Impressions of the Day

It is always the best kind of affirmation that all this work is not for nothing when we feel what we felt in that room that afternoon. I make it my life’s new goal to move our people out of this state of ennui and to give them back the power to dream and live. It is always good to meet like minded people. Again Allan, thank you and Rae for all that you are doing.
–Susan Aglukark

Had I not received a penny for attending the conference, it would have made no difference. The people, the discussion, and the company were extraordinary. I would come again anytime.
–Joseph Boyden

Coming from a small reservation away from the big cities of our country, I never realized how much young native people are succeeding in their fields. I wish the native youth that are living on reservations could see something like the New Sun Conference you had there in Ottawa. Despite the success I had in the past it has inspired me in so many different ways. The pride and hope I felt at the New Sun Conference is a pride and hope I wish many native youth could feel. The New Sun Conference is definitely a diamond in the rocks.
–Riel Benn

I just wanted to send a quick note to say thank you so much for inviting me to come and participate in the New Sun Conference this year. It really turned out to be a wonderful day and I’m thankful to you for creating this space for the community to connect with one another. I certainly connected with several people and thank you for that. Chi-Meegwetch to you and Rae and all the support staff you had for your warm hospitality and friendly vibe. You really took great care of me, and my family too is very thankful. Again, thanks and I look forward to working with you again in the future…
–Harmony Rice

I attended the New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts for the first time in 2005, and found it eye-opening, delightfully diverse, and intellectually challenging. The 5th Annual New Sun conference held on March 4, 2006 was cut from the same cloth. Coming two years in a row has helped to underscore what a uniquely valuable gathering place the New Sun Conference is, one where the academic and non-academic worlds come together in very productive ways. Furthermore, it is a rare place where aboriginal artists from a variety of disciplines are brought into dialogue not only with each other, but also with the wider non-aboriginal community. As Susan Aglukark said in her presentation, too often the prevailing media-driven image of aboriginal people in Canada is one of despair and social turmoil. The New Sun Conference dramatically disrupts that image. While often speaking directly to the challenges confronting aboriginal peoples, the presenters gathered at the New Sun Conference every year demonstrate the tremendous diversity, skill, pride, and creative energy percolating (and sadly, often under-recognized) in Canada’s aboriginal communities.

The speakers touched me on many levels. It was an honour to be part of the day.
–IC, Minwwaashin Lodge

It is hard to believe that I have attended my fifth New Sun Conference. Where does time go? As in other years, this conference left me inspired and full of hope for the future of aboriginal peoples. Each of the presenters captured our attention and imagination. I look forward to following the career of the young artist, Riel Benn. Perhaps someday, he will have a show at the National Art Gallery. I also thoroughly enjoyed your presentation of the self-portraits. The pieces were each amazing. I hope that I have the opportunity to view them in person at some future date.

As an Anishnabe person, I was very moved by the gift that was presented to you of the tobacco and the eagle feather. It certainly is well deserved. I look forward to the sixth New Sun Conference.
–CE, Indian Registration and Band Lists

A measure of my reaction to the New Sun Conference (5th Annual) is that I have not stopped talking to friends, family and colleagues about it since I attended three weeks ago! Bringing the academic and political lenses to aboriginal arts have given me the critical thinking skills necessary to truly appreciate the art. And the art was great—the readings, the songs, the stories, the images, all stick with me in a way that purely academic or political material could never do.

So moving and healing… it was yet another beautiful expression of what unifies us.
Chi-meegwech, Allan!

Thank you ever so much for putting on yet again, another great conference. I’m trying to think of ways it can be made better, but I can’t. So I’m either not very creative or you’re already doing a bang-up job. Thanks again.

