Ancestral Women

honoring our ancestors through handwoven jacquard portraits

Update 8/18/16 – Kickstarter Closed. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

81 wonderfully supportive, generous souls came forward to support Mary’s Ancestral Women exhibit, and we are both amazed and deeply appreciative. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts (and the middle and top, too)!

There’s a ton yet to do to complete all the components of the exhibit, but now we at least have the financial means to make it all happen. Now if there’s only enough time to get everything done . . . we’ll make it – we promise. The exhibit dates are September 23 – November 12, 2016 at the Center for Visual Arts in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Come to the reception – September 30 at the CVA in Wausau, 5:00 – 7:00. It should be a wonderful celebration of these women.

Much love and gratitude to all,

Mary and John


Wahoo! Mary made her Kickstarter goal for her Ancestral Women exhibit! What an amazing feeling to be so kindly and generously supported by our friends and community. We’re enormously grateful – thank you to all who have helped in any manner, whether financial or simply sending positive energy.

We hope folks try to make the exhibit’s 9/30 opening at the Center for Visual Arts in Wausau. Tinker Schuman, one of the elder’s portrayed in the exhibit, will speak and sing, and we expect others – grandchildren, etc. – of the elders to be there as well.

There’s four days left in the Kickstarter campaign. We have a stretch goal of producing a book of the elders portrayed in the exhibit. Anything we receive beyond our goal will go toward production of the book. So, if you still have an inclination to support the exhibit, your contribution will go towards something very worthwhile. See:

No worries, one way or the other. We’re just thrilled that so many people cared to help us. A thousand thanks.

Mary and Tinker
Tinker Schuman and Mary Burns with Tinker’s portrait

Supporters! Thank You! 8/18/16

Supporters of the Ancestral Women exhibit as of 8/18/16:

Deb Brossard

Cathy Logan Weber

Lynne Uihlein

Renee Reed

Barbara Fay Wiese

Gary Kmiecik

Jan Zindel

Alan and Sue Drum

Andrea and Jerry Henrich

David Mladenoff


Maryjane Ingersoll

Andrea Fenner

Mel Golden

Rod and Myrtle Sharka

Mark and Mary Pflieger

Tasha Turner Lennhoff

Ann and Tony Waisbrot

Alice W. Smith (Major Sponsor)

Carne Andrews

Sue Marcquenski

Eowyn Bates


Sara Muender (Major Sponsor)

David Bates

Jeanne Debbink

Sheila O’Hara

Ellen McMahon

Ken and Sharon Drawz

Catherine Marcquenski          

Toni Bergeon

Maribeth Waller

Joe and Linda Mastalski

Barbara Millen                       

Kathleen Lepak                      


Val Bogdan

Bob Kovar

Susan Knight

Marena Kehl              

Meta Reigel Brandt

Gary Theisen              

Mary Jean Huston

Patrice George

Martha Burch             

Ed Marshall                

Terry Daulton             

M J Slone                   

Paula Hougan             

Scott Sedam              

Michael and Liz                      

Sally Mode                 

Bernie Langreck & Peggy Bronsberg             

Jessica Peterson                    

Donya Geagan                       

Dave and Carol Koch              

Ron and Elizabeth Howard                

Debbie Schumaker                 

Patrick Burns              

Ursula Muehllehner (Major Sponsor)              

Bev Engstrom            

Denise Fauntleroy (Major Sponsor)                 

Pam Thul Immler                   

John Hermanson                    

Ann & Jeff Currie                   

Barbara & John McFarland                

Gail Gilson Pierce                  

Vibeke Vestby                        

Michael Gabler                      

Kim Swisher               

Chris Schmelling                    

Georgia Wulff

Nancy and Bob Petulla

Jim and Katie Gennrich                     

Valerie Quate            

Beth Tornes               

Bambi Grajek             

Elaine Hilmer

Jean Burns  (Major Sponsor)               

Joanne and John Ader            

Marilynn Preston                   

Christine Alfery                      

Mark Troudt               

Linda Prine                 

Nancy Burns               

Paul Kornowski                      

Callie Bates

Exhibit Structure!

exhibit structure w MB and Z
14-sided structure for Ancestral Women exhibit on our deck – 1st time up!

