Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

November 17, 2020

Dr. Janet Berry Hess is a Professor of Art History & African and Diasporic Studies in the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies, whose ongoing research in collaboration with Native American healers and scholars, centers important intersecting issues of mapping, indigenous knowledge, and the digital world. 

"My passion to understand and celebrate Native American cultures comes from my my EuroAmerican family’s relationships with the Osage and Pawnee. My family lived in Oklahoma since 1850 as settler/invaders who established the first "trading post" in "Indian Territory" in the region of Oklahoma.  My mother grew up on the Osage reservation, and rode her horse to a one room school house; my Grandmother lived walking distance from one of the oldest Osage roundhouses; my Uncle Everett Berry, Jr., served in World War II with the Pawnee artist Brummett Echo-Hawk,knew Pawnee Chairman Walter Echo-Hawk as a young man, and donated the building used for the Pawnee Cultural Center until 2020.  My Uncle was one of the first people in the U.S. to repatriate the human remains of a Pawnee soldier back to the Pawnee nation long before the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.  He took me as a child to Native American museums and other Native institutions.  This family heritage led me to my current interest in Native American culture, which I have taught for over twenty years.  As an attorney, my first job offer was with DNA People's Legal Services in Shiprock, New Mexico.  I majored in "non-Western" art history (as it was known at the time) for my Masters at Columbia University, and my Ph.D. at Harvard University.  I have written books about the Native American and African American artist Richard Mayhew ("The Art of Richard Mayhew: A Critical Analysis with Interviews"), and a text about my family connections with the Osage people ("Osage and Settler: Reconstructing Shared History through an Oklahoma Family Archive"), as well as a forthcoming anthology with Routledge entitled "Digital Mapping and Indigenous America." I am currently completing a National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Advancement Grant entitled "Mapping Indigenous American Cultures and Living Histories." An article forthcoming with the ISPRS journal, "Mapping Indigenous Knowledge in the Digital Era," discusses this grant project, indigenousmap.com.  Among the Native guest speakers I have brought to Sonoma State University are Pbonchai Tallman and Chairman Walter Echo-Hawk, Chair of the Pawnee Nation and CEO of the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums."