Bruchac, Margaret

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Associate Professor, Coordinator of Native American & Indigenous Studies
Museum Anthropology: curation and representation, cultural property and provenance, living history interpretation, repatriation. Native American Studies: Indigenous epistemologies, colonial encounters, ethnohistory, transculturalism, sovereignty. Cultural Expression: performance, cultural recovery, language revitalization, indigenous modern art, oral traditions, ritual, ethnomusicology, visual anthropology. Indigenous Archaeologies: historical memory, material analysis, decolonizing theory, cultural resource management. Research Fellowships and Awards: American Philosophical Society, Five College Minority Fellowship, Ford Foundation, School for Advanced Research, University of Massachusetts Amherst Graduate Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation, Woodrow Wilson Foundation Faculty Fellowship, etc.
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Now showing 1 - 10 of 54
  • Publication
    New Native American Studies Initiative at Penn
    (2013-12-01) Bruchac, Margaret
  • Publication
    Mackosi’kwe’s Baskets: Marking Relationships
    (2015-01-01) Bruchac, Margaret
    On August 1, 1938, before leaving the Maniwaki reserve in Quebec, Canada, anthropologist Frank G. Speck paid a visit to his old friends, Michel Buckshot and his wife Angelique, better known as Mackosi’kwe (also spelled Meshkosikwe, meaning “Beaver Meadow Woman”). Mackosi’kwe was skilled in pyroscapulimancy, a technique for divining future prospects in hunting and travel by scorching the shoulder blades of Indigenous deer, caribou, beaver, and other animals in a fire, and then reading the cracks and marks. In Speck’s case, she started with a deer scapula, followed by that of a hare, to predict an unexpected break in the return trip, but an otherwise safe journey home.
  • Publication
    Iñupiaq Smoking and Siberian Reindeer
    (2015-01-01) Bruchac, Margaret
    This semester, my students in Museum Anthropology conducted close examinations of objects from Arctic locales in the collections of the Penn Museum. During our object analysis of this walrus tusk ivory Iñupiaq pipe (item# 39-10-1) in the Collections Study Room, I was intrigued by the idea that it was used for smoking opium, given the absurdly small hole in the bowl. After further research, a very different story emerged. The pipe’s shape was, indeed, inspired by Chinese opium pipes, but a survey of Arctic scholarship revealed cultural exchanges from Siberia. Iñupiaq pipes like this—with a curved tusk shape, wide bowl, and very narrow bore—closely resemble the chukch pipe used by the Indigenous Sami of northern Asia.
  • Publication
    Constructing Indigenous Associations for NAGPRA Compliance
    (2010-03-01) Bruchac, Margaret
    Imagine a world where one’s right to property (including possession of one’s own body parts) is predicated upon having politically powerful relatives. Those who lack such kin are routinely disinterred and scientifically dismembered after death. When their relatives seek to recover their bodies, they encounter bureaucratic reconstructions of their identities. Who would tolerate such injustices? Now, imagine this scenario within the context of the NAGPRA legislation. NAGPRA procedures were intended to remove Indigenous ancestral remains from museum control and facilitate their repatriation. Yet, thousands of deceased individuals remain separated from their relatives, held captive, in part, by modern notions of association.
  • Publication
    The Mineral Springs of Saratoga
    (2007-01-01) Bruchac, Margaret
  • Publication
    Native Diaspora and New Communities: Algonkian and Wôbanakiak
    (2004-01-01) Bruchac, Margaret
    During the 1600s, Algonkian and Wôbanaki peoples in present-day New England and Canada found themselves in what has been called "the maelstrom of change," as Euro-American settlers started flooding into Native homelands. (1) The settlers were preceded by explorers and traders, who had carried not only trade goods but diseases. Population losses from influenza, smallpox, measles and other sicknesses caused a disruption in Native communities. Existing tensions between tribes led some coastal Native groups, such as the Wampanoag, to initially welcome small groups of European settlers and traders, who could provide trade goods, guns, and potential allies. European settlement led to Native political instability when international disputes made their way into local politics. As Native peoples were increasingly caught up in both inter-tribal and international conflicts, and crowded by European settlements, some Native communities began relocating to form new communities in diaspora, such as Kahnawake, La Montagne, Lorette, Odanak, Sault-au-Récollet, and Schaghticoke, and the praying villages at Natick, Wamesit, and elsewhere.
  • Publication
    Malian’s Song – Abenaki Language Glossary
    (2006-01-01) Bruchac, Margaret
    The tribal name Abenaki is adapted from the original Wôbanakiak, a noun that combines the morphemes for dawn or white light (wôban), and land (-aki) with an animate plural ending to indicate the people who dwell in that place (-ak). During the 1700s, English, French, and Dutch attempts to pronounce Wôbanakiak or Wôbanaki resulted in many different spellings - Abnaki, Abanaki, Abenaki, Banakee, Wabanaki, etc. - that appear in colonial records. The most common modern pronunciations of Abenaki are the following: 1) Abenaki (stress the first syllable, and pronounce “a” as in “lab” and “e” as in “end”) 2) Abénaquis (stress the second syllable, and pronounce “a” as in “ah” and “e” as in “end”) 3) Abnaki (stress the first syllable, and pronounce “a” as in “lab”) 4) Abanaki (stress the first and third syllables, and pronounce “a” as in “lah”)
  • Publication
    Ladies in fur, Traveling Through Time
    (2015-01-01) Bruchac, Margaret
    The Penn Museum holds a variety of dolls from Arctic environs, including those collected by William Van Valin, George Byron Gordon, Captain George Comer, and the Peary Relief Expedition. Most of the items classified as “dolls” are small wooden figures; only a few represent realistic renditions of Arctic clothing. This Inuit (Eskimo) doll from Greenland (object number 37-14-7) stands out in that she reflects a meticulous level of detail from the minuscule stitching on her kamiks to the precise mode of styling and wrapping her hair to signal marital status. As noted by Monica Fenton in her blog, “The Lady in Furs,” the construction of this doll’s clothing matches the construction of adult Inuit women’s clothing. Who made this doll, and what was her purpose? Her dress is said to represent a married Inuit woman, but does she also represent a specific individual? Whose hair is on her head? How did she make her way to the Museum?
  • Publication
    Shells & Nails on the Wampum Trail
    (2015-01-01) Bruchac, Margaret
    In May, my research assistants Stephanie Mach and Lise Puyo joined me for field research in the northeastern US and Canada, visiting nine museums, four tribal communities, and several private collectors to examine colonial-era wampum (woven shell bead) belts and collars. (For more details, see our blog, On the Wampum Trail.) Our travels on the wampum trail were charted, in part, by following a track that Frank G. Speck (one of the founders of the Penn Department of Anthropology) laid a century earlier, when he collected examples of visual, ephemeral, and material culture among Algonkian and Iroquoian communities. By creating detailed object cartographies and provenance histories, we hope to recover connections between Indigenous objects in museums and contemporary Indigenous communities.
  • Publication
    Deep Description and Reflexivity: Methods for Recovering Object Histories
    (2015-04-01) Bruchac, Margaret
    This semester, students in my Anthropology of Museums class learned new methods for analyzing objects in museum collections by using both “deep description” and “object reflexivity.” Students were trained to combine material analysis, ethnographic data, archival research, and critical scholarship to identify and document object histories. They also gained practice in examining methods of construction, curation, and display that reflect the shifting historical relations among Indigenous people and Indigenous objects in museums. As a result, these students generated thoughtful insights that cast new light on old objects in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.