This 5th New Sun Conference was particularly successful I thought, mainly because of the very high calibre of the guests and also because of the wide range of creative activities addressed, from visual art, music and literature to media and communication. What particularly struck me this time was the willingness of the participants to speak openly about their own, sometimes painful, trajectory to becoming an artist and the determination they demonstrated in the face of obstacles. Yet they all seemed to have an awareness of the bigger picture, and that meant that their participation went well beyond the performer’s ego trip. I was impressed by the sense of altruism that they projected. Congratulations!
–Diana Nemiroff, Director, Carleton University Art Gallery

Another excellent conference. I have been coming to the New Sun Conference since 2004, and each one gets better and better. From an academic point of view, it is one of the very few conferences where Aboriginal/Inuit speakers far outnumber the non-aboriginal speakers. What a refreshing change. Moreover, the New Sun audience always seems to be comprised of a seemingly equal mix of Aboriginal & non-aboriginal people—this year especially so. This is truly remarkable. As you know, the study of Native North American arts is still dominated by non-aboriginal speakers discussing aboriginal arts—oftentimes to the benefit of a non-aboriginal audience, too. I have been to many conferences and panels like this. Your conference, by contrast, is a model of 21st-century scholarship. I think you have established a positive framework to solicit the contributions of Native artists, writers, and students. There is a very good spirit in the room.

Where to get more funding? If it is a matter of putting a forceful argument together, I think that the two facts I outlined above, 1) mainly Native speakers, 2) equal mix between Native and non-native audience members, is truly an achievement in itself. To my knowledge, there is no other conference with the same high profile in Canada that achieves this level of Native active participation. Congratulations on another marvelous day.


The New Sun Conference this year again provided a valuable, rich opportunity for all of the Carleton community to be exposed to the best of Aboriginal art, literature, music, and pop culture in Canada. The presenters, Joseph, Susan, Riel, Harmony, and you, made the day engaging and joyous—the day was a celebration more than a conference. Our students in the Aboriginal Enriched Support Program (AESP) at Carleton University welcomed the opportunity to participate in the celebration. The university has too few events that allow a space for Aboriginal culture and art.

The six student mentors who volunteered at the conference gained valuable experience by participating in the set up. All of the mentors, without exception expressed how much they enjoyed the presentations—seeing art they hadn’t seen before like Riel’s, listening to Susan’s music, and hearing Joseph Boyden read from his novel.

In the CIE we look forward enthusiastically and whole-heartedly to next year’s conference, and we would like to offer our student mentors again to volunteer at the conference. We offer you our continued support and sincerest appreciation for this wonderful opportunity. The conference energized all of us who attended, and reminded each of the importance of art in our lives.

–Beth Hughes, Associate Director, Centre for Initiatives in Education, Carleton University

I look forward to attending this conference in the future, and hope it continues to grow. I would be very happy to volunteer for you again next year. Congratulations on an enlightening and enjoyable conference.

I was very glad to be a part of this indescribable event that we all witnessed. Words can not express what I had experienced this past Saturday. It was an intensity of unity and strong energy that was flowing in that room. I can tell you that I felt like this energy was equal to what I would be feeling in heaven. The sense of internal peace and spiritual connection was as contagious as an epidemic that reached out to every single soul in that room that day. I don’t know what else to say; it was an experience out of this world. There was a moment at the blessing of the ceremony in which I thought I saw my grandmother. The speakers were human but that day they seemed to be enchanters with their invisible magic wand. All of us were totally entranced.

At the closing I browsed around for a moment to see if it was only me not wanting to leave the room. I am sure that it was not only my perception but the general perception because of this indescribable energy that we accumulated and felt. I am looking forward to the next New Sun experience next year. I will spread the word about this very significant experience that is the food of our souls.

–LF, Addiction Counsellor

I thought the line up was excellent. I really liked how Reil was so transparent and spoke what he was thinking. Harmony was an excellent speaker. I really liked your presentation on About Face which was informative and insightful. I felt that all those presentations could have gone on longer because they were so incredibly good. The food was excellent as was the set-up and atmosphere. Having music during lunch was a real treat. The author Joseph Boyden was a very good story teller and I was lead to buy his book! Susan’s presentation was not rushed and I really appreciated the tempo of that presentation. You offered such a wide variety of arts and expressions, and you included and represented young people too. I must say thank you for an educating and enjoyable conference.

I was really carried away on a feeling of belonging and good will. The food was amazing and was the initial reason for my attendance, but the whole package was great. Susan is such a great ambassador, gentle but tough. As a totally non-native, non-academic, I felt so embraced and accepted and was really pumped on the way home. B R A V O.
–MDT, St Eugene, ON

What really impressed me, Allan, was that you are a part of a conference that has given a voice to many Aboriginal people’s experiences, and that is very important. Thank you again for the food and for sharing.

