The tattoo of faded green vines and purple grapes wrap around Amelia Katanski’s wrist. It reminds her of her family’s Polish church in Detroit, Michigan. A church that has since been torn down.
“It’s very Christian imagery and it doesn’t function in that way for me anymore,” said Katanski. “It’s about reinterpreting symbols in your current context.”
The meaning of the tattoo has changed over Katanski’s life. The tattoo’s story now incorporates her love of bike riding through the countryside when the grapes are ripe, and her love of bread making.
“I’m really interested, and I’ve always been interested in storytelling,” said Katanski. “The way storytelling creates the world.”
Katanski is an English Professor at Kalamazoo College. Her courses focus in American Indian Literary and Cultural Studies, World Indigenous Literature, and Multiethnic American Literature to name a few.
Her passion in Indigenous literature began in high school. Throughout her time as a student at K she followed this passion.
“You don’t learn everything there’s to learn in school,” she said. “There are silences that need to be explored.”
Since rejoining the Kalamazoo College community in 2000, she has worked to further incorporate Indigenous literature and culture courses into the curriculum.
“I think that the critical ethnic studies has really provided a completely different connection for people studying American lit.” said Katanski. “Since critical ethnic studies has been around I feel like the conversations are deeper and nuanced.”
In the coming years Katanski hopes to include more local Indigenous cultures into the course catalog, specifically Anishinaabe literature and culture. She especially wants to “explore and understand how language shapes culture.”
If she is not up on the hill in Humphrey house, Professor Katanski can be found on either the steps of the Chapel, the fine arts building, or hidden away in the rose garden.