Impressions of the Day

My first impression was that I was so incredibly happy as soon as I walked in the room with the sacred aroma of sage and sweetgrass. As always, individual artists were so uplifting. I especially found Gloria Miguel’s storytelling from her one woman show amazing and moving. I was also really taken by Digging Roots, especially “Highway 17” by ShoShona. Given the pain of the missing and murdered women experience, it was a breathtaking reclamation of power and a declamation against the violence against Indigenous women. I left saying this is the best day I have had in a long time. Thank you, Allan, and all the artists.

It was another fantastic conference! All of the speakers/artists were, as usual, really intriguing and inspiring people. I came away really appreciating not only how you curate such a great program or “line up” but also how the format of the event—I’m thinking especially of allowing each speaker a nice long time slot and the freedom to speak as they wish to a group that isn’t too huge—really enables speakers to open up with the audience and share some extremely powerful and intimate stories. It is a very unique event in this regard and always leaves me with so much to think about and to feel…

Allan, what can I say… every year at the end of New Sun I think, “Wow! That was the best one yet!” What I especially noticed this year in ALL the presenters was the incredible warmth, authenticity, and genuine humility (in the best possible sense, the kind that is full of grace and generous spirit, without a big pile of ego…). I felt that each of them was really PRESENT with the audience, almost as if we were, or could easily be, good friends. The range of ages of the presenters was wonderful, from Tiio Horn and that gorgeous couple Raven and ShoShona, through Waub Rice and George Littlechild to the delighful elder Gloria Miguel that I had a wonderful chat with (a dear friend/student of mine was Kuna from the San Blas Islands and had given me 3 of the molas that Gloria talked about, plus my niece, who got killed in the Dominican Republic just 6 months ago had lived in Brooklyn at the time, where her sweetheart was a high school teacher who specialized in working with delinquents). … Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you and Rae, Jim Albert, and all the others give to the community. It always feels like a homecoming to come to New Sun (and I always go into the kitchen to thank the cooks for the delicious food!). Thank you for another wonderful Conference!

I’d like to acknowledge and thank Allan J Ryan for inviting me to be a part of the New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts: Life Lived Like a Story yesterday. It was a really wonderful experience and I’m struggling to put into words just how powerful and heartwarming the whole day was. I will be reliving it in my head and my heart for many years to come.
Miigwech to all who came out!
Waubgeshig Rice, presenter, via Facebook

Having been to four or five Conferences, including the first one, the quality has remained consistently high for all the components: the speakers, the luncheon menu, and the entertainment.

Of the speakers, I really enjoyed George Littlechild, Waubgeshig Rice, and Digging Roots. DR’s performance gave the luncheon the feeling of a dinner-theatre. While the components have remained excellent through the years, the element that always puts it over the top is your show-business experience, production values and attention to detail for what it takes to produce a great event. Congratulations, Allan.


Kichi migwech for thinking of me again this year. I had a great time! For me Digging Roots was the highlight of my day, the live show was truly awesome but the chat with those two stunningly talented young people was the best!!!! What great role models! Raven and ShoShona stand out in so many great ways, family and community commitment, morals and principles—the list goes on and on. I’m proud of them and will keep them and their young family in my prayers. Man, I wonder where they’ll be in 10 years and all I see is fireworks, stars, and the top of the world.
AD (Elder) 

The conference was fabulous, as usual. There is always a good mix of people from a variety of the arts, and a mix of young and old. This year, there was only one presenter that I had heard of before (Waubgeshig Rice), so I had whole new worlds open up through George Littlechild’s art and reflections, Gloria Miguel’s amazing life story, Tiio Horn’s emergence, and Raven and ShoShona’s moving and provocative music. Although I have heard Waubgeshig in the media, I didn’t know how he got his start, and found his story inspiring. Thank you and your team for organizing the New Sun Conference every year. What a meaningful, spiritual, and instructive event.

It was another wonderful conference and overall experience. Of course I particularly liked the theme of learning from the presenters’ lived stories. The presentation by Raven and ShoShona stuck with me, perhaps because of their infectious joy and love they obviously share with each other, and seemingly with life in general. It was cool to hear that their matchmaker was Armand Ruffo. The conference environment really sets the stage and invites these types of personal stories and connections with all present. I was also encouraged by how most of the presenters underlined the importance of telling our own stories and histories in our own, creative ways. Congratulations and thank you for orchestrating a beautiful space and loving atmosphere for sharing, listening to, and learning from Indigenous life stories.

Allan, the conference was superb! Beautifully organized, without a glitch—at least visible to the attendees. The speakers were excellent, and each had something special to share with the audience, the buffet, of course, delicious, and a wonderful warm shared community spirit seemed to connect everyone in the conference room.  A remarkable seven hours! Thank you!

