School of Arts & Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Hallowell: Two Views of an Ojibwe Drum

Birch Bark Scrolls

Birch bark scrolls are another example of a key artifact that has been left behind by the Midewiwin, or Grand Medicine Society. These extremely fragile scrolls are said record elements of the Mide belief system. The University of Pennsylvania Museum is home to three such scrolls. Similarly, the Hallowell Collection at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia contains three copies of Mide Scrolls.

The cultural recordings provided by the scroll drawings serve as an invaluable insight into the development of the Mide society and the structure of their belief system and traditions. However, this fundamental information is also highly culturally sensitive and as a result, the decision was made not to make these scrolls and their content publically accessible on this website.

Prior to making this decision, research was conducted into proposed protocols, notably those drafted by the Society of American Archivists and the National Museum of the American Indians. This research indicated the immense level of controversy associated with the display of such artifacts, and it was thus decided best to err on the side of caution. The decision not to include images of the scrolls, or a discussion of their content, was confirmed by the wishes and advice of Larry Aitken – an Ojibwe partner to this project.

As a final note however, in keeping with the aim of repatriation that is inherent to the creation of this website, digital images of the scrolls will be returned to members of the Ojibwe Community. In excluding the images from the website, they are simply being excluded from public viewing, not from members of the society to whom they belong.