I would like to thank you for an exceptional conference. You were the trickster in orchestrating a very intimate, spiritual, and, at times, emotional gathering. I learnt a great deal and was irrevocabl[y] changed when, during the blessing, we were welcomed to the land of the Algonquin people. My husband and I are trying our hand at small organic farming and trying to “walk” as gently on this borrowed land as we can, now a bit more mindful of the spirit of the people who came before us and those who will come after. My wish is that you continue to reach out to one and all who are interested in learning about First Nations peoples and their struggles to learn their past and find a future that reflects the values of their peoples. Our popular society could use an injection of some of these values.

I attended the New Sun Conference again this year. I have been attending this conference since the very first year and I look forward to going each year for new reasons.

The New Sun Conference is a wonderful opportunity to get introduced to different aspects of Aboriginal art and culture—it is wonderful meeting and hearing successful Aboriginal people who talk openly about their lives and achievements. It certainly inspires me to be more in touch with my culture and also introduces me to aspects of my culture that I have not experienced before. Having a conference that brings to light the exceptional people in the Aboriginal community can inspire individuals to excel but also exposes the wonderful traditions and talent within this community. It is wonderful to go to a conference that is discussing the great aspects of Aboriginal culture rather than the negative ones.

This year’s conference was outstanding—a wonderful blend of talent and personality. All the speakers were personable and interesting. I found many of their stories uplifting and compelling, each one making a difference in the world. Riel Benn was amazing—his personal testimony, talent, and humour was able to outline an aspect of tragic youth culture but show a way to deal with loss and be able to heal—being “constructive instead of destructive.” Harmony Rice also exposed other tragedies but explained ways she was working to try and improve these situations, sharing her blood lines experience was really inspirational. Also, having the opportunity to hear a world class artist like Susan Aglukark and talk with her was incredible.

The ability to listen but also discuss with speakers is something that not every conference offers, and to me it is one of the things that makes this conference so exceptional. The conference has actually touched my life in a very personal way. A few years ago I started dating someone who had very little exposure or understanding of Aboriginal culture—when it came time to register for the conference 3 years ago I asked if he wanted to attend and he said yes. Since then he has looked forward to the conferences as much as I have to learn more about this amazing culture—art, history, story telling, testimony, and cuisine. It has helped to dispel stereotypes and teach understanding. I look forward to attending next year’s conference and many more in the future.


Several weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a day devoted to exploring creative expression among indigenous people of Canada. The day had a positive impact at a number of levels. First, it introduced me to writers and artists, most of whom were new to me, who are doing an incredible job of interpreting the experience of the First Peoples of North America generally and Canada in particular. Second, the impact of the art itself was spiritually and emotionally inspiring; at times because of the positive energy associated with it and in other instances the deep experiences it evoked. Third, there was an accepting atmosphere and an open spirit. Fourth the quality of art was an inspiration to excellence. Thank you for organizing this event. I look forward to the results that are already starting to spin off from it.
–Vern Redekop, Conflict Studies, Faculty of Human Sciences, St. Paul’s University

The opportunity to hear from and share with the incredibly talented individuals who spoke at the conference was complimented by the spirit and enthusiasm of everyone who came together from so many different communities to attend this conference. It is quite unlike any other meeting or gathering I have ever attended and I think Carleton University is fortunate to have such a unique and innovative conference of this sort; it is certainly a credit to this institution which I am sure the conference’s many attendees would agree with. I for one certainly feel that it has enriched my experience as a graduate student at this university. It was so wonderful to be a part of it even for just one day (I wish it could have been longer!) and I certainly hope it becomes a Carleton tradition so that I, and many others, may continue to be a part of it for years to come.

The messages and stories that came out during the day are ones that have to be heard by as many people as possible. Thank you!

I am glad the Ottawa School Boards were informed about the conference. I am sure many more teachers would attend if information is sent to the Multiculturalism, Global Education, and Curriculum Services Departments. All the presenters were excellent. I particularly liked Riel’s presentation—very profound and moving, and to me, a new and youthful perspective to Native art. I came away feeling that I had learnt a lot about new Aboriginal art of Canada. I look forward to the next New Sun Conference.

