Five panelist headshots

Decolonizing Museums in Practice: Developing a Sense of Belonging Through Daily Acts of Respect, Trust, and True Collaboration

As efforts to decolonize museums gain momentum, conversations have focused on voluntary repatriation, restitution, and repatriation. While these efforts are important, in many museums they have remained largely theoretical. This conversation will instead focus on the small, cumulative acts of generosity and reciprocity that can ignite institutional change.

Panelists will share their lived experiences, stories of museum work, and vision for what museums could be in the future. We invite you to participate in this community conversation to share your vision of what museums should be.


  • Bizhikiins Jennings, leader of the Bizhiki Culture and Dance Company
  • Dr. Magdalena Novoa, Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning
  • David Eby, PhD student in the School of Information Sciences
  • Dr. Cassandra Smith, Visiting Professor in Art History

Moderator: Daniela Morales Fredes, PhD student in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning

About the Panelists

Dylan Bizhikiins Jennings is a member of the marten clan. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison with degrees in Anthropology, Archaeology, Environmental Studies, and American Indian Studies. Jennings completed his Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin Madison Nelson Institute. Jennings served two consecutive terms as an elected Tribal Council Member for the Bad River Tribe. He served as the Director of Public Information for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. He was also a writer, photographer, and editor for the Mazina’igan newspaper.

Bizhikiins presents at many public engagements and schools throughout the Midwest on topics ranging from: traditional subsistence, sovereignty, tribal environmental perspective, cultural immersion, Ojibwemowin, Tribal Historic Preservation, food sovereignty, Ojibwe curriculum, and cultural identity. He recently served as an appointed member of the Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change and was most recently appointed to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board as the first Native American appointee.

Dylan resides in Odanah, Wisconsin, with his family and is a University of Wisconsin Madison HEAL Doctoral Fellow working with Earth Partnership. He has dissertator status in the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies in the Environment and Resources program. Bizhikiins recently served as an Associate Director for the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College. He also continues to serve as a Professor at Northland College in the American Indian Studies Department and Environmental Studies Department where he teaches courses such as: Introduction to Ojibwe language and culture, American Environmental History, Indigenous Food Sovereignty, and Native Foodways. Currently, Bizhikiins is the Administrator of the Treaty Natural Resources Department for the Gaa-Miskwaabikaang Red Cliff community. Bizhikiins has been a recent recipient of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development “40 under 40” award and a recipient of the UW Madison Nelson Institute Rising Star Alumni award.

Magdalena Novoa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at UIUC. Her research focuses on the intersections of cultural heritage and social justice, industrial heritage and gender, and the politics of memory, human rights, and grassroots organizing in the Americas. A native of Chile, she holds a BA in Fine Arts and a BA in Arts Education from Universidad Católica de Chile. She also holds an MA in Arts Management from the University of Arts London and a PhD in Architecture and Historic Preservation from the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining UIUC, Dr. Novoa worked for 15 years in arts and culture in the public and non-profit sectors in the UK and Chile. This experience has inspired her engaged scholarship in Chile and the US, where she has investigated the role of memory and gender in place-making and insurgent planning and assisted communities in making their places, narratives, and actions more visible in policy, practice, and academy.

David Eby (MLIS), Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma/Muscogee, is beginning his second year of pursuing his doctoral studies in Information Sciences at UIUC. David seeks to research how Native American and Indigenous Knowledge are conveyed and shared on TikTok, a short-format video social media platform. Before attending graduate school, David taught in public schools and worked in public libraries. During his Master's program, he worked with research projects funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the US Department of Education. He has interned as a researcher at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures. He is currently developing an augmented reality (AR) experience at the Spurlock Museum to complement the newly installed exhibit, Welcome to the Pow-wow: An Intertribal Pow-wow Experience. In the next academic year, David will be a Graduate Student Ambassador at the University of Illinois’ Native American House where he hopes to foster his creativity and cultural knowledge for the advancement of his Native relatives in the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago communities.

Cassandra Smith (BFA, University of Tulsa; MFA, MA, and PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago) is a Visiting Lecturer in Indigenous and Contemporary Art. Dr. Smith’s area of specialization is Native American art, film, and performance, and she situates her research and pedagogy within the disciplinary and methodological frameworks of Indigenous studies, digital humanities, performance studies, gender studies, decolonial museum practices, and critical ethnographic studies. Dr. Smith strongly believes that engagement with the arts is vital to the development of the analytical skills necessary to the formation of a more just and equitable world. Her teaching and research seek to embody Indigenous methodological practices that contribute to an expanding anti-colonial art-historical discourse.

Daniela Morales Fredes is a doctoral student from the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at UIUC. She holds a BA in Law from the University of Chile and a Minor in Philosophy and Aesthetics from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She has more than ten years of experience working in Chilean public institutions such as the National Monuments Council and the Ministry of Culture, Arts, and Heritage and as a private practitioner supporting grassroots organizations and local communities. Her main areas of interest are cultural heritage, human rights, and environmental justice.

Illinois Arts Council wordmark in black and green

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.


For further information on this event, contact Beth Watkins at or (217) 265-5485

All participants are welcome. To request disability-related accommodations for this event, please contact Brian Cudiamat at or (217) 244-5586.