Anna Orton Hatzis, James Gallery Andrew W. Mellon Global Art Fellow

Anna Orton Hatzis, James Gallery Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow

Travis Wysote, Listuguj Mi’gmaq researcher

In their collaborative research toward a virtual exhibition in fall 2021, PhD student Anna Orton Hatzis (Art History) and Indigenous scholar Travis Wysote interrogated the current structures of repatriation of Indigenous objects and pushed the tools of digital repatriation to operate differently. In light of the limited options made available by museums and long, drawn-out legal repatriation battles, how can options be reimagined and expanded for the return of objects to Indigenous communities? How can the flow of money and resources used in legal battles be reoriented into Indigenous hands as part of restitution efforts? Digital models, virtual and augmented reality, computer animation and video games may be tools to imagine ways to reorient resources into Indigenous hands that are needed to remake the connections of the objects, people, and land.

Throughout their research this year, Orton Hatzis and Wysote havehas focused on the Mi'kmaq chief's regalia, including coat, leggings, and moccasins made of navy-colored wool duffel, which is currently in storage in the Melbourne Victoria Museum in Australia. It is decorated with red, olive, and gold silk ribbon appliqué and embroidery, as well as intricate beadwork of hundreds of tiny glass beads attached by moose or horse hair. The outfit was the property of Louis Benjamin Peminuit Paul, a chief from the Sipekne'katik District, today's Colchester County area. Records show that it was sold in 1840 to S. D. S. Huyghue, a captain in the British military who had been serving in Nova Scotia and later returned to Great Britain. In 1851, he emigrated to Australia and, after his death, the items were donated to the museum.

Orton Hatzis and Wysote’s project continues to imagine further where illegal repatriation efforts forof the regalia, were led by Heather Stevens, operations supervisor at the Millbrook Centre, but have slowed since her proposed bill for Canadian repatriation was rejected by the Senate in its second reading in May 2019.

Tim Bernard, the director of history and culture at the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq, and Deborah Ginnish, coordinator at the Mi'kmaq Association for Cultural Studies. Bernard is on the culture and heritage committee of the Mi'kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum. Formed in 1997 as a partnership between Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq, the province of Nova Scotia, and the government of Canada, the forum's goals are to strengthen relationships and to resolve issues of mutual concern affecting Mi'kmaw communities. The repatriation, or return, of the Chief's Regalia is one of the main goals of the committee and they plan that when the Regalia is returned its ownership will not be held by any one band but instead on behalf of the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia at the Glooscap Heritage Centre.

Orton Hatzis took part in the Decolonizing Curatorial Practice Mellon Seminar in Art History co-taught in spring 2020 by James Gallery Curator Katherine Carl, Ph.D. and Professor Claire Bishop (Art History) and was selected for the James Gallery Mellon Curatorial Fellowship for the year 2020–21.

Travis Wysote is a Listuguj Mi’gmaq researcher, currently working on his interdisciplinary PhD in humanities at Concordia University on Haudenosaunee territory. His research interests are related to Mi’gmaq history and settler colonialism, with writings on Mi’gmaq treaties, the aesthetics of sovereignty, the politics of genocide recognition, and the state of exception. Travis’s current research analyzes the aesthetics of resurgence and refusal enacted in the documentary films of Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, with particular reference to his family’s roles in Incident at Restigouche and Our Nationhood.

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