Impressions of the Day

Congratulations, once again, on a job well done! The New Sun Conferences just seem to be getting better and better each year. This is a most important event for Aboriginal students as it gives them a rare opportunity to hear Aboriginal scholars, artists, and role models speak about their experiences. The lunch-time entertainment and food was most enjoyable!
Karen Roach, Program Officer, Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities

I found the conference to be an inspiring gathering of Aboriginal/Indigenous artists. From beginning to end, it was undoubtedly a wealth of information and insight into the challenges and rewards involved in taking one’s art from idea to outcome. The speakers were each unique in their perspectives and provided a thoughtful and realistic insight into what they face as artists. I will see you again at the New Sun Conference next year, and the year after, and the year after, and….

The New Sun Conference was an extraordinary gathering, bridging the boundaries between cultural practitioners, cultural theorists, and individuals who situate themselves between the two. The highlight of the conference was Tamara Podemski’s talk which openly addressed issues of hybridity in First Nations cultures, subverting a rhetoric of purity that has always dominated the discourse of area studies, be it First Nations, African, or Asian.The food was phenomenal, as was Tamara’s performance. Bravo!
Ming Tiampo, Department of Art History, Carleton University

Thanks again for a great weekend. I had a great time. This conference is as fulfilling for the invited speakers as it is for the audience. I welcomed the opportunity to take a step away from my work and re-contextualize it within the theme of “transforming traditions.” These discussions are important to have and I think that everyone walked away changed in some way.
Tamara Podemski

I have been meaning to write to say how much I enjoyed the conference. I was very impressed by all of the speakers. I found their presentations extremely engaging and illuminating. The whole event had a wonderfully open and warm atmosphere, quite unlike other conferences I’ve been too, and the food was delicious! I look forward to attending next year, and I’ll encourage more of my colleagues and students to come as well.
All best,
Sarah Casteel, Department of English, Carleton University

The New Sun Conference just keeps on getting better and better. The general mood of this year’s event was both celebratory and confident, reflecting the vitality of First Nations arts in this country; however, those of us in the audience also came away with a far greater understanding of issues that Aboriginal artists struggle with daily, such as their continued marginalization from the mainstream arts community in Canada and the serious underfunding of their projects.

The work of Indigenous artists in mid-career such as Metis photographer and print-maker Rosalie Favell, Anishnaabe spoken word artist and publisher Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm and Inuit sculptor, David Ruben Piqtoukun was showcased during the day as was that of two young artists, Darrell Dennis and Tamara Podemski. Dennis, a scriptwriter and actor from the Shuswap Nation in BC and Podemski, an urban Anishnaabe/Israeli songwriter and performer, are both multi-talented, combining exciting, emergent careers in Aboriginal arts with student life at the University of Toronto. What was most notable in their presentations, however, was the extraordinary confidence and passion with which they foregrounded and celebrated re-invented and transformed First Nations traditions along with their own contradictory and liminal Indigenous identities. As such, they represent a new generation of forward-looking First Nations activists and artists in this country who refuse to dwell in the past or become caught up in the ‘politics of resentment’ while at the same time recognizing the important struggle still ahead to legitimate First Nations arts as absolutely central both to First Nations sovereignty and to Canada’s cultural identity.


It was an honour and a privilege to have shared the “stage” with people like Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Rosalie Favell, Tamara Podemski and her musicians, and Mr. Darrell Dennis. The setting was appropriate, in that the space allowed each individual artist a great deal of “elbow room” to express their thoughts, feelings, and a big screen to allow viewers a good view of projected images of their works. “Transforming traditions” is a broad concept, but all in all we as artists from a variety of media have contributed our individual perspectives and hopefully have “filled in” the idea to some good degree. The conference provided an opportunity for the general public to learn about the present changes that mark the continuity of traditions passing to new artists and a larger audience.