Awakening Spirit

AwakeningSpirit copy
Awakening Spirit weaving

Article on Mary in Digital Weaving, Norway, Newsletter

Jacquard newsletter 070516 Mary Burns

Harriet LaFernier Balber

Harriet LaFernier Balber 3
Weaving of Harriet LaFernier Balber                                                                Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Dr. Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill

Dr. Rosa HIll 2
Weaving of Dr. Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill being adopted into the Oneida Nation, 1949

Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill became the second female Native American doctor in the United States, interning at Women’s Hospital in Philadelphia in 1902. Born a Mohawk Indian in 1876, she married Charles Hill, an Oneida Indian, and moved with him back to Oneida, Wisconsin, where he had built a house on a farm. Dr. Hill practiced medicine but didn’t have a Wisconsin license, so she did so informally in her kitchen.

She practiced in an “inconspicuous way” – she gave without demanding payment. The doctor on the Oneida reservation left to serve in World War 1, and now more and more people came to her. Influenza was rampant and she and her six children were sick, too. Charles contracted appendicitis in 1916 and died on Easter, leaving Rosa to raise their small children, run the farm, and doctor all those who came to her.

Native people were denied in this era access to hospitals and health education – child mortality was three times the national average. Dr. Hill learned herbal remedies from Oneida medicine men and women and incorporated those skills into her kitchen clinic for 40 years. She made house calls, taught preventative medicine, and accepted food as payment for her services, adjusting her fees according to what the patient could pay.

She obtained her Wisconsin license during the Depression, got an office in town, and served all people.

Though she had a heart attack in 1946 that left her blind in one eye, she continued practicing from her home. In 1949, she received the “Doctor of the Year” award from the American Medical Association That same year she was named “Indian of the Year” in Chicago. Perhaps most importantly to her that year, she was adopted as a tribal member of the Oneida and given a new name – Youdagent, “she who carries aid.”

Dr. Hill died in 1952, and two years later, the church community erected a granite monument in the center of Oneida in memory of Rosa. The inscription reads: “Physician, Good Samaritan, and friend of People of all religions in this community, erected to her memory by the Indians and white people.” It includes: “I was sick and you visited me.”

In 2014, the Dr. Rosa Minoka-Hill School opened to serve students with a continuum of unique learning needs, partnering with Bellin Health to educate the whole child, with a focus on wellness educational opportunities for students, families and community.



Mary recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to provide funding for her  Ancestral Women: Elders from Wisconsin’s 12 Tribes exhibit.

A little bit about the exhibit: The Ancestral Women project was conceived to portray the strength of ancestral women around the world, both elders and their contemporaries, and to honor their journeys. The first phase of this larger project features women elders from each of Wisconsin’s 12 Native American tribes, 11 of which are federally recognized, and one, the Brothertown Nation, which is seeking federal status. Mary is also weaving six clan pieces for the exhibit (bear, loon, eagle, marten, crane, turtle) and four landscape pieces that illustrate essential cultural practices (maple sugaring, harvesting wild rice, building a birch bark canoe, and a piece showing a rising sun over a lake that symbolizes a new day).

If you have an interest in this project, please take a look at the Kickstarter link. If you would like to give Mary a hand, we would be honored and very grateful. Or if you think the project has merit, but you don’t wish to contribute, we ask that you please share it via whatever social media you use – that could help a lot.

The experience of creating this exhibit has been amazing for us so far. We’ve met some extraordinary people who have welcomed us with great kindness and shared remarkable stories of their families. We’re been truly honored that they would offer us their trust.

The exhibit opens to the public in Wausau at the Center for Visual Arts on 9/23, and the reception is on 9/30. It should be a remarkable evening – please put it on your calendar!

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