In honor of Indigenous People’s Day (October 11, 2021), the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History (UMMNH) highlights two exhibits featuring the basket-making traditions of the Anishinaabe people.
The separate, but related, exhibits were created in partnership with the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archeology (UMMAA). They are displayed in the museum’s Student Showcase (presenting research projects by U-M students) and Collections Case (highlighting the university's extensive research collections) located in the museum’s atrium.
This exhibit, created by students in the Winter 2020 Museum Anthropology course taught by Lisa Young, PhD, explores the history of museum collections and how knowledge is shared between families, communities, and institutions.
The students researched the objects collected from Ketegaunseebee/Garden River First Nation in the 1930s by former UMMAA curator Volney Jones. During the semester, the class met with Josh and Sarah Homminga, award-winning basketmakers and teachers, who helped them learn about the importance of Anishinaabe living traditions. Students worked together in teams to select objects for the exhibit, write labels for these objects, and develop content for a text panel. The goal of the exhibit was for students to share their research on the history of the objects that Volney Jones collected and what they had learned from present-day Anishinaabe community members.
A companion website, Anishinaabe Plants: Learning from Museum Collections at the University of Michigan, allows visitors to the physical exhibit to digitally access additional information about the UMMAA collection with QR codes.
This exhibit takes a closer look at the partnerships, environmental challenges and living legacy of the basket-making process and techniques that Anishinaabek ancestors mastered and basket-makers use today.
The title, Wiidanokiindiwag (weeda-no-keen-deh-wok): They Work With Each Other, has two meanings: the first refers to the Anishinaabek basketmakers, who worked with each other and with native materials, including black ash, sweetgrass, elm and birch bark, and porcupine quills. The second meaning refers to the collaboration of the people of the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways and the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archeology, who worked together to bring about this exhibition when it was originally displayed at the Ziibiwing Center in 2019.
The exhibition was co-curated by William Johnson, curator and interim director of the Ziibiwing Center, and Carla Sinopoli, emeritus UMMAA curator and director of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico.
Both exhibits will be on display through May 2022 at the U-M Museum of Natural History. The museum’s hours are Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and admission is free for families and individuals. Masks and health screenings are required for all visitors.