New tribal archivist opening history up for the community

Included in the new Language & Culture building was a robust archives area, and now here to oversee those archives is citizen Blaire Topash-Caldwell as the tribal archivist. Her goals are focused on better cataloging and storing of the objects and to open the archives up for the community.

Blaire earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in anthropology and is now working on her PhD through the University of New Mexico. Before moving here, she worked in the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Now, she’s using her experience to enhance the tribe’s historical understanding of our community.

“This is the collective memory of who we are, mediated through these items,” Blaire said about the collection.

Our archives consist of media, objects, and documents. The media includes audio recordings of fluent Potawatomi speakers and elders. Objects include pieces like beadwork, baskets, and regalia. Two of Blaire’s favorite pieces are birch bark books written by Simon Pokagon and a sketch by George Winters. The documents in the archives are ones that we used to gain reaffirmation.

Blaire will be working with museums and personal collectors to bring significant items back to our archives on a permanent basis or on loan. She also works with museums and other entities to loan out some of our materials. She is currently working with the Epcot Center in Disney World on their Native American art exhibit, providing baskets and writing the text to accompany them. This is in conjunction with the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Blaire doesn’t just want to properly and safely store these items, but she also wants to bring them out so the community can experience them. We have an abundance of photographs in the archives with community members whom we cannot identify, so citizens are welcome to look through these and help identify the people in them.

You may contact Blaire to make an appointment to view the archives or come during her open office hours, Wednesday and Thursday, 9–11 a.m.