5:30 to 7pm
Among the vast assortment of objects preserved at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology rests a collection of medicinal plant samples acquired by early twentieth-century anthropologist Mark Raymond Harrington. In his field notes, Harrington lamented how challenging such botanical findings were to obtain on Ontario’s Indian reserves, asserting that most of the Indigenous families he encountered were “without anything whatever of an aboriginal character.” His obvious implication was that the Anishinaabe culture of the Great Lakes region was in a state of perpetual decline, but he could not have been further from the truth. This presentation uses medicinal herbs that Harrington purchased from Ojibwe women in Sarnia, Ontario to trace the history of Anishinaabe displacement and material exchange across the U.S. and Canadian borders from the nineteenth through the early twentieth century. Far from showcasing cultural decline, the Ojibwe plant samples help demonstrate how Anishinaabe culture persisted in spite of fierce assimilation attempts by the U.S. and Canadian governments. Michael J. Albani is a PhD student at Michigan State University where he studies and teaches United States history, Native American history, and women’s and gender history. He also holds a master’s degree from Loyola University Chicago where he coordinated the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project. His doctoral research analyzes the roles of Anishinaabe women in the persistence of Indigenous peoples throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Great Lakes region.
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