Like the “Bottom Fish-Man” stone carving, we have as individual artists removed ourselves from the mainstream to begin anew the traditions and customs. We move from what may be “just memories” to recreate new and exciting perspectives in all the different forms of expression, for new eyes and ears to see and experience in a different light. We all must take into account the responsibility we bear and the courage it requires to be “individualists” in a world that persists in wanting “what was,” and might prefer that we not shed any light on “what is” now and forthcoming. We as artists have great and enduring respect for old customs and traditions; we are only redefining a new view of expression to share with the global theatre.

Our stage is set: we have only to share our “gifted hands and thoughts” with a new and broader audience and show that the changes have been gradual and not overnight! We have to live beyond the daily round of our responsibilities, paying our bills (necessary for existence), and develop a strong and lasting expression of “transformations” in all sectors of our lives. We must continue to forge change and attitudes for the new world; to embrace and give credence to artists for having the tenacity to deliver these present “charges of change” in varying degrees of creative endeavour.

We [my wife, Katherine and I] are very grateful for the invitation, new friends, good audience and wonderful food. Our best regards to the other artists in their difficult creative paths.

David Ruben Piqtoukun

Congratulations on yet another fine New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts, held on February 28, 2004. I have attended all three New Sun conferences at Carleton, and I must say that I am impressed by your organizational skills. There is not a glitch to be found, and the food served at lunch has been superb. No wonder these conferences draw a large audience.

Your latest conference entitled “Transforming Traditions” dealt with a very important subject matter. You wanted to showcase artists, writers, and film makers who look beyond their traditional heritage to explore new styles and new forms of expression. The audience responded well to this approach although I gather that it is something that is not without controversy in the native community.

To a non-native academic like me, it has been a moving and eye-opening experience to attend these New Sun conferences. They have inspired me to incorporate some of the material presented in my third year course on Gender and Literature in Women’s Studies. In my opinion, it is extremely important to continue these conferences—not only to give young native artists an opportunity to speak to a native audience, but also to reach non-native students and faculty at Carleton to raise their awareness of the multi-layered, complex issues behind the work of the native artists, poets, and film makers who embrace traditional symbols to create new thought provoking art.

In conclusion, I sincerely hope that these conferences will continue.

Yours truly,
Gurli Woods, Acting Director, Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s Studies, Carleton University

Concerning my impressions of the third annual New Sun Conference, I can do no more than repeat what I have already expressed to you in person: it successfully—in fact, strongly—made the point that Aboriginal cultures are vital components in the Canadian cultural scene of today. Not only are they adding their own special dimensions to the general scene, they are doing so in a way that is enriching our country’s cultural life.

The speakers, of which there were five, illustrated this in such areas as the performing arts (on stage as well as in radio and television), in writing and publishing, photography, printmaking and sculpture. As they made clear, each in his/her own sphere, cultural traditions are living entities that adapt and develop with the times. Aboriginal traditions are no exception: in Canada they are surviving, in some cases even thriving, because of their capacity to adapt and adopt. They are a vital part of the Canadian persona.

That’s longer than I intended. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the next New Sun Conference.

Olive Dickason, Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta Adjunct Professor of History, University of Ottawa

Congrats on a very successful day, you have outdone yourself this time. I look forward to being enlightened again by great presenters and performers next year. Tamara Podemski was amazing, and I appreciate how she embraces and acknowledges her own diverse cultural identity and never forgets to give thanks to all beings that got her where she is. The sound of her voice and her passion to share it with others was the highlight of the day!!! Thanks again for the invitation.
Paul C. Lorilla, Policy Officer, Policy and Research Directorate, Aboriginal Affairs Branch, Canadian Heritage

The conference was good, the content was contemporary and important. The speakers raised issues that are relevant for these times using a good mix of humor and honesty. Our Aboriginal artists play an important role in our communities and any way to incorporate them into our mainstream is a welcome feat. They reflect the sadness, pain, love, joy and healing through poems, plays, and visual arts. Their contribution to the development of healing strategies cannot be overlooked.

I look forward to the next New Sun Conference—and next time get more Crees!
ML, un-biased Cree from Saskatchewan

Firstly, I wanted to say that the conference got off to a good start with the teachings (and perhaps, remindings) of the elder, Paul Skanks. These helped to ground us in our foundations of Aboriginal philosophy and worldview and to open our hearts and minds to the possibilities that come with evolving traditions.

