USA (Ohio State University) Pokagon Potawatomi baskets on display at Ohio State

Exhibit open during National Native American Heritage Month.

A collection of hand-crafted black ash baskets made by noted Pokagon Potawatomi artists is now on display at The Ohio State University in Bricker Hall.

The collection was curated by John Low, associate professor in comparative studies at the Newark campus. Low teaches history, American Indian studies and religious studies. He is also an enrolled member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

In September, Low gifted two baskets created by artist Jenny (Brown) Chapman to the university to celebrate Ohio State’s role in expanding educational opportunities for Native students, staff and faculty. President Kristina M. Johnson accepted the baskets for the university and then invited Low to display his collection at the Columbus campus.

Low said the baskets are alive, contain a spirit and like to be touched.

“Each of these baskets has their own separate history of how they’ve been used, who made them, where they came from and what trees sacrificed themselves for these baskets,” Low said. “And I find it really exciting to listen to them, as sometimes, the more extroverted baskets will talk and share a bit of their history.”

The black ash baskets are an important part of Pokagon Potawatomi culture. Low said while the baskets are considered artwork and are often displayed in museums, they are meant to be handled and used.

“When you come to the exhibit, you’ll see items laid out along with the baskets. There’s sweetgrass, there’s tobacco, there’s sage, there are items that make the baskets feel comfortable, that they feel like they’re cared for, and they are tended to, which is important,” he said. “These baskets represent the artistry and the creativity of their makers.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Newark Earthworks Center with a grant from the Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme. The baskets are on display in Bricker Hall during normal university hours.