The Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures (GRASAC) is an international collaboration of researchers based in universities, museums and Aboriginal communities working together to digitally reunite Great Lakes heritage that is currently scattered in many museums and archives.

GRASAC’s main goals are to create new understandings of historic Great Lakes heritage that incorporate multiple knowledges, both cultural and disciplinary, about the arts, Indigenous languages, identity, territoriality and governance and to provide digital access to Great Lakes heritage held in repositories around the world including Indigenous language research, oral narrative, archival documents, visual and material culture and photographs, and to provide a virtual platform for individual and collaborative research.

GRASAC now has more than one hundred contributing members who share information and insights in the GRASAC Knowledge Sharing (GKS) database. This is an innovative, multidisciplinary web-accessible database that supports the exchange of GRASAC members’ different cultural and academic knowledges and fosters the development of new knowledge. The database records contain research by Indigenous and non-Indigenous experts and promote the interrelationship of images, texts, and audio components that were distributed to different international repositories through past conventions of collecting and archiving. 


About this Website

This website is the public face of GRASAC. Here we present digital exhibits of material based on the combined knowledge of GRASAC’s contributing scholars and community researchers, and the records of host institutions.  This public website was launched in June of 2014 with four exhibits curated by Crystal Migwans, a member of M'Chigeeng First Nation who is currently a doctoral student in Art History at Columbia University.  New exhibits will be added in time. We hope that this website will become a resource for students of all ages wanting to learn more about the stunning art and rich histories of the Great Lakes region.


History and People

GRASAC was founded in 2004 by Ruth Phillips (Canada Research Chair, Department of Art History, Carleton University), Heidi Bohaker (Department of History, University of Toronto) and Darlene Johnston (Chippewas of Nawash First Nation and Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia). They invited Alan Corbiere (M’Chigeeng First Nation and Anishinaabemowin Revitalization Program Coordinator at Lakeview School in M’Chigeeng) and John Borrows (Chippewas of Nawash First Nation and Faculty of Law, University of Victoria) to work with them on grant proposals to secure funding so that GRASAC could become a reality. Professor Cory Willmott in the Department of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has been a key technical adviser and collaborator from the beginning. Since 2010, Dr. Kate Higginson has been the GRASAC Research Coordinator based at Carleton University.


Partner Institutions

Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, M'Chigeeng First Nation (host of the first GRASAC research conference, June 2011)

Woodland Cultural Centre, Six Nations of the Grand River (host of the second GRASAC research conference, June 2014)



GRASAC gratefully acknowledges the funding assistance of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Province of Ontario, the British Academy and other sources. We are thankful also for the cooperation of the many institutions that have contributed their photos and records to this project.


Both the GKS reseach database and this public website were developed by idéeclic of Gatineau, QC. We are grateful for their many in-kind contributions.


Contact us

For more information, media and community inquiries, contact:
Kate Higginson, GRASAC Research Coordinator, 613-520-2600 x6761, grasac@carleton.ca

Wide angle shot of 9 people standing

Members of a GRASAC research team at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris, 2013: we had a smudge ceremony without activating the sprinklers! (Photo: Crystal Migwans)

GRASAC team members at the Canadian Museum of History (then Canadian Museum of Civilization, July 2008).

At the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University, Alan Corbiere consulting remotely via video conference with elder Mr. E. King.