GRASAC was established in 2005 and can best be thought of as two related things: a network of people who meet, work together, and share ideas to learn about the histories, languages and cultures of the Great Lakes, as well as a database that digitally reunites Great Lakes materials from around the world, putting heritage items back into relationships with each other and with community members, teachers, researchers, and heritage staff.

Great Lakes heritage continues to be scattered across museums and archives in North America and Europe, often at a great distance from Aboriginal community knowledge, memory and perspectives.

GRASAC seeks to benefit Indigenous communities and cultural institutions alike by bringing together members’ insights and knowledge from their own areas of understanding and inspiring multiple ways of knowing, recording, representing and supporting Great Lakes cultural practices.

We strive to model mutually supportive relationships among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in our research ethics and methods, governance, funding, leadership and mentoring. We use both Aboriginal and Western approaches to recover and incorporate distinctive Aboriginal traditions of thought and knowledge into our understandings.

We respect communities’ sovereignty to pursue physical repatriation as they desire and to set the terms for sharing intellectual property and traditional knowledge. GRASAC has sought to foster a community of researchers and lifelong-learners who can, in this context, facilitate digital and knowledge repatriation, and work in ways that contribute to the understanding of and continuation of Great Lakes arts and cultures.

For more details on GRASAC’s history and mandate please refer to the articles posted in our Resources section.

GRASAC's Database

Detail from a GKS record for a 19th-century Anishinaabe beaded bandolier bag, currently in the Pitt Rivers Museum (1948.12.21).

GRASAC members have collaboratively built an online database, the GRASAC Knowledge Sharing System (GKS), to provide digital access to Great Lakes cultural items held in repositories around the world (including oral narratives, archival documents, photographs, Indigenous language research, visual and material culture).

The GKS is an innovative, multidisciplinary, web-accessible and password-protected database that supports the exchange of members’ diverse knowledges and that promotes the interrelationship of images, texts and audio components that have too often been separated in previous modes of collecting. Currently the GKS contains some 4,000+ heritage item records and some 25,000+ Cayuga and Ojibwe language items records. If you are interested in accessing the database, please contact us.

Partner Institutions

GRASAC currently has five principle partner institutions (see below). Over the years GRASAC researchers have also been honoured to work with a number of excellent people and fascinating collections at a host of other cultural centres, museums, art galleries and archives which house Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat cultural materials (see this list for more details on places GRASAC teams have worked).

Learn more about GRASAC's research locations →

GRASAC's Steering Committee

GRASAC currently has two co-directors, Heidi Bohaker and Ruth Phillips. Our steering committee operates by consensus and meets quarterly to discuss key project decisions.

GRASAC's Research Assistants

Alex Nahwegahbow & Wahsontiio Cross document an otter bag made by Jamie Jacobs, at the Rochester Museum (2016).

GRASAC’s successes are due in large part to the many talented research assistants that have been hired to work on the project over the years courtesy of SSHRC or Ontario provincial grant funds.

See a full listing of the project’s research assistants or read more in-depth profile articles on some of our research assistants.

Learn more about GRASAC's Research Assistants →

About this Website

This website’s content is based on the combined knowledge of GRASAC’s contributing researchers and the records of host institutions. New digital exhibits and announcements will continue to be added and we hope that this site 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.

Kate and Crystal working to get a conference organized before a different type of “due date” (2012).

The first version of this website launched in 2014. It was designed by Crystal Migwans (a long-time GRASACer  currently pursuing her PhD at Columbia University) to highlight the beauty and multi-layered meanings of many of the cultural items GRASAC had studied.

The site was re-designed in 2017 by GRASAC’s Communications Director, Kate Higginson. This version maintains Crystal’s lovely “four views exhibits” while adding more detail on the people and history of GRASAC, as well as news, resources and social media features.


GRASAC gratefully acknowledges the funding we have received from 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. The GRASAC database was developed by idéeclic and we appreciate their many in-kind contributions.