I just wanted to say thank you for the New Sun Conference. My experience from that day was inspiring and invigorating. I am so glad that I was able to share it with my friends, who, like myself, are looking forward to the next time. I also would like to share this with you: a week ago I was at an informal meeting with my peers and started to talk about my feelings not only about the conference but about the vast range of Aboriginal art and literature that is out there, so I’m spreading the word. I’ll probably get this wrong… every avalanche starts out as a single snowflake.

I attended and enjoyed the whole day as I do every year. The speakers were all thought-provoking and interesting and offered a wide variety of views. I had the opportunity to meet and speak to a number of people from different backgrounds and interests. I think that is one of the most valuable aspects of the conference. It is a great opportunity for community-building and sharing.

May I offer great thanks for your design and organizing of the day! The strength and vitality of the art and the artists is stunning. The variety and power of the speakers continues to be remarkable, and I always leave with many things to talk about, to friends and strangers alike, to tell people about the too-little-heralded things happening in the wide aboriginal community. It leaves me wondering how to integrate these activities more into the mainstream, and although that is happening, it’s slow and very up-hill.

It was a privilege to be in the company of the exceptional speakers you brought together for the conference.  The coverage was a very good mix of the art and soul of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis artists and I found the speakers to be insightful, frank, approachable, and entertaining.

Many times during the day, and especially at lunch sharing a table with Nunavut Sivuniksavut students, I could not help but wish a lot more of the Inuit young people I know up north and in the Ottawa area might have shared the day with us. They, as well as other aboriginal youth, would have been truly inspired and encouraged by the various journeys each of the speakers had taken to express themselves. Is it possible to videotape such conferences (or each individual speaker and their work) so the tapes or DVDs could be travelled and shared? That may be outside the mandate of the New Sun funding but perhaps an aboriginal national native organization or media could assist.

The luncheon was well beyond expectations! It was an excellent choice of foods, cooked to perfection rather than overcooked as so often happens for large gatherings. I was also impressed by the fact that you were able to keep everything on track and within the time limit. The whole conference felt very comfortable and afforded the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas with the speakers and a good mix of participants. As I mentioned, I just wish many more people could have shared the day.

Thank you! I look forward to the next New Sun Conference!

I very much enjoyed your presentation on the About Face exhibition in Santa Fe—we really had a sense of it being an elegant exhibition from the slides of the works. As well, the messages that emanated from the “self-portraits” and that were so integral to the success of the exhibition were a treat to experience, even if we experienced them via slides. If the exhibition does end up traveling, so much the better. I would love to obtain a copy of the exhibition catalogue when it becomes available. The intelligent ideas that each artist presented through their work are something I would like to be able to review on a continual basis. Certainly Riel Benn’s presentation was evocative and, I think, controversial, as some of his comments and works may come across as misogynist. However, other works, such as his Magazine Series, really make good points about contemporary Aboriginal experiences, such as the lack of Aboriginal role models being featured in the mainstream media. I also appreciated his honesty in speaking about his brother’s suicide. I also appreciated the other speakers, including Harmony Rice, Joseph Boyden, and Susan Aglukark as they all raised valid points concerning Aboriginal art; however, the first two presentations made the most impact on me. As for a way to perpetuate the spirit and energy of the conference, I was wondering if Carleton could set up a listserve for those who attend the conference on a regular basis to discuss Aboriginal art.
–DL, Library and Archives Canada

I wanted to thank you for another successful New Sun Conference. Once again, you provided an environment filled with dynamic and inspiring speakers. It was great to hear and meet Riel Benn and I appreciated the way he shared the challenges and triumphs of his young life. One of the highlights is definitely the performance by Susan Aglukark after feasting on a wonderful lunch. Her presentation in the afternoon was also very moving and she raised various issues that are so relevant today with a mixture of honesty and humour. I hope to attend many more New Sun Conferences in the future and to continue the dialogue regarding the diversity of Aboriginal arts and cultures.
–Paul Lorilla, Policy and Research Directorate, Aboriginal Affairs Branch, Canadian Heritage