I also enjoyed the variety of disciplines represented at the 2004 New Sun Conference, from film making to writing, from photography to sculpting and singing. I especially found David Ruben Piqtoukun’s presentation of his work in stone sculpture/carving to contain meaningful metaphoric expression and substance. Commentary from some members of the audience was also provoking but what I found most important was the suggestion that we, the local community of Aboriginal artists (and artist wanna be’s, myself included), very much need to be in contact throughout the year and if there is any way I can help in the realization of this dream or aspiration, please know that I would commit time and energy to this goal. Last but not least, we were well nourished with the powerful palette of the traditional foods buffet at lunch time. Meegwetch to the caterer!

All our relations,
Deborah Lee, Reference and Information Services, National Library of Canada

Although I did not attend all the sessions, the two that I enjoyed were Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm and Rosalie Favell. Kateri’s talk on the need to promote native writing and reading and to look at erotica in native literature were two areas many do not associate with aboriginal writing. She is a forceful and stimulating speaker. Rosalie’s photo ‘collages’ are superb. She has the creative ability to put seemingly disparate images into a coherent whole. I have seen few photo montages this good.

Speaking of good, terrific lunch. Memorable. Good setting. Aramark deserves a lot of credit for presenting native dishes with style and panache. I particularly liked Tamara’s luncheon musical presentation. Fine stage presence.

The setting was not what it could be. It is a misnomer to call it a theatre. It is a classroom with classroom seating not theatre seating. I was surprised there were few men in attendance.

Kudos to you, Allan for all your obvious hard work in presenting a conference that was well planned, presented and above all stimulating.

Cheers to you!
Mike Jackson, Supervisor, Video and Film Services, Instructional Media Services, Carleton University

First, I want to say thanks for a truly wonderful day. End to end, the speakers were eye-opening, engaging, intelligent, political, humourous, serious, sensitive… I could add many more adjectives here! Suffice it to say, they encapsulated a bit of the excitement that has made First Nations arts perhaps the most interesting and lively corner of the Canadian art world today. I think it’s quite an exhilarating time, no doubt owing to the intellectual and organizational efforts of key-people such as you.

A couple of comments: I really like the fact that it’s a one-day symposium. Too many conferences stretch out for three (or more!) exhausting days.

I wonder, however, if there could be a follow-up meeting or “teach-in,” aimed at undergraduate and graduate students (and professors, possibly)? It could be held the following week: an afternoon or couple hours, at most (not involving speakers, just audience members). It would give many people in the audience an opportunity to discuss and synthesize the different perspectives of the day, and perhaps consolidate a few “take-home” messages for students, grads, and faculty alike.

Thanks again, Allan. It was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended.

I thought it was all very interesting and certainly a learning experience. The dialogues that followed the presentations were interesting and enlightening—interaction with the audience is always a good thing. The food was also a very nice touch.

The highlight for me was Darrell’s presentation. My colleagues and I enjoyed it so much that we invited him to join us during Aboriginal Awareness Week at Library and Archives Canada.

Hope you will be able to continue this endeavour and we invite you to consider a possible role for the Library and Archives in the future. As a cultural institution, I believe we are working toward the same goals in supporting and promoting Aboriginal peoples’ expression of culture and heritage through the arts.

Thanks for your all the work you and your team put into this. And please do keep us in mind.

Deborah Pelletier, Coordinator, Aboriginal Resources and Services, Library and Archives Canada

The New Sun Conference went far in promoting the use of arts in Aboriginal Community Development and healing our wounds in the struggle for reclamation of our identity. I found the speakers and their presentations provocative. They all spoke well to the struggles and the sometimes conflict of honouring “Our Values.” I am happy that thinking is well and alive in the Aboriginal Community because without stimulation and growth we all stagnate and die. I am very proud of our artists and wish them success, growth and most of all Love. Keep up the good work.

