Impressions of the Day
I just wanted to say THANK YOU for a wondrous and inspiring weekend. It was as you said it would be. So much love and appreciation. XO
–Andrea Menard, presenter and performer
I wanted to give you my feedback about my experience at the New Sun Conference. It was a truly heart-filled, soul-expanding day. Your choice of artists was exemplary in offering your participants a perfect mix of artistic expression, culture, talents and personal voice. I was beyond inspired and so grateful to be a part of this group of artists. Your organization and management of the event was beyond expectation. Thank you for thinking of every detail and making sure your artists were well taken care of and your participants were treated with respect and dignity. I would return to Carleton University’s New Sun Conference in a heartbeat and would recommend any of my artist friends to attend. It is a gem of a conference. Bravo.
I’m so glad to have been part of the conference that you so beautifully organized, and made all the more delightfully enjoyable by great music and wonderful cuisine. I felt very comfortable with the large audience and their genuine interest in what you had wanted to convey through the speakers gathered. It was a good experience for me, considering that I generally avoid those kinds of events as they usually leave me exhausted and stressed from the emotions arising from such deliberations. It had an energy worthy of healing.
Thank you, I had a great time. You were a perfect host!
With my warmest regards,
–Robert Houle, presenter
Congratulations on yet another fabulous day. I thoroughly enjoyed all the presentations, food, and entertainment. New Sun is truly a highlight of the year for everyone—it does so much to grow understanding not only of Indigenous arts, but of the moment of history we are in.
Thanks again for inviting me. It was a beautiful weekend of ideas and conversation. I am so glad I got to attend and participate. If I were sending out recommendations, I would add Rosanna Deerchild, Giles Benaway, and Cherie Dimaline to your list of must-haves.
–Katherena Vermette, presenter
First off, let me say what a wonderful time I had at the New Sun Conference. I wish I could come every year! Congrats on putting together such an engaging and meaningful event. I’m very glad to see that it is being well supported and is showing no signs of slowing down.
–Robert Walsh, guitarist, co-songwriter with Andrea Menard
I want to thank you again for all your hard work and generosity—the experience has had a profound influence on me. Much respect and love!
–Daniel Roy, drummer for Andrea Menard
So grateful to have shared in this enlightening experience, Allan. You are a class act!
–Kim Brandt, bass player for Andrea Menard
It was an amazing, touching, inspirational and hopeful experience yesterday! I am not aboriginal and was wishing that more descendants of colonists were there to hear and learn and be motivated to help change happen.
I had no idea what to expect except that the person who told me about this said: “[Y]ou can count on the food being excellent” which it was but there was SO MUCH more!
The Prayer of Thanksgiving was so beautiful and meaningful and it brought tears to my eyes. Alethea’s talk and film were poignant, thoughtful, and stunning. The power of Katherena’s poem about Indians in the Red River and her film were gut wrenching. It was a real treat to see some of Robert Houle’s art, sad to hear about his early life but heartwarming to learn that someone in the Catholic Church encouraged and enabled him to pursue his dreams. Waneek Horn-Miller’s insight into the philosophy of Manitobah Mukluks made me think that many MBA students could benefit. I appreciated her comments about the reconciliation effect of aboriginal people and “others” attending workshops to learn how to make mukluks. What inspiration! I was also so pleased at the recognition of art vs craft… there is still a lot of work to be done to educate the public. And the sparkle of Andrea Menard’s music and listening to her story was joyous! I appreciated the closing prayer and the handshakes and hugs at closing. It was a splendid peaceful way to end the day.
I am always sad when hearing about what the colonists did and in many ways are still doing. I have never understood the ignorance, the arrogance, the meanness, the insensitivity, the stupidity and there are so many other descriptives… I don’t know how I will apply the experience of yesterday but it will colour my actions in the future. I encourage everyone on the panel to continue to make your positions known to the rest of us. It gives me hope because you have messages, practises and philosophies that will make the world a better place!
Thank you so much for giving us hope and inspiration!!!!!
On a strictly practical note, I thought the conference was extremely well organised! I especially appreciated the signage and I was amazed at how efficient the food service was for such a large group! I think thanks should go to Carleton University for supporting such an important initiative and to all the volunteers who helped make things go so smoothly.