Awesome as always! Great line-up of speakers this year, particularly enjoyed Boyden. Also, preferred this year’s room greatly to the larger lecture hall [two years ago]. Thanx, keep up the good work.
–MS, Metis Nation of Ontario

I loved your four choices of speakers. They were all different in their own ways but they all added to each other. Susan Aglukark was amazing. I had no idea she even existed until Saturday and her performance was so well done. Riel Benn was my favourite part of the day. I could relate best to him and I am a huge fan of his work. The food was perfect. I also loved how there was not a rush all day. It was organized to have a start and a finish and it all went smoothly so there wasn’t a panic to get to your seat but at the same time you were not waiting for anything to start. I thought at first having President Akinson was pretty cheesy, but after hearing him speak, good call there. He had such a well done intro. Questions went pretty smoothly so that was nice. Overall it would be hard to critique such a well thought out day and congratulations on the honours presented to you at the end… The only problem I had was that I had no idea what to do for the opening and closing prayer… I noticed everyone was kind of looking down when the elder was talking, but I just looked straight at him. Was that wrong?

Also, I know I’m complimenting you a lot here but don’t get too cocky for the 6th one. I’m expecting the same quality show, if not better!


Hiy-hiy for the invitation. I am glad to be here. The images on your About Face presentation were yummy for the eyes and soul. The connections you made with each image brought the diverse Aboriginal images to the surface. I love the humourous references, another example of Aboriginal peoples ingeniousness. All the pieces are definitely special as they share so many important stories. The food, presenters, and ambiance are so inspirational. Thank you so much.

I really enjoyed the conference. The most interesting speaker for me was the author. I realize that it is an arts conference, and I am not very artsy, but I did enjoy the forum immensely. I would love to attend again next year.
–AH, Central Literacy Coach, Curriculum Services, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

Congratulations again on a job very well done, the conference was a complete success. What an honour to receive the eagle feather, you deserve it. It’s nice to get a little recognition for all your hard work, isn’t it? Obviously, that’s not why you do it, but still, kudos.

Thanks for a great day. It was so inspiring to hear from all the speakers. Good format, nice to have questions and answers, it’s a good location, intimate, and small enough. Lunch was good and the day went on schedule. So I don’t have anything to suggest for changes. I look forward to next year’s event.

I had a wonderful time at the conference. Thanks again for sponsoring me. It was very nice of you. I think everything flowed very well this year. We actually got out of there on time, which I thought was impressive! I do know that a couple of Inuit throat singers wanted to be a part of it one year. I understand that you are conveying the contemporary culture, but it would be nice to get some traditional aspects, too. Throat singing and powwow singing and dancing is still very much alive. Other than that, I don’t know anything that could make it any better. The food was incredible as always. Thanks again.

I am sure that you are still feeling exhausted, but last Saturday was superb. Thank you so much for putting it all together. Your own presentation was fascinating and I do hope that exhibit will have a chance to travel. Anyway I will look forward to the catalogue.

Because I rarely win anything in raffles, my day was topped off with getting that beautiful basket your wife had put together. Anna Hoefnagels, one of our new appointees in Music and a specialist in Aboriginal music, spent the day with me. She is overwhelmed at so many Aboriginal-based events taking place at Carleton, thanks in large measure to your efforts. I gave her the copy of your book (which I already have), which she was delighted to receive and also the issue of Spirit as I am a subscriber. When she went to pick up a copy after Harmony’s excellent presentation all the issues were gone so she was pleased to get one and is planning to subscribe too. It just so happened that I never got around to purchasing Susan Aglukark’s Big Feeling CD so I have been listening to it since. My, what a wonderful personality she is! Again many thanks for everything.
–Elaine Keillor, Faculty of Music, School for Studies in Art and Culture

This was my first time attending the conference, as I just started at Carleton in July (moving here from Alberta). I truly enjoyed every aspect of the gathering—it was meaningful, interesting, and empowering. I enjoyed each of the presentations and especially Susan Aglukark’s concert. Thanks again for a most enjoyable event! I look forward to next year’s gathering! I also just sent in my subscription for Spirit magazine. Harmony had such energy.
–Anna Hoefnagels, Assistant Professor of Music, School for Studies in Art and Culture

I attended the New Sun Conference last weekend with my friend, EM. It is the second one she has brought me to. They have been wonderful. Is there an email list that I could be on, to hear of any other events or next year’s conference? The young people who spoke were so inspiring. There is such hope there. Your slides of your exhibit were very amazing and insightful into all the ways we can perceive and/or present ourselves to the world. I found the opening and closing by Elder Jim Albert helpful to the whole process. He had a wonderful way of expressing our experience. I was wondering if he is involved in other things. I would like to know about them.

