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Ethnographic Study of Indigenous Contributions to Duluth

Design DuluthLast night at Gimajii, the Design Duluth meeting sponsored by the DAI shared copies of An Ethnographic Study of Indigenous Contributions to the City of Duluth — a fascinating document that invites us to think about the erasure of indigenous participation and contributions to Duluth culture — and to appreciate those contributions and participation even more heartily.

One of the more provocative questions it raises, for example, is about the relationship between art like the current sculpture designed to invoke indigenous contributions to our area with work by Jeff Savage at the headwaters of the Mississippi.

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Similarly, it addresses the improvised monument (the eagle staff, vandalized and removed from city property).

An eagle staff stands at the Duluth Civic Center on Oct. 15, 2012. Gabriel Peltier, one of several to help raise the staff, said the placement of the staff will help to heal the community and get people talking about Native peoples’ contributions to Duluth. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger / Budgeteer News)

An eagle staff stands at the Duluth Civic Center on Oct. 15, 2012. Gabriel Peltier, one of several to help raise the staff, said the placement of the staff will help to heal the community and get people talking about Native peoples’ contributions to Duluth. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger / Budgeteer News)

The report looks toward the future — it identifies the footholds of Gimajii and the Casino for a visible presence in Duluth, including serving as a possible base for future walking tours of indigenous history in Duluth.  Such a tour might be accompanied by an app.

I’m only scratching the surface here. This document includes historical discussions of place names, identifies burial grounds, other historically significant sites (historical accounts of Spirit Island, Wisconsin Point, etc.), mounds, maple sugar camps, and more. It includes a list of historically significant native people and native legends. It includes a timeline. It includes historical population data.

Really, this is the kind of document that Paul Lundgren dreams about.

I hope it sees wider circulation soon. In the meantime, the full report appears available here in PDF.

1 Comment

AlexK

about 4 years ago

As an attendee to the event as well, not lost on me was the quality of the current contributions of the artists exhibiting in their galleries, particularly Leah Yellowbird.  The galleries are open to the public 9 am to 5 pm M-F and weekends to groups that arrange ahead of time.  This organization takes great pride in their building, the support of 29 families that reside there until they are able to make it on their own, and the community they are creating.

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