That was great to see that it [the conference] got some press. It is so rare that the newspapers print any good news about Aboriginal peoples. I really enjoyed myself and was so informed by all of your speakers. Each one presented with such an air of professionalism and confidence that I am certain the students attending were impressed and in awe and hopefully inspired as well as informed.

For next year something to consider is the sit down time is extremely long and if there could be a couple of short breaks might be a good idea.

Unfortunately, I had two guests with me who couldn’t stay for the remainder of the afternoon after that absolutely stupendous lunch! But I heard that both Tamara and David gave excellent presentations as well.

Louise Profeit-LeBlanc, Aboriginal Arts Coordinator, Aboriginal Arts Secretariat

Thank you, Dr. Allan J. Ryan for the wonderful opportunity to meet with Native role models. You could never shake enough hands. As well, there are never enough gatherings to meet people who have succeeded; with that I mean people who do/work that they love. I appreciated hearing the guests talk of their works, thoughts and experiences (it’s all GOOD).

Discussions, questions, and comments are always full of surprises. Observing these kinds of gatherings is always fulfilling and inspirational. I love to listen and digest and re-interpret the soulful and heartful messages many of the guests (past and recent) have shared. I was also happy to see and meet up with ol’ chums and laugh! Thank you again.

Sincerely and appreciative,

Congratulations on a very successful conference. I thought it was well-attended, well-organized, and very interesting.

I was most surprised by the young urban artists who did not want to be locked into a traditional definition of aboriginal art. It certainly presents a challenge to funders and to all of our definitions of what is aboriginal. I am so used to working with the very traditional Huichol culture whose art, culture, and spirituality are deeply inter-linked that it really made me re-think my definitions of what is aboriginal.

Perhaps this will evolve over the next few years—and can be explored further in future conferences. Could we end up with an aboriginal art that is secular, urban, and makes no reference to aboriginal history and culture? What would then make it aboriginal? Would it be like urban black art in the States?

Would there be any value in bringing elders and young artists together at a conference to explore these issues? Or traditionalists, young artists and funding agencies?

The art world and the public are fickle, and always looking for novelty. It could be that there needs to be a new wave of aboriginal art—or new techniques to capture public markets. The arts that evolved in the 60s and 70s—Inuit print and sculpture, West coast prints and carving, woodland art—were incredibly exciting back then. Apparently there used to be line-ups around the block when new editions of Inuit art came out in the early 60s. Probably vastly more art is being sold by volume now—but it doesn’t have the public excitement it once had. It will be interesting to see if the young artists are able to innovate work which captures this same sense of excitement.

Is there any value in exploring art innovations more at upcoming conferences? (This conference certainly started to do so.)

The public has enormous interest in some art forms (e.g. popular music, movies, television)—while other arts (poetry, writing generally I think, and classical art) are much more for specialists and a small intelligentsia. So artists who move towards hip-hop, rap, movies, internet art? are going where the popular flow goes, and probably have a better hope of making a living.

Could the academy deal with this—popular trends and aboriginal artists?

Anyway, those are some reflections and possible topics for future conferences. Perhaps some heretical. Good luck with the next conference. Please keep in touch.

All the best,

I am thankful for the opportunity to have a space to converse about issues we need to address as Aboriginal people with the people who are making the art. For instance, as a person who does not practice theatre work I still feel that I should have a voice in what happens on stage in the name of Aboriginal people. Normally, a person like me wouldn’t get a chance to make comments to the artist so this was a much needed space to be able to do that.

On another level, I left the conference wishing that there was more dialogue time between the audience and presenters. After lunch people were ready to make more comments. Possibly after the last presenter all of the presenters could be up front in a panel. Then audience members could direct the questions that they had time to digest from the day.

Overall, like I said before, it was a great space for us to gather and create a much needed open discussion. Thank you for that!
Ekosi Maka,

I really enjoyed the conference and the presentations made by the artists. They described well their challenges and successes. The meal and entertainment were fantastic. Food was excellent. I appreciated singing and learning a few words of Ojibway with Tamara! Thank you for organizing this and I look forward to attending similar events.

