Published: November 11, 2019

What Native Staff Are Reflecting On During Native American Heritage Month

Learn about their work and hear what they’re thinking about this month—and beyond.

In November 2018, we announced our plans to renovate and reimagine the Field’s Native North America Hall. But this effort is about more than an exhibition; we’re working towards a collaborative process led by Native staff, scholars, and community members. 

Here, several Native staff members at the Field introduce themselves and share what’s meaningful about their work.

Dr. Eli Suzukovich, III

Little Shell Band of Chippewa-Cree, Sakāwiðiniwak, and Krajina Serb

Michelle Brownlee

Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe

Nicole Passerotti

Seneca Nation, Bear clan

Meranda Roberts, PhD

Northern Paiute/Xicanx

While at the Field Museum, it is one of my goals to have the public realize that Indigenous people are everywhere and that we have constantly influenced the world around them. More importantly, I want non-Natives to become more aware of the issues that are impacting our various communities, particularly the issue of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. According to the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, four out of five Native women are affected by violence and "the U.S. Department of Justice found that American Indian women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average." 

Though this topic might not appear to be related to a museum's hall renovation, I hope to change that perspective by using the new exhibition space to teach non-Native visitors how the cultural items they enjoy looking at can heal the trauma experienced by Native communities by reawakening traditions that may be endangered. I want visitors to look beyond the aesthetic beauty of many of the items and consider how pieces can speak to the beauty of Native women's leadership, love, and dedication. The collection holds the answers to many questions regarding how communities can begin to heal. The collection is alive with possibility.


Katie Hillson

Member of Osage Nation

J. Kae Good Bear

Navajo, Mandan & Hidatsa

Every day is Native American heritage day when genetics have blessed you with cheekbones like mine. Lol. On a more serious note, though, I appreciate the increased visibility that Native American Heritage Month lends. You can’t change the culture of a society without first making the invisible visible. I’d encourage people to actively take part in the many cultural offerings throughout the month, including those hosted here at the Field Museum.

Often in Chicago, I find that I am the first interaction that most people ever have with a Native American. I approach my interactions from the basis that I may be the first and only interaction that a lot of folks will have with a person of Native American descent, so I do my best to make each exchange a positive one. My hope is always that people will come to a better understanding and positive perspective of Native America that they can carry forward throughout the year and for the rest of their lives.