Congratulations on another excellent lecture! All I can say is “wow”! And, I was glad to hear your presentation and see you receive a well-deserved honour. Thank you for organizing this wonderful event. Hope it takes place again next year.

I really enjoyed the conference and would love to come to it next year. The guest speakers were lively and very interesting. I thought it was very well organized and the food and entertainment were wonderful. The stories really touched me and I loved how prayer from the Aboriginal elder was incorporated into the day. I would love to become more involved with the Aboriginal culture in Canada as I love and find interesting many aspects of it, including their art and religious practices. Your presentation was very informative and interesting as well. Thank you for letting me have the opportunity to experience that wonderful day and hopefully you can express my thanks to my sponsor.

I wanted to say that your selection of speakers and range of artists was outstanding. It was a very well run event with a lot of spirit, integrity, inspiration and cultural inter-dialogue! My only reaction to it is: How can we continue the momentum generated by all the good things and hard things said, a way of connecting and re-connecting to what it really means to be living in this particular time of reconciliation in Canada? You have created a magnificent place/space for this conversation, with the healing elements of art and creativity, and the nourishing aspects of culinary arts. All I can say is: extra-ordinary (and congratulations).

To all Canadian Studies faculty:
Please join me in congratulating Allan on yet another superb New Sun Conference. This was an inspiring day that was enjoyed thoroughly by all in attendance. Thanks to Allan and his team of volunteers (especially Rae!).
–Pauline Rankin, Director, School of Canadian Studies, Carleton University

As always at the New Sun Conference I learned so much. Thank you, Allan, and to all the participants. It was very inspirational.

I am a Mentor at the Center of Initiative and Education and was a volunteer at the New Sun Conference. Beth Hughes said you were looking for some feedback on the conference… Well let me start off by saying, AMAZING job done with the conference! I can’t really think of anything negative to say about it! I think having volunteers there was a good idea to guide everyone where they had to go, maybe keep that idea. I think everything ran pretty smoothly, and everyone I spoke to was very impressed! I will attend it again for sure, as a volunteer or a guest!

I enjoyed the New Sun Conference. I especially enjoyed your presentation. I hope that that the show will be travelling in the near future. I was very impressed with the artist. His work is really refreshing. Thank you for making an opportunity to hear Joseph Boyden. I was pleased that I read Three Day Road before attending the conference. Of course, I enjoyed Susan Aglugark and Harmony Rice, the young magazine editor. Sharing a meal is always part of a celebration. Please relay appreciation to the cook for such a fine dinner. I look forward to next year.

Just a line to say how much I enjoyed the conference. I particularly enjoyed your talk. I liked the slides particularly those showing how the artworks had been displayed. It would be good if that exhibition could come to Canada—Santa Fe is a long way off! I also found Riel Benn’s talk interesting and funny. It was good to see some of the works that you had shown in the course. It does make a lot of difference. I found Harmony Rice to be extremely articulate and pleasant. The lunch was excellent (as usual) and Susan Aglukark was a dynamic entertainer. All in all it was a great day and it was well organized.

I enjoyed the day and plan on attending next year as well. The most compelling speaker was Joseph Boyden and his talk was geared towards a crowd for a conference. Your lecture was also very interesting. Riel Benn’s art work and experience were fascinating and inspiring.

Once again this year’s New Sun Conference proved to be a huge success. Much planning and organization must go on when so many people are involved, and I applaud you for the great work. The participation from the audience was great this year; the speakers and the audience seemed to have a connection that promoted communication from both parts. The buffet was simply delicious, and the entertainment by Susan Aglukark was marvelous. I’m not sure where you find these great people, but keep up the good work for future conferences!  See you there again next year!


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