Just wanted to say you did a wonderful job, as always. The presentations were very interesting. I would like to see follow-up sessions to meet and discuss various issues. These types of sessions could lay the foundations for creative working groups discussing topics as broad as getting published, or getting work seen, to utilizing culture as intellectual property. Just some ideas. Take care.
Alison Benedict, Off-Campus Coordinator, School of Social Work, Carleton University

Once again I loved the New Sun Conference. (This being my third one.) I think this year was very good at covering new media forms and I enjoyed that most of the speakers did deal with the topic. I think that the dynamic Darrell Dennis was an excellent speaker to open the day – I think this kind of speaker is excellent to start the day with in future. The speakers seemed to me to be very approachable and knowledgeable which always makes conferences easy and interesting. The food was excellent as well!

My only real comment would be that I think taking a short break either between the first and second speaker or second and third would be wise. I think the New Sun Conference is an excellent venue for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to gather and reflect on art and culture. I hope that you continue to pursue the holding of this event! I love the New Sun Conferences—I look forward to them every year!

Best of luck! Miigwetch!

Congratulations to you and your wife Rae for a great job in organizing the New Sun Conference. Everything went off very well and it was stimulating and engaging. I suspect people have been sending kudos so I am just adding my own.Let me know if you would like my help again next year. It was very interesting.

All the best and please feel free to shamelessly promote my name and/or company if you hear of anyone who needs promotional or PR work done.

My only comment is that a short break sometime in the morning just to give people a stretch, smoke, coffee, etc., would have been nice. Other than that, nice variety of people, interesting topic, very well organized. Good job overall.

–Jennifer David, Debwe Communications Inc.

I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed the New Sun Conference 2004, and thought I would share a few thoughts with you.

The agenda was very full, but each speaker had enough time to give their presentations and enough time was allowed for questions, and answers which was good.

The guests provided a broad spectrum of the Arts being represented. It was good to hear about their struggles and how they overcame things to get to where they are today. It was especially sad to hear about Tamara’s struggles with trying to get funding and the reasons why she was turned down. I hope that she continues to keep at it. She is very talented as a singer, and I admire and respect her sticking to her principles on how she wants to market herself.

It was interesting to hear about the struggle and tug of war mentality between the traditionalists and those who want to evolve and try new ways of doing things.

In my opinion a lot of negativity and fears could stem from the people who were affected by Bill C-31. For some of those “newly” registered Indians it is almost like they are new persons who have just found their identity and their culture. They want to embrace the heritage that had been taken away from them. Perhaps their family did not have the right to even be called “Indian,” let alone live on reserve and take part in the community. These people lost out and now that they have status back, or in some cases are first time registered, I think some of these people are finding their way and perhaps taking the traditional approach to things. For some, it may be that they think they have to do things a certain way and dress a certain way and practice this or that ritual to be “Indian.”

Some people may fear that by not doing things in the traditional way they would become assimilated. They may think it is to be colonized and they cling to the old ways.

For the Metis and Inuit and non-status Aboriginal peoples, it must be more or less the same. People who are trying to figure out their cultural identities and not lose their heritage are often fearful of change. I tend to think that this is a struggle in all cultures, such as the Chinese, Japanese and most certainly some of the Arab nations. I know it happens in the European cultures also. People with new ideas and those wanting to step out of their pigeon holes or boxes are often stymied.

The conference allowed dialogue and it also allowed the participants to think and to put our ideas out there. That is always a good thing. I hope to attend other [New Sun] conferences in the future and would recommend others do the same.


Thank you so much for arranging the conference! It was a very spiritual experience for me; I learned a lot. Well done!