The conference was an absolute success. Kudos to you and your lovely wife Rae, students, and volunteers. When you have a moment can you send me the form so I can make a donation [to support the conference].

Thanks again for a full day of surprises. I think I’m biased towards the music, but all the presenters, particularly Gloria Miguel, brought unique stories and insights into their successes, and struggles. It’s inspiring to see people maintain a creative direction despite hardships.

Just a short note to say thanks for Saturday, my second time at New Sun, and [my husband’s] first. We are so lucky to have all that good energy and creative inspiration being brought to Carleton. But I know it is more than luck, so great job to you and your team!

As a veteran family historian and teacher of genealogy and family history research, I particularly enjoyed this edition of the New Sun Conference. We are our stories, and it was wonderful to see the different ways “the story” concept was applied to different media. I particularly liked George Littlechild’s presentation and his tribute to the ancestors in that respect. So I spent an altogether wonderful day.

I really enjoyed the entire conference, the reception was lovely, all of the catering, I especially enjoyed George Littlechild’s presentation. I so regret not being able to get one of his art collection books, they sold out so quickly. Any chance you’re able to get any more copies? My sister is an artist and he is one of her favourites, I’d like to buy one for her. I also want to congratulate you on the lunch, what amazing dishes, each dish was quite a delight. I am requesting our Aboriginal caterer to make some of the same dishes for our event. Thank you once again, it was my first conference and I’ll definitely be back next year.
BJP, Dawson College

Sadly, I had to get up on our roof to take away snow having woken up to leaks in our kitchen and bathroom so I missed the morning sessions. (Thank goodness for the video archive.) I was drawn in by the humour and love that envelopes the work of Digging Roots of course, but it was Tiio Horn’s courage that was my “take away” from the afternoon. Sharing her journey of discovering the need to tell her own stories in her own way, her confidence (yes, absolutely) in sharing that with us, and her vulnerability in the situations she places herself professionally was inspiring. I also wanted to add that as a faculty member I appreciated the generous and meaningful gift to John Osborne.

I found each speaker had insights into overcoming hardships and prejudice and did so with respect and dignity towards others. I was moved by the spirituality and love of nature that each speaker addressed in their own particular fashion. I felt very humbled and want to learn so much more about First Nations Peoples and possibly help students who come to Dawson [College] in the future to succeed in their studies here. Thank you for making the conference a very moving experience for me. The food was amazing and the music very stimulating; Raven particularly impressed me with his ability to live in harmony with the earth—I can see why his wife sees him as “her rock”!

For me, it was another particularly moving Conference, thanks to you and Rae for all of your organization and planning. Of course, I was touched to see how ShoShona has grown in her on-stage presentation and I will always treasure the autographed CD that she gave me with her heart-felt words of thanks. I found the art works so moving and particularly how George Littlechild is combining symbols in striking ways as I was not familiar with his work. All in all each of the speakers had unique ways of adding to the theme of the day of telling a story. In other words, another highly successful Conference of which you should be very proud.

I really enjoyed this year’s 14th New Sun Conference. One of the highlights for me was having the privilege of witnessing George Littlechild’s autobiographical presentation through his artwork. George is such a powerful speaker and his artwork is as beautiful in colour and form as it is layered in meaning and context.

As always, I found it a very warm, friendly day where the speakers were engaging and the food was good. I really like the format of three talks in the morning, lunch and a musical event in the middle and then two more talks at the end (when we are all winding down). Honestly, you have a well-oiled machine here.

The empathy that was expressed by the speakers sums it up for me.

I first want to thank you for a great day! This year was the first time that I went to the conference and I enjoyed each and every minute of it. The artists all brought insightful topics to the table and I am sure that if the past years have had the same level of speakers… they would all have been just as successful. Thank you again for the great day!

Thank you very much. I really really enjoyed Saturday! It definitely wasn’t your average conference and I especially enjoyed Waubgeshig Rice’s “storytelling” and Digging Roots a lot!! I met some lovely people, who all equally enjoyed the day.

Allan, the conference was fantastic, as always. After it was over, my uncle asked me what I had liked best, and I said “the lunch!” I wasn’t being facetious. I do actually always like the lunch best. This happens to be not only because the food is always amazing, but because I always really enjoy the lunchtime concert. Year after year for me this is the highlight.

I loved the breakdancing and throat singing/hip-hop of a few years ago, adored A Tribe Called Red last year, and really loved Digging Roots this year as well. It cannot be easy to put on a Juno level concert during a conference lunch hour, so I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this year after year and how wonderful it is. A complete treat.

