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NAIS Launches Tracking Dispossessions Website

NAIS Dispossessions Research Team: The Native American and Indigenous Studies at Penn (NAIS) Dispossessions Research Team, directed by Dr. Margaret M. Bruchac, has launched a new website to highlight research projects, blog articles, decolonizing syllabi and other resources related to our research on and with Indigenous Native American and First Nations people in North America.

The Research Team includes Graduate Research Assistants Paul Wolff Mitchell, Matthew Capps, and Molly Leech, and Undergraduate Research Assistants Keaton Mackey and Gabriela Portillo Alvarado. For more information on project and team members, see these links: Tracking Dispossessions, Blog articles, Team Members.

NAIS Dispossessions Research: We are conducting critical studies of archaeological, museological, artistic, and other collecting processes that have separated Indigenous bodies from their places of interment, and separated Indigenous cultural heritage items from their source communities. Our work includes: composing case studies of dispossessions; mapping the movements of bodies and objects among museums; tracking trends in sales of heritage as “art;” compiling bibliographies; identifying useful resources and initiatives for decolonizing; writing syllabi; and drafting guidelines for restorative methodologies to track, investigate, and recover from colonial dispossessions.

We will also be contributing to the hemispheric mapping project that the larger Mellon "Just Futures" team is working on, with an emphasis on making Indigenous lands visible by highlighting Indigenous landscapes, waterways, and homelands apart from the bounds of colonial maps. For example, we will examine cartographic representations of Indigenous territory (past and present) that have confused tribal boundaries, misrepresented Indigenous histories, marginalized smaller tribal nations, failed to record movements over time, and otherwise erased or obscured tribal territories. One of the greatest challenges in mapping the Americas is that of making Indigenous diasporas visible, by highlighting changes due to colonial dispossessions and forced relocations of Indigenous communities over time.

Building upon already developed community partnerships, we will also be working with other Mellon co-PIs to develop the cultural heritage layer of our website and of our project writ large. The overall goal is to articulate best practices for researching Indigenous collections and protecting cultural heritage in ways that are more inclusive of, and more responsible to, Indigenous communities.

Funding: The NAIS Dispossessions Research Team has received financial support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Just Futures Initiative grant N-2009-09221, entitled “Dispossessions in the Americas: The Extraction of Bodies, Land, and Heritage from la Conquista to the Present,” administered by the University of Pennsylvania, coordinated by Principal Investigator Tulia G. Falleti, in collaboration with these Co-Principal Investigators: Margaret Bruchac, Ricardo Castillo-Neyra, Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, Michael Hanchard, Jonathan D. Katz, Richard M. Leventhal, and Michael Z. Levy.