Release Date: Jun 15, 2017  

Contact(s): Hilary Markin, 715-362-1354

Tinker Schuman, Lac Du Flambeau tribal elder, stands next to her portrait and woven portrait

Tinker Schuman, Lac Du Flambeau tribal elder, stands next to her portrait and woven portrait created by artist Mary Burns.

ASHLAND, Wis. (June 14, 2017) -- The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center is pleased to announce the opening of an exhibit, Ancestral Women: Wisconsin’s 12 Tribes, featuring hand-woven portraits by Mary Burns now through October 1, 2017.

Through hand-woven jacquard weavings, the Ancestral Women Exhibit honors and celebrates elder women, one from each of the 12 Native American tribes in Wisconsin. These are women who have held families and communities together, and who kept traditions, cultures and languages alive. They were (or are today) the glue in the fabric of their communities.

Tribal members determined who they wished to see honored in this exhibit. They then provided photographs, which were redrawn and redesigned by Burns, creating the basis for the weavings. Other imagery was drawn into each piece as well, such as a clan symbol or a border that included traditional beadwork – something that helped tell a story about each woman and her tribe.

Included in the exhibit are the 12 portraits, six clan symbols, and four additional landscape pieces that speak to essential connections with the land: maple sugaring, wild ricing, birch bark canoe building and one of a sunrise over water titled Awakening Spirit.

The inspiration for the exhibit came to Burns while she was working with the Wisconsin Historical Collections. She was fascinated by an image of a young Ho-Chunk Woman, Emma Pettibone. As Burns designed and wove a weaving based on this image, the idea for the entire exhibit unfolded. 

“I wanted to create an exhibit based on an elder woman from each of Wisconsin’s 12 tribes. My hope was to work with the tribes to honor the women they chose and to tell their stories. My goal was to celebrate and create a tribute to these women” said Burns.

“I created all of the designs and wove them on my hand-jacquard loom. The warp and weft are cotton. The hand-woven textiles connect us to the strength, beauty and determination of these women. It has been an honor for me to create this work,” stated Burns.

Burns lives in northern Wisconsin. She started weaving when she was in high school and currently weaves on looms ranging from 10” to 10’ wide.

Felting, natural dyeing and eco-printing are additional techniques Mary has mastered. She is an award-winning artist, and her work has been shown throughout the United States. She was an artist in residence at Andrews Experimental Forest in 2015. Her work has been exhibited extensively including international exhibits for Complexity 2016, Complexity 2014 and the Handweaver’s Guild of America’s Convergence 2016 Leader’s Exhibit.

The Ancestral Women opening reception will be held Tuesday, June 20 at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center from 6 – 9 p.m. courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.  Hors d’oeuvres and light refreshments will be served before the evening festivities at 6 p.m.  An Opening Drum Song at 7 p.m. will precede presentations by Tinker Shuman, Lac du Flambeau tribal elder, and Mary Burns, Artist/Weaver.  A Closing Drum Song will conclude the evening celebration.

On July 20, Dr. Patty Loew will also make a presentation celebrating the history and importance of tribal women beginning at 7 p.m. at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.

The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center is located 2 miles west of Ashland on U.S. Highway 2. The Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information about the exhibit, please contact Linda Mittlestadt or Susan Nelson at (715) 685-9983.

The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and operated through partnership with the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Historical Society, University of Wisconsin-Extension and Friends of the Center Alliance Ltd. It is open to the public at no charge with opportunities for visitors to experience human and natural history of the Chequamegon Bay region in the building and on the 180-acre grounds.

For more information about the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest please visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at or like us on Facebook at


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