I attended the New Sun Conference this weekend and thought it was great. Congratulations!
Dale Blake, Librarian, Aboriginal Resources and Services, Library and Archives Canada

Just a note to say thanks again for the great conference. My husband and I really enjoyed ourselves, and we’re looking forward to next year’s conference, too. What I enjoy about the conference is the variety of talent that you invite to Carleton, and it’s a great opportunity to connect with others in the aboriginal community, too. Lunch was delicious and we very much appreciate all your hard work.
With thanks,
Beth Hughes, Centre for Initiatives in Education, Carleton University

I just wanted to send along a note of congratulations to you on a wonderful New Sun Chair conference held on Saturday. I really enjoyed the morning speakers and the luncheon was superb. Terrific job. Thank you.
Jana L. Rand, Senior Development Associate, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Carleton University

I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the conference today. It was excellent. I honestly did not know what to expect. I thought that the day might drag. It did not. All the presenters were great and thought provoking. The food was wonderful too. Thank you so much for organizing this event.

Thank you so much for inviting me to the New Sun Conference again this year. I really enjoyed it and got some valuable insights about change.
Yours truly,

As you know I was not able to attend the whole day, but I did find the afternoon sessions illuminating and interesting. I was particularly moved by the personal commentary given by David and Tamara and how their experiences were having an impact on their artistic productions.
Thanks again, Allan.
Elaine Keillor, Department of Music, Carleton University

The symposium was great and I am already anticipating next year’s with pleasure.
Christine Lalonde, National Gallery of Canada

I enjoyed attending the conference and learned a lot. The food was great, who was the caterer? I did enjoy the visual presentations by the speakers. It gave me a chance to see what type of work they do.Here are my suggestions: a break in the morning for people to move around and have a chance to mingle. holding the conference in a different type of room as the theatres are big (and very official). It would create a more relaxing and sharing type of environment.

Overall I did enjoy attending, observing, and learning. Thanks for this opportunity.
Andrée Bertrand, Administrative Assistant, Aboriginal Arts Secretariat, Canada Council

Overall, the day provided me with great insight into Aboriginal arts, especially in forms I have not really been exposed to, like literature. All of the presenters had a very positive outlook about the future of Aboriginal arts and Aboriginal peoples. The option of being able to ask the presenters questions was very good. The food was tasty and the set up of the luncheon was very nice, and the bingo game idea was fun, something that most people know how to play. An interesting mix of presenters that covered many forms, very informative. Good job.

Thanks again for organizing such a rewarding conference. Please let me know of any other talks, conferences, etc.

The conference represented a good cross-section of Aboriginal arts and culture. The presenters were on the whole interesting speakers. The length of their presentations was enough for them to give us a background and understanding of their work. The organizers for next year may want to consider better sound for the presenters. Although all the conference participants could be heard throughout the day, it took more effort to listen to a few of them—maybe a hand held microphone could fix this problem.I really enjoyed it when they shared their work with us. Tamara Podemski’s performance was wonderful. What a voice! The lunch was fantastic, lots of delicious and exceptional Canadian food. The bingo was a fun idea. Great conference!

I’d like to congratulate you for the excellent organization and execution of the conference. Everything went smoothly without delay which I appreciated. Again, great work.

Congratulations on your 3rd Annual New Sun Conference—I could not make it that weekend, but Heather Campbell and Kim Hayden [from the Indian and Inuit Art Centres] were able to attend and reported on how wonderful it was – interesting presenters and a great agenda. You also got media coverage. Sorry that I missed it.
Viviane Gray, Chief, Indian and Inuit Art Centres, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

Just a quick note to say thanks for the good day of performance and discussion. We thoroughly enjoyed most of it.

Just a note to say a huge thank you for Saturday. It was great! Delighted to have won your book at BINGO! It was a great idea to have the conference in Azrieli and delicious lunch and dance in Fenn Lounge. Good to get fresh air and have a little walk!

Morning was very good, but couldn’t stay for the afternoon. One small peeve, I wasn’t crazy about the venue, a bit impersonal and dreary lighting, I remember a couple of years back a New Sun lecture at St. Paul’s, that was a nice venue. But, otherwise, great stuff, well-done…
Marc St. Germain, Metis Nation of Ontario

nsc- logo-small

A presentation of the New Sun Chair in Aboriginal Art and Culture
with the support of the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences and the New Sun Fund
administered by the Community Foundation of Ottawa, plus the generosity of private donors