Amy Lonetree will speak at the Abbe Museum on Feb. 1. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ABBE

Amy Lonetree to talk about museum decolonization

BAR HARBOR — Amy Lonetree, Ho Chunk, will give a free lecture on “Decolonizing Museums: New Directions, Ongoing Challenges” at the Abbe Museum on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m.

Lonetree is a leading scholar on indigenous history, visual culture studies, museum studies and decolonization.

As applied to the relationship of institutions such as museums to the Native people of the United States, “decolonization” means, at a minimum, sharing authority for the documentation and interpretation of Native culture. Traditional museum practices of exhibiting, collecting and programming have informed the collective memories of museum-goers while dehumanizing Native history and creating colonizing museum spaces. Emotional, spiritual and physical harm is done when these colonized spaces and practices are not acknowledged and addressed. As explained by Lonetree in her 2012 book “Decolonizing Museums,” “Museums can be very painful sites for Native peoples, as they are intimately tied to the colonization process.”

Lonetree’s talk will focus on the current state of contemporary exhibition practice with, by and for Native Americans at both national and tribal museums. Central to her analysis is exploring how museums can serve as sites of decolonization by privileging indigenous knowledge and worldview, challenging the stereotypical representations of Native people produced in the past, and discussing the hard truths of colonization in exhibitions in an effort to promote healing and understanding.

“As a scholar focusing on the history of the relationship between indigenous communities and museums, I am heartened to see the amazing work happening at the Abbe Museum,” said Lonetree.

“Their willingness to discuss the knowledge they have gained with other museum professionals is impressive, and I would be honored to assist them in these endeavors based on my academic background in museum studies and Native American history. I am confident that the important conversations that take place at the museum will enable all to arrive at new understandings of how best to move forward with efforts to decolonize museums.”

“We are incredibly honored that Amy is giving this talk at the museum, especially since decolonization has been our touchstone and guiding principle for many years,” said Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Abbe president and CEO.

“We’ve been a resource and a model that the museum field turns to for ideas, solutions and strategies for comprehensive museum decolonization.”

Lonetree is an enrolled citizen of Ho-Chunk Nation and is an associate professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her scholarly work focuses on the representation of Native American history and memory in national and tribal museums, and she has conducted research at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, British Museum, Mille Lacs Indian Museum in Minnesota and the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways in Michigan.

Lonetree’s publications include “Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums” (University of North Carolina Press, 2012); a co-edited book with Amanda J. Cobb, “The National Museum of the American Indian: Critical Conversations” (University of Nebraska Press, 2008); and a co-authored volume, “People of the Big Voice: Photographs of Ho-Chunk Families by Charles Van Schaick, 1879-1942” (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2011). She currently is working on a visual history of the Ho-Chunk Nation from 1879-1960.

To learn more about the Abbe Museum’s decolonization practices, visit This lecture is free and open to the public. To reserve a seat, contact the Abbe at 288-3519 or [email protected].

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