I also loved all the speakers, as usual. The highlight for me would be Tiio Horn. What an amazing woman. I went home and watched The Smoke Shack on Youtube and sent it to my husband, who loved it as well. He commented that it wasn’t just an interesting insight into life on a reserve, but also a very good encapsulation of what it means to work any Joe job. Anyway it’s a brilliant short film. And I was very glad that it was available online. She was also an astounding speaker.

Two quick things: first of all, is it now possible to view the DVDs from last year’s New Sun Conference?… Also, I have written out a cheque to help support next year’s New Sun Conference. Where would it be best to mail this?

Anyway, again, an absolutely astounding conference. Year after year you outdo yourself. Thank you.


As usual, this was a wonderful conference. It is also a great way to connect with other members of the community. I congratulated Waubgeshig Rice on being a good role model for Aboriginal youth, and asked George Littlechild if/how he used an Indigenous approach to teaching young people in the classroom—he said that the use of media really helps. I found his use of art to be a profound means/way of explaining history. Gloria was a performance—what else can I say! The power of the images and of the storytelling was profound—difficult to express in words. The food was incredible as usual. Will the University of Ottawa be able to purchase a set of DVDs as we have done in other years?

Congratulations on another highly successful conference, Allan! Very moving tributes [to New Sun] by you, Dr. Runte, Rodney Nelson, and others and as in past years the presentations and music were excellent. The food was especially delicious this year. Dianne [Maclaren] also really enjoyed the conference and was very moved, but was just a little overcome. Again, kudos to you, Allan—another excellent conference! Always a great learning experience in so many ways.

I am very glad to have attended New Sun, as always. The way you put things together is amazing, like no one else I know. Thank you!! Hope you are taking some time to recover.

We are soon on our way to Phoenix and Santa Fe but I do want to tell you what I got from New Sun. By lunch time, JK and I were saying that we wanted more in the future: she wanted a two-day event, and I wanted there to be a few workshops to practice or to discuss some of the learnings. The learnings I noted are the following:

  1. Reflect on your ancestors and their significance in your life. (Jim Albert) I want to do more of this.
  1. Abuse of residential schools means generations of grief, lost souls longing to be loved. (George Littlechild) He’s working through his ideas of Christianity, the negative and positive, the institution versus the faith. I loved his story of, after 5 foster homes, he sought out his 2 sisters, one a “juvenile delinquent” that he wasn’t supposed to meet but did, in the street.
  1. The importance of trying to understand young people and of recognizing the truth in people (Bear Witness’s Grandmother!, Gloria Miguel)
  1. The emotional risks First Nations people take as they tell their stories so that other Canadians understand, teach and learn. Also, now that Native history is part of the curriculum, the need to train teachers in how to present the information, not to single out Native students to carry the burden. (Waubgeshig Rice)
  1. I appreciated Tiio Horn’s presentation and look forward to her film about Oka, Little Girl in a Blue Raincoat.
  1. The ability of music and musicians to move people and to connect people, to get them moving together. Raven and ShoShona’s story of exchanging song lines with the Norwegian reindeer herder was incredible. Raven’s words about how he survives the dark moments were wonderful. His way of speaking from the heart. Everyone seemed to speak from the heart. So generous.

The New Sun theme reminded me of a recent, two-sided carving by Jaalen Edenshaw called Story Tellers and Language Keepers, commissioned by the Royal BC Museum for their exhibition on language.

Best wishes to you and Rae (special thanks to Rae for last year’s gift basket which I won. It included Gerald McMaster’s book Inuit Modern, which I found extremely helpful in preparing my course on contemporary Inuit art).


As a regular participant at the New Sun Conference, I am happy to note the ongoing tradition of excellence in programming, entertainment and dining. This year I was particularly pleased to learn from George Littlechild himself about his early life, Aboriginal ancestry introduction, and personal artistic vision. Also, I was delighted to encounter Gloria Miguel, who was both enchanting and inspiring. Her work was completely new to me, and I have learned a lot more about her since the conference. This year our program (AESP) sponsored a student from the Urban Aboriginal Alternative High School. Following the event I asked her (she is 18 years old) about her favourite presentation, and in her eyes Gloria Miguel was the high point, which says a lot about Ms Miguel’s charisma and ability to reach Aboriginal youth as an artistic Elder.

Thank you so much for your dedication to this project and to Indigenous culture and education, and congratulations on your well-deserved OCAD University award.