The New Sun Conference is the most positive and inspiring way to support my personal journey towards Right Relations with my aboriginal brothers and sisters. The multi-generational, diversity of both the audience and the presenters, the accessible venue and the healthy, scrumptious lunch made the day inspiring, intellectually stimulating and a healing experience.
In particular, I appreciated the fact that each speaker had time to share the details of their diverse tribal (?) backgrounds, arts, and contributions to their community and Canada. As a medical anthropologist who works with communities in assessment and interventions, I was particularly appreciative of Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s background material on conflict and humour among Inuk people and wondered about how this might contribute to talking about violence prevention and suicide prevention.
Katherena Vermette’s film Drag the Red provided a strong community counterpoint to the recent naming of Winnipeg as “the most racist city in Canada.”
Robert Houle’s narrative from residential school to art history studies and installations in Canada and Europe challenges any stereotyping of well meaning non-aboriginal Right Relationship allies such as myself.
Waneek Horn-Miller’s profile as a Carleton athlete and Canadian Olympic champion and ambassador for the Storyboot Project of Manitobah Mukluks has provided me with a fabulous Made in Canada story and product for the many international students I mentor.
Andrea Menard’s band and a copy of her new CD? Really, what else could one person expect from one day?
–BM, PhD, MPH, Carleton U. Adjunct Research Faculty
As in previous years the New Sun Conference never ceases to remove the winter blues and inspire me with new hope during the darkest time of the year, when it is easier to think of all the things that are going wrong as opposed to all that is going right. This year’s theme, “Above the Noise,” in particular touched me. I found it extremely uplifting to hear the tales by all the different artists about how they are using what skills they have to make positive changes in their communities and communities around the globe. Alethea, Katherena, and Robert’s stories all moved me to tears. Despite the tragedy and sadness attached to each, the beauty of what they chose to create in response, and the very act of doing something to change the situation that was handed to them, was nothing short of empowering.
Andrea Menard’s music as well struck a chord with my soul. After the conference I had to thank her for sharing with us such beautiful music. I think the message she is spreading is important and I wanted her to know that. I told Andrea that there was a dark time in my life, where I felt like the pain would never go away, and one day after a long period of time, I realized that it was easier to feel bad than to feel good. Feeling good took a lot of effort. It was on that day that I had my own realization that I needed to be the change to make me happy. Andrea’s music spreads a message that people need to hear. “Love your life,” even when you don’t. As all of these artists have shown, you can change it and make something beautiful out of it.
Finally, I want to comment on Waneek’s presentation. Although she claims not to be an artist herself, she has a gift for seeing art and all that is beautiful about it, and that is important. Furthermore, her work and the work of her company is exactly what this country needs. Her presentation was so heartfelt, and her cause so true, I went home and went shopping on the Manitobah Mukluks website. Although I haven’t yet made a purchase, I am definitely saving for my own pair of story boots so I can share the beautiful work and story of a mukluk maker wherever I wear my boots.
Just wanted to say a quick thank you (and to your team) for today! There were many powerful, positive messages that were sent through everyone that spoke.
As a teacher, I am inspired to go back to my classroom and create films to spark conversations, with the end goal of getting children to use media to get their peers to talk. I really like the idea of a musical battle and having a visual story behind a poem to make it come alive. I paint and drum, so I understood the importance behind continuing an art form and using its power to communicate feelings. The speakers were excellent.
What I am missing, what I am hoping for, is learning the art forms so I can bring it into our public education system. An idea for future years would be to have mini workshops to go and experience the art culture somehow (e.g., beading). If you have any idea where I can learn any kind of aboriginal art, can you point me in that direction? Or can you recommend artists so I can do some research on my own?
Thank you again. It was a great day.
Congratulations on the excellent conference.
–Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President, Carleton University
I just want to congratulate you on a very successful event yesterday! I was thrilled to be a part of it, and enjoyed every moment of it. I was impressed by the speakers, the performances, and the number of people in attendance. I know this takes a lot of work and effort, and I want to thank you for doing this. It is certainly a worthwhile and important event.
–Catherine Khordoc, Acting Dean of Arts and Social Sciences
Hope you’ve had a little bit of rest after the conference. We just wanted to re-express our gratitude for your invitation to attend this special event. This was my 8th year attending the conference since 2007 (I only missed last year because my car broke down heading there from Montreal) and the conference never ceases to be a source of inspiration and education. I am grateful for this ongoing milestone of reflection in my personal life and the life of our university and nation(s) at large. Looking forward to future years.
