Museum showcases the experience and art of residential schools

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) – Two temporary exhibitions are now on display at the Dennos Museum Center that explore off-reserve residential schools for Indigenous children and contemporary Anishinaabek art.

“Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories” and “Close to Home: Contemporary Ansihinaabek Artists” will run until the end of October. Both exhibits are intended for visitors to explore and immerse themselves in the intricate stories that surround US government-funded residential schools, as well as current trends and connections of traditional practices through Anishinaabek artists in the region.


“Away from Home” is the updated installation of the longtime boarding school exhibit, “Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience” at the Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona.

The six-week exhibit is made possible by the NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, reports the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

According to Heard Museum, the exhibit was developed with an advisory committee of scholars and culture bearers from Indigenous communities across the country and features diverse perspectives that shed light on personal stories.

Through the fascinating collections of archival material, photographs, art and first-person interviews of former residential school students, visitors will witness a kaleidoscope of voices in a series of interactive timelines and environments. immersive, including classrooms and dormitories.

The exhibit explores the impact schools have had on Indigenous communities, and how those impacts are felt today through historic education signs.

In a statement made by the Heard Museum, “This is a story that must continue to be shared and that is essential for remembering the nation’s past and understanding its present.”

Jason Dake, deputy director of museum programs and learning at the Dennos Museum Center, said he filed for the exhibition more than two years ago with the aim of opening up representation in the community.

He sought the views of people who are not part of the “dominant majority” and asked that the six-week exhibition coincide with Indigenous Peoples Day, which is officially observed in Traverse City on October 11.

Little did he know the timing would coincide with the recent horrific news of the remains of thousands of Indigenous children found at the sites of former residential schools.

In addition, the museum worked closely with Eric Hemenway, director of the Odawa Indian Band of Little Traverse Bay Repairs, Archives and Records Department, to complete the exhibit.

The Dennos Museum will feature additional panels with educational information about Holy Child, which, as previously reported by Record-Eagle, was a government-funded, Catholic-run boarding school that operated in Harbor Springs until it closed in 1983. .

“It’s important to locate the stories,” Dake said, adding that the museum had not been fully engaged in the past with the Native American community in the Grand Traverse area.

He said he wanted to hopefully make it clear that the museum is listening and wants to open a dialogue on how to improve it.

“We want to have conversations about how to better ourselves to serve the Indigenous community,” said Dake.

Next to the exhibit is “Close to Home: Contemporary Anishinaabek Artists”.

This includes Indigenous art from the area, including works by Two-Spirit Anishinaabe artist Jamie John, 20, a citizen of the Ottawa Grand Traverse Band and the Chippewa Indians.

John wanted his works to be available for visitors to see Indigenous art in the 21st century.

“I think when people think of Native American art, it’s not representative of our contemporary work,” John said.

He added that he wanted visitors to think outside of baskets or weaving.

“While these are essential parts of our culture, we are also printers, painters and fashion designers. “

Pieces from his “Unceded Ancestors” and “The Invisible” collections will be presented in the exhibition. Both explore the continuing effects of colonialism and how it has intertwined in the way society treats the land and one another, especially in Indigenous communities.

He dedicated his ink paintings, “The Invisible”, to his aunt Teenie, who died last year.

He said that through these paintings his hope is to raise awareness of the medical abuse that indigenous peoples face in the hospital system.

“It’s important to talk about these issues, because of the ongoing and silent genocide that indigenous communities are going through today, the issue is so important and I want people to see that connection,” John said. John’s work has been featured in the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center as well as an ongoing exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum.

Her work will be alongside featured Anishinaabek artists including Renee Dillard, Jenna Wood, Yvonne Walker Keshick and Kelly Church until October 31.

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