PR, Co-coordinator, Aboriginal Enriched Support Program, Carleton University


Though I have not attended many conferences, I can say with confidence that the New Sun Conference is unlike any other conference you will attend. You are immediately immersed and welcomed into a community gathered on the premise of celebrating Indigenous arts, and that bond stays and strengthens beyond the course of the day. Not only were the speakers at the conference incredibly accessible, the stories they told compelled and inspired me to reflect on my own personal experiences and how my stories could be told. The feeling of interconnectedness throughout this community was something that stood out to me, particularly during the luncheon portion of the day. The musical guests, Digging Roots, facilitated a multi-generational celebration where everyone from elders to small children were up dancing along and creating music. The whole atmosphere of the day was something strong and beautiful. I know this will certainly not be the last New Sun Conference I will attend.

I feel that my experience at the New Sun Conference was like no other. I have never been to a conference like this one where I not only learnt about what the presenters were discussing but also so much about myself. I felt that George Littlechild and Tiio Horn were the two presenters that affected me the most, and though the other presenters were very interesting to listen to as well as being inspiring individuals, I did not feel as great a connection with their stories or what they were saying at this point in my life. George’s representation of the two different spheres of religion provided me with a sense of space to heal from what I grew up in compared with what I am facing in my daily life today. Tiio’s ability to explain that one still has a story despite not being one “type” of person or “measuring up” as well to another, and to have her explain how she discovered this in her life was all very inspiring for me. It was these two individuals whom I feel the most empowered by. All in all, this conference is one that will always stick with me and will continue to change and affect me (for the better) over time allowing me the knowledge and room to grow.


The sense of community this conference created within hours was remarkable as compared to retreats and camps that take days to create [this sense]. This was no ordinary conference. These are the conversations that are changing the ways people think and shaping the minds of past, present and future generations. Their messages are encouraging people to break free of the conventional notions of who they are and share their own story, explore their own dreams and shape their own paths and ultimately, their destinies.


This was the second New Sun Conference I have attended. With each conference I feel I have grown more as a person. The New Sun Conference exists beyond 9-4:30 once a year, because of the unique way knowledge is imparted the New Sun experience becomes a part of the attendants. The conference creates a different understanding of what being indigenous means through story telling. Rather than continue subscribing to a generalized myth of aboriginal identity, we gain the knowledge and learn empathy from the varied experiences shared with us by speakers. Usually things I learn from courses and conferences nestle themselves in the back of my mind, only to be used when a specific definition or theory is required. The knowledge acquired at the New Sun Conference is different; the things learned at this conference become a part of our everyday experience, they shape our identities and how we see the world. The things learned at New Sun become tools for life. The uplifting energy created by this community leaves the conference with us and spreads as we take our experience and newly imparted knowledge into our everyday lives.


The New Sun Conference is unlike any other conference in that it maintains its formal qualities, while creating a welcoming environment and sense of community for all those involved. From start to finish, the performances and discussions contributed to healing and education through stories. Guests of all ages, from all walks of life shared their personal stories, showing us that everyone has their own story to tell, whether they think so or not. In honour of Joy Harvie Maclaren (New Sun), the 2015 New Sun Conference was a great success. The opening smudging of the conference room, group prayer, meal and performances all contributed to the feeling of community and was overall a great success. I am quite certain Joy would have been proud.

The theme of the 14th Annual New Sun Conference, Life Lived Like a Story, could not have come to fruition any better than it did over the course of the conference. The speakers shared their lives with us, bit by bit telling stories that gave us snapshots of their experiences. Personal stories and storytelling gave those on the receiving end of the stories a very specific understanding of life, and of the lives of the speakers. Learning from their stories became an intimate and relatable experience. Storytelling reminds us that there is always a narrator to any given story. As Raven from Digging Roots explained, the sharing of art and stories is one of the best ways that we can begin to see a new horizon (a new sun).


At Life Lived Like a Story, the 14th Annual New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts, six different artists presented their work and some of their own life stories. The stories were sometimes beautifully crafted, often moving; the storytellers were generous in sharing with us. An underlying theme of the day, though not often spoken of directly, was choice—what in your life and in your art do you choose to cultivate, despite or because of your experiences? For example, George Littlechild chooses to paint from a good place, to honour the teachings and create harmony, even when painting a painful story. Identity was another theme for all artists—discovering it, creating it, celebrating it. The many good reasons for telling stories, listening to them, and passing them on were made clear over the course of the day. For me the lasting impression was of so much wisdom generously shared.


