (2020) in Close to Home at the Dennos Museum Center. Photo by Bradley Clements.
Importantly, the Dennos Museum Center paired Away from Home with Close to Home: Contemporary Anishinaabek Artists, a small exhibition of recent works by local Anishinaabek women and two spirit artists. The art of Kelly Church, Reneé Dillard, Jamie John, Yvonne Walker Keshick, and Jenna Wood is also paired with older pieces from the Dennos collections.
A mat with geometrical designs in natural and dyed fiber, displayed in a case with quillworked boxes.
Bulrush Mat by Renée Dillard (2020) in Close to Home at the Dennos Museum Center, with quillwork boxes of Yvonne Walker Keshick in the background. Photo by Bradley Clements.
Following Away from Home, the artists showcased in Close to Home make it clear that the genocides of which Indian boarding schools were a part did not succeed. Works such as Jenna Woods' Mask (2020), use intergenerational techniques of working birch bark, porcupine quills, and sinew to form a symbol of the times we all navigate today: a face-covering to protect against COVID-19. Securing Anishinaabek futurities and resisting ongoing colonial forces like climate change and ecosystem destruction, Kelly Church's Black Ash and Birch Teaching Baskets (n.d.) are inscribed in their interiors with instructions for maintaining relationships with these trees through basket-making in tumultuous times. These baskets literally carry teachings.

These artworks hit close to home in more ways than one: the artists and materials are local to the area, the messages relate to the times in which we are living, and the issues touch on intimate, emotional, and unresolved struggles.

Close to Home: Contemporary Anishinaabek Artists is on view at the Dennos Museum Center from September 1 until October 31, 2021.
Two baskets formed from the outer bark of birch and black ash trees, in a display case. They are stitched together and have black ash splint hoops around their openings. The birth bark basket features an incised geometric design.
Black Ash and Birch Teaching Baskets by Kelly Church (n.d.) in Close to Home at the Dennos Museum Center. Photo by Bradley Clements.
More About Dennos Exhibitions
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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