O’s feedback: As a first-time attendee, I was really impressed by the conference. Being a non-native person, I was excited to listen to presentations given by very inspiring native speakers. As a result of my participation, I feel that I have established a connection with native people, something that I cannot say I had before.
Many thanks once again,
J and O
I found the morning presentations to be very inspiring. Alethea Arnaquq-Baril was a great discovery. Her presentation was eye-opening not only because I didn’t know her work, but because she explained the nature of anger and Inuit so effectively… not an idea I didn’t know before, but her way of explaining and demonstrating this cultural way of being through the footage of the hunter helped me see and feel this idea at a much deeper level. This was the presentation that I learned the most from—she represented Inuit and her work so clearly, such a straightforward way of speaking about her films and her people, and her mission.
On the other hand, Katherena Vermette’s documentary was heart-stopping, and brought the rawness of the situation with missing Indigenous people in Winnipeg to a reality level that I won’t forget. Interesting to forget for moments that it wasn’t a TV drama, I was tense with expecting to see bodies. The fact that there was very little, only the flimsiest of fragments, really underlined the idea of missing. That film made me sweat.
I’d like to see a documentary of Robert Houle… his discourse is so clever and interesting, and his knowledge is huge! I won’t forget his line about not having been abused by the clergy… and the little afterthought about nuns and brothers being a different story. I just about called out for an explanation of that. Very interesting work, a bit troubling at first as I have issues with Catholicism and Indigenous people—but I understand in a way, I’ve had very positive Catholic influences in my childhood. Loved the representation of St. John. In a way his classical experience reminds me of Tomson Highway’s life as a classical pianist. There are some echoes.
I regret not being able to stay for lunch and the afternoon sessions… So glad to get Andrea Menard’s CD, as I really like her musical and acting work. Love her in Hard Rock Medical.
Thanks, Allan, for your dedication to this project. I’ve learned so much over the years of New Sun.
Overall B and I very much enjoyed the day. We were especially impressed by Alethea and Katherena in the morning, both as speakers and by their films. The luncheon was great, worth the price of admission by itself (although some of the delicious dishes did not resemble any anishnaabe meal that I’ve had). After lunch, Andrea Menard’s singing and energy were fabulous, and the group backing her was very good too. Waneek also showed great energy and spoke persuasively about the unique Manitobah Mukluks. Regrettably we had to leave before Andrea spoke in the afternoon. This was not our first New Sun Conference, but we are eager for next year’s, thanks to this one. When I paid our senior admission fees, I added a donation to help with your costs. Please be sure to put it towards your needs. Keep up this important work for aboriginals.
Very well organized day. Interesting and thoroughly enjoyable presentations. Fabulous food. Warm, pleasant atmosphere. Congratulations.
–LN, Chair, Religion Department, Dawson College
That was great, especially the first two women. Trying to find body matter in the river is a needle in a haystack task but it is a healing process too.
–VH, The Hnatyshyn Foundation
I really enjoyed the conference. My one regret is that I didn’t know about it sooner. Despite being an alumna of Carleton, I only heard about it this year through a colleague of my partner’s. Maybe you could get more publicity? Keep up the good work.
My impressions of this conference which I attended for the first time:
It has been a long time since I sat in a classroom but the venue was super. Everyone could see and hear well. Snacks in the corridor outside were plentiful and varied. The variety of beverages was very nice. The buffet next door was a good way to get a bit of exercise and see a bit of Carleton U as well. Lovely room and setup. Easy and quick to serve oneself in any of four lines. The entertainment with screens presented good viewing.
The “Above the Noise” brochure gave good background information on the agenda and presenters and will be a keepsake. I would give highest praise for Alethea for her storytelling and photography/filmmaking. I would like to see more of her work. I would like to have heard more of Katherena’s poetry. The NFB film This River has played a central role in her community and it needs to be seen as central to Canadians’ consciousness of the missing indigenous persons.
Robert’s art shows both the influence of traditional and Christian teachings, which Canadians need to reflect on. I didn’t know what a parfleche was before this conference. I would have liked to have heard more of his Ojibway background, the use of quills and the sun dance. What does it mean for him today?