During his talk at the 14th Annual New Sun Conference, Waubgeshig Rice rather humbly said, “I don’t feel like I’m a storyteller per se yet.” In response to this, elder Paul Skanks said, “Yes, storytelling is a question of time, but everyone has a story.” New Sun affirmed that not only do we want to hear stories, but we also need to hear stories. As Rice said, sharing personal stories is a means of building bridges, of educating, and of healing.  Raven Kanatakta and ShoShona Kish reiterated this, emphasizing how through stories we can discover our interconnectedness. That is, through stories, we come into contact with the “common thread of humanistic behaviour.” As I am learning, the idea of community is crucial in indigenous pedagogy. Although it is personal, indigenous pedagogy is also always communal. Even when an individual is speaking, they are sharing with others. I am grateful that I was encouraged to attend the conference, as it is far greater than I could have ever imagined. I felt comfortable and uplifted. I felt angry and frustrated at times too, but the light overpowered the dark. Ultimately, as Littlechild said, “we’re still on such a huge healing journey.” I look forward to next year.


The New Sun Conference in 2015 was an absolutely amazing experience. From start to finish, each room we were in was filled with so much warmth and positivity. The discussions and topics had elements of darkness, hurt and betrayal, but no matter what there was a spark of hope and reconciliation. The presenters were incredible, each humbly depicting their place in the world of art and creativity, especially in regards to their Indigenous roots. They each told personal stories about their lives and artistic process, which really gave the opportunity for the audience to connect and learn. On a personal level, I have always been somewhat timid with discussing Indigenous issues coming from my place of privilege. I have always felt like I can never fully understand what these issues are truly about because of my experiences thus far, but after this day it became quite evident that the only way things will improve is connecting and sharing these stories so that there is a general knowledge and understanding from everyone. I felt very much accepted and needed, and empowered.


The 14th Annual New Sun Conference held February 28th, 2015, titled Life Lived Like a Story, came to me just when I needed it the most. My spiritual tank was running on empty and when this happens, I begin to doubt myself and start to lose the energy I need to live life as it is meant to be lived—with purpose and hope. By the end of the day I was spiritually renewed. The ingredients were there for my renewal to occur: my spiritual need and an open heart; an opening prayer by an amazing Elder; brave and courageous stories by fellow Indigenous community members; displays of talent and fearlessness; beautiful food and music for the soul and over [two] hundred others who were there to share the day with me. Thank you, “New Sun” (Joy Maclaren, R.I.P.) for your generosity. Thank you, Dr. Ryan for your commitment to this conference.


The 14th New Sun Conference is filled with many lessons, thought provoking statements, and important reminders that can change a person’s perspective. Through Tiio Horn, George Littlechild, and Digging Roots, the reminder of the importance of family is presented. Their stories show the significant role families have within a person’s life, shaping how they develop and who they become. Within each of the artists’ stories lies a power within their words, some having the ability to challenge beliefs and change perspectives. Littlechild challenged my idea of the importance of evolution while Rice, Digging Roots, and Horn provided inspiration and guidance. However, within every artist’s story is the lesson that all stories come in different shapes and forms. In order for people to truly change and make a difference, everyone must be attentive to the different forms stories come in. Every story is filled with power, but it is only if we listen to different stories can that power then be unleashed.


Thanks for the (as always) great conference. It is very encouraging to see the younger generation reaching out beyond the “band or reservation border” to other artists collaboratively—the way that musical group was doing—and embracing the arts of other cultures. This is indeed a watershed moment in native life, and one in which (I believe) the members of this new generation will inspire others to great heights. They see themselves as more “cosmopolitan,” as a beautiful piece in the greater tapestry of all humanity. These are the people—the new ambassadors—who hold the promise of their culture and can take it into the future. Thank you again for a wonderful conference and I so look forward to seeing you at the next.


I was privileged to hear the deeply personal stories of all of the guest speakers for the 2015 New Sun Conference, and I was enriched by the company and conversation of the community members who came to this event. However, it is clear to me upon reflection that the New Sun Conference is more than simply an event; I prefer the term used by the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, Dr. John Osborne, in his blog from Sunday, March 1—“love in.” Love was a common thread that ran through the presentations and stories of each and every guest speaker, particularly their love for and their support from their respective families. As the day progressed, it became clear to me that there was a particular emphasis on the recurring theme of family. In my experience family is so closely connected to identity, and I was reminded of the essential support that we obtain from our family members, which was shown through a number of stories that were shared throughout the day. I was especially drawn to these stories of success and triumph about the artists’ work and their own paths which have led them to their current situation, because I am continuing on the path of discovery about my own identity. These stories were inspiring to my own research interests and personal journey of cultural reclamation and reconnection. I think that art, no matter what medium it is presented in, is a tangible method of reconciliation, because it can convey stories, which are essential to building bridges and repairing relationships. The annual New Sun community gathering is proof of the power of stories to bring people together.

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