Gladys Tantaquidgeon, Mohegan ethnologist and first Native American student in the Penn anthropology department, interviewing Wampanoag elders at Aquinnah, Massachusetts. Photographed c. 1928 by Frank Speck.
Megan Kassabaum discusses Native traditions of underwater beings. Archaeologists generally agree that certain beliefs about the cosmos are broadly shared among indigenous peoples of the Americas. Though the details vary wildly, the world is generally seen as consisting of three layers—the Above World, the Middle World, and the Beneath World. While we live our every day lives in the Middle World, the Above and Beneath Worlds are inhabited by a variety of supernatural beings. One of the most intriguing characters to inhabit the Beneath World is the underwater panther, a composite creature with both feline and serpentine characteristics that is associated with the dangerous yet beneficial powers of rivers, waterfalls, whirlpools and caves.
Dr. Gabrielle Tayac, a member of the Piscataway Indian Nation, and staff at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, speaks about the survivance of Native peoples in the Chesapeake region. Three major chiefdoms---the Nanticoke, the Piscataway, and the Powhatan---endured colonization, disease, warfare, diaspora, and evangelization, in addition to racist patterns of erasure. Maintaining their ancestral core of kinship and identity, Chesapeake peoples reorganized in the 19th and 20th centuries, continuing to reclaim their identities and practices in relevant ways to a global era. Dr. Tayac's curatorial credits include the inaugural show, "Our Lives: Contemporary Native American Life and Identity," "Return to a Native Place: Algonquian Peoples of the Chesapeake," and "IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas."
The Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative at Penn (NAIS) hosted a two-day conference on Thursday and Friday, October 1-2, 2015, focusing on histories of wampum artistry, diplomacy, and research. This event featured presentations by prominent Indigenous scholars from the US and Canada, sharing insights on historical and contemporary aspects of wampum construction, artistic expression, and cultural exchange. Members of the Penn "Wampum Trail" research team also shared insights on wampum in museum collections. Featuring modern reproductions of historic wampum belts, cultural performance, and Haudenosaunee social dance.