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Posts Tagged ‘NAGPRA’

SDCC panelIt’s been a great honour this week to have been invited to participate in the “Recovering Indigenous History Through Comics” panel at San Diego Comic Con. A huge thank you to Comic Con International for organising the panel and supporting this kind of work – and a particular thank you to Comic Con co-founder Mike Towry for facilitating the involvement of myself, Jen Shannon and Elijah Benson. Without Mike’s personal involvement it’s hard to imagine this panel happening at all.

This panel has been significant for several reasons. Firstly, because it confirms the alignment of comics – a historically outsider, vernacular medium – with indigenous voices and marginalised perspectives. And not just “comics”, but “Comic Con International” – the largest comics convention organisation with a global presence and a community numbering in the millions. Although this was just a single, hour-long panel with 200 attendees, Comic Con’s support has given those of us who work in this area the kind of visibility that’s hard to get elsewhere. And this support and visibility in turn reinforces my own sense – and that of many of us involved more broadly with applied comics – that non-fiction, informational comics have an increasingly important role to play with regards outreach and education. And lastly, I think it points towards the growing recognition that the medium has not yet reached its full potential – that there are still subjects waiting to be explored where comics can do an excellent job of raising awareness, providing information and context, enabling new voices, etc. For me, this means history, archaeology and heritage – but there was a lot of mention both in the discussion after our panel and throughout the convention panels of comics’ connection to indigenous futurism and indigenous science, tribal and community sovereignty, raising political awareness, cultural revitalisation, climate adaptation, etc.

A final thank you to my colleagues on the panel, CU anthropologist Jen Shannon, MHA Education Department language leader Elijah Benson, Kumeyaay Community College Board Member Stan Rodriguez, comics creator Paul Guinan, SDSU anthropologist Kate Spilde, our moderator, the sculptor Johnny Bear Contreras, and Mike Towry of Comic Con. We hope to be working with many of these people again in the coming year on new community history comics.

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Next week I’ll be at San Diego Comic Con, where I’ve been invited to be a guest panellist on telling indigenous histories through comics. I’ll be joined by my fellow NAGPRA comics author, Jen Shannon, and Elijah Benson, from the MHA Education Department who’s helping us on our second NAGPRA comic. The panel will also include Stan Rodriguez, a teacher and Kumeyaay tribal member from San Diego, Paul Guinan, a comics creator working on a history of the Aztec empire and Pr. Kate Spilde.

The panel will be an opportunity for me to put the case for applied comics about not just indigenous histories and repatriations – but community archaeology, local history and anthropological research – to an audience of serious comics fans! It’s a great opportunity to talk about the unique communication potential of comics to people who understand that in terms of fiction and drama, but not perhaps in terms of information.

The session has been organised by Mike Towry, one of the co-founders of SDCC, who also invited me first to San Diego Comics Fest last year to talk about the NAGPRA comics project. The session is entitled Recovering Indigenous Histories Through Comicsand is going to be a discussion moderated by Johnny Bear Contreras about the use of comics as a tool not just in telling stories, but discovering and researching forgotten, hidden and contested stories.

The session is at 5:30 in Hall H. We’ve already had 125 people sign up for it, so there should be a big crowd. There are some serious names on that list, including well-known creators like Arigon Starr, so we should have some serious Q&A. If you’re going to be at SDCC, please join us. If not, check for us on Twitter, or catch up here – I’ll post a report on how the session went.

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Next Friday, March 28th 10am – 4pm, the Applied Comics Network are holding a one-day event at Newcastle University on Comics and Research. Making, using and sharing comics can offer interesting, fun and thought-provoking potential for involving people in research, accessible ways to communicate the complexity of research, and means by which ethical issues in research can be explored.

This one-day event next week includes sessions which look at all these aspects of applied comics and research, including communication of research, comics as a method in research, graphic facilitation, sketch-noting, and comics and user experience.

As one-third of the Applied Comics Network coordinating team, I’ll be there – talking about ethics in research, with particular reference to the work I’ve been doing on the NAGPRA comics about repatriation of sacred items and ancestral remains back to Native American communities.

Speakers:

  • Lydia Wysocki (School of Education Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University)
  • Ian Horton (London College of Communication)
  • John Swogger (Archaeological Comics Network)
  • Florence Okoye (Natural History Museum)
  • Pen Mendonça (University of the Arts London)
  • Liz Todd (Newcastle University)

Although this is a free event, as lunch is provided, please use this lightbox link to register so we can keep track of numbers: https://forms.ncl.ac.uk/view.php?id=4173976

ACN Newcastle poster 96dpi 1

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NAGPRA Page 12

Page from “Journeys To Complete The Work” – a comic about NAGPRA.

Later today, my most recent archaeological comics project – a comic about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act – will be the subject of a presentation at the Indigenous Storytelling and the Law symposium being held at the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

This project is a collaboration between myself, Sonya Atalay (U.Mass Amherst) and Jen Shannon (U. Colorado), and focuses on explaining NAGPRA law through the experiences of tribes, museum workers and scholars who have been involved in repatriations – both successful and less so. The comic is a demonstration of the way in which a visual narrative approach can not only make the complex legality of NAGPRA comprehensible, but provide a meaningful context for some of the preconceptions, public perceptions and prejudices that further complicate the issue of repatriation.

The comic that’s being presented by Jen and Sonya at the conference is ten pages which cover some introductory explanation about what NAGPRA is and how it works, and tells the story of a repatriation of material back to Anishiaabek tribes from museum collections held by the University of Michigan.

It’s something of a departure for me in terms of the focus of the story – less about explaining the process of excavation and research, and much more about how material is treated once it becomes part of a collection. But it focuses very much on things which I think comics can do exceptionally well in archaeology – issues which are difficult to explain without visual storytelling; issues which mix science, professional conduct and public response; issues which are shaped by – and shape – personal experience. I have long argued that these are exactly the kinds of stories which can be told in a particularly effective way through comics.

I’m sorry I can’t be at the conference myself, but I will be interested to hear the response to our project. We’ve got lots of ideas about how this comic could be used, etc. – and we’ve even got an interesting launch venue possibly lined up! I’ll be discussing all that and much more about the project in more detail as it evolves over the coming months.

“Journeys To Complete The Work” – A Comic about NAGPRA. Sonya Atalay, Jen Shannon, & John Swogger will be published this autumn.
“Indigenous Storytelling and the Law” symposium – Friday, March 17th, 1pm-5pm at UMC 235, Saturday, March 18th, 9am-6pm at Wolf Law; March 18 Special Session 4-5:30pm, reception to follow: Indian Country and the Trump Administration: Law, Policy, and Activism 

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