Ames Library to Feature Exhibit on Native People’s Health and Culture

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The winner of a competition sponsored by the National Library of Medicine and the American Library Association, Illinois Wesleyan University’s Ames Library will host an exhibit, titled “Native Voices: Native Peoples' Concepts of Health and Illness,” from Jan. 3 through Feb. 14. The exhibit is free and open to the public during the Library’s regular hours.

The Ames Library is one of three sites in Illinois to host the traveling exhibit, which will travel to a total of 104 sites nationwide over a four-year period. Comprised of six free-standing banners and six iPads, the exhibit contains filmed oral histories and information on the wellness, illness and cultural life of Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.

The Native Voices exhibition will also feature complimentary exhibits drawn from the Library’s own collections, potentially including contributions from Native American communities in Bloomington-Normal. Each exhibit will allow visitors to discover how Native concepts of health and illness are closely tied to the concepts of community, spirit and the land.

“The content of this exhibition is directly tied to the mission of Illinois Wesleyan University and The Ames Library, both of which embrace diversity in policies, programs and practices,” said University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, and Associate Professor Meg Miner.

In addition to the exhibits themselves, the library will host events tied to Native American culture, including musical presentations and lectures. All are free and open to the public.

The Library will kick off the exhibition with a drum ceremony on Friday, Jan. 11 from 6 p.m. - 7 p.m. in the John Wesley Powell Rotunda. Butch and Waylon McCamy, the leaders of Spirit of the Rainbow drum – the official drum of Seven Circles Heritage Center in Edwards, Illinois, which specializes in the Northern song tradition – will perform the ceremony.

On Thursday, Jan. 24 from 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m., Professor of Anthropology Rebecca Gearhart Mafazy will present a Medicine Wheel at the John Wesley Powell Rotunda. The Medicine Wheel recreates the Lakota medicine wheel – which symbolizes health and the cycles of life in four directions – with a station of activities in each of the four directions. Participants will be instructed to move sunwise (clockwise) from station to station through a set of craft-making activities, creating a set of power-objects to place into a medicine bag at each station.

Mafazy will lead the event with guest sisters, Eliida Lakota Knoll and Carol Lakota Eastin. Knoll is a retired occupational art therapist who incorporated Native American concepts into her work treating young girls with eating disorders at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, Illinois for 30 years. Eastin is an ordained Methodist Minister who is involved with interfaith dialogue throughout the country and around the world. She represents Native Americans as part of a global interfaith alliance and council.

“The exhibit will help us better understand the health issues that impact Native Americans in particular due to their history as a colonized peoples whose traditional lifeways were severely disrupted by European encroachment, land alienation, forced assimilation and violence,” Mafazy said. “It will also highlight the medicinal knowledge still used and passed down by indigenous medicine people and increasingly to non-Natives as well.”

On Jan. 17, from 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. in the Center for Natural Sciences, Room C102, Francine Dudoit-Tagupa, Director Native Hawaiian Healing, Waikiki Health will present Ho’onoponopono, a discussion on this Native Hawaiian healing practice of reconciliation and forgiveness.

An event originally planned for Jan. 31 with IWU alum Quita Verban Shier ’60 is rescheduled for Monday, Feb. 11 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in The Ames Library’s Beckman Auditorium. Shier is the author of Warriors in Mr. Lincoln's Army: Native American Soldiers Who Fought in the Civil War.

During this event, Shier will discuss a story of natural medicinal treatments and cures through the experiences of Private Payson Wolf whose mother was a well-known medicine woman. Time permitting, guests will also hear first-account narratives of the war as Shier reads from soldiers’ letters home regarding the effects that the long absences had on their health and healing.

Through these events, the IWU community will have a chance to learn and engage with the Native peoples’ rich traditions and history.

"We are excited by the opportunities presented through this exhibition to celebrate Native American health practices and educate our community about this aspect of the rich history of Native American culture in our region,” said University Librarian and Professor Karen Schmidt.

Schmidt also hopes to spread the voice of Native people beyond IWU to the greater community.

“Beyond our institutional boundaries, we wish to draw in the Bloomington-Normal Grades 5-8 community, to foster respect for cultural differences, educate our next generation about different health practices, and strengthen ties with local Native Americans as we celebrate their contributions to our history and future."

By Vi Kakares ’20