Lunch was superb. Andrea and Robert were very entertaining… I especially liked the Louis Riel song. Waneek was beautiful and good at explaining the artistic approach to mukluks and the steps in making them. I hope it doesn’t get bought out by a foreign owner as so many other Canadian companies have been. We need more “Made in Canada” by Canadians. I don’t shop online so I would have appreciated knowing of sources off-line. It would have been good to have had one of the Carleton students tell of their experience with the workshop. Andrea’s spirit name “Grandmother Wind” is appropriate. Her voice is strong and her energy connects. I think she is right to focus on the miracles that are going on in Aboriginal communities and we need to hear about them as we have been hearing so much about their pain.
It was great to be able to chat with presenters afterwards. I have already ordered Robert Houle: Troubling Abstraction from the U of O library. I am a graduate of Carleton U and will make a point of attending the New Sun Conference in the future. Thank you and all those who helped make this happen. I will spread the word.
Thank you for the opportunity to attend the conference. I will send other feedback later. My first feedback is a poem trying to capture what I felt watching the presentation of Katherena Vermette. I hope it is not presumptuous of me as I am not attempting to dictate to others but simply to put into words, emotions and thoughts that went through the mind and heart of one RF. Share with others if you think it is appropriate.
I have dragged the Red River of memory for missing and murdered.
The rapid waters of the past carry bones and bodies away unburied
To be smashed and crushed by rolling current on large boulders.
Downstream, we are panning for gold and silver teeth
And the fine white specks with unmarrowed centres,
The remains of small fingers and slender hands.
In a quiet pool, the bubbling liquid pops out a corpse
Or a head, flayed to a bleached skull with empty sockets.
The dead reappear with rotted flesh. Sometimes they have ID.
We pull them from the lapping waves or off the sandy shores,
And give them to the grieving for a waiting earthy grave,
A tombstone marker and a sad and aching awareness
Of a hole that’s opened up inside ourselves. It holds
The memory of the smell of hair, the expression of a smile
A father/brother/son; a mother/daughter/sister gone.
They will not return except in dreams and in a trembling trace
Of their spirit, their strong embrace, their tender touch upon our face.
We hold fast to what’s in our heart and now anchored to this place.
And what of those, no token of whom is found?
What strange hope and fear goes on and on
A precarious perch that can tip at any time, but never does?
How close the rift that’s opened at our feet?
But fill it with the River of what we remember
Sit with others by its shores hands clasped,
Reach across and through this liquid chasm
To form a fine and interwoven human net.
No further victim will slip through into the wet.
The conference was really out of this world, from start to finish, from participants to attendees, from snacks to swag to meals!! RF and I are still talking about it, and will reserve our places for next year’s conference as soon as the registration forms come out! R actually read his poem [posted above] at a recent Reconciliation Day event in Ottawa. I can’t tell you how proud I am of you and Rae for engineering such a warm, hospitable, accommodating, and learning-infused event. It was truly, truly spectacular.
Congratulations on your 15th year hosting this spectacular event. As I have every year that I’ve had the fortune to be in attendance, I’ve walked away from the New Sun Conference eager to get home and start working on my own art! (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this to you, but I am interested in developing my creative writing skills and I would love to someday write a YA novel depicting rez life). I particularly connected with the talks by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and Robert Houle. I thought they both had such a quiet strength to them and were the embodiment of resilience. Every year, I “live tweet” the conference, meaning that I tweet quotes throughout the day that I find inspiring. Again, congratulations to you and the New Sun team for pulling it off again and kitchi migwech for continuing to provide this amazing offering to the Carleton community.
–MW, Carleton Centre for Aboriginal Culture and Education (CACE)
I’ve only now found a moment to write you about last weekend’s conference. I thought it was superb. All the morning presentations were first rate. (I was able to stay for the fabulous lunch but then went to my Odawa language class in the early afternoon getting back in time for Andrea Menard’s talk in Minto.) I was especially impressed with Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s talk but then also really liked Katherena Vermette and her film. Robert Houle was, for me, the capstone of the morning and I found his parfleche paintings accompanied by those passages from the Gospel of John especially moving. I’m very interested in the relationship between Indigenous people and the Church after all that’s gone down with the residential schools and other horrors. On that score, I recently read Wab Kinew’s The Reason You Walk which chronicles his father Tobasonakwut Kinew’s relationship to the Catholic Church in his later years. Many thanks for putting this on. It was my first New Sun Conference and now I see what I’ve been missing!
–NS, College of the Humanities, Carleton University
I thoroughly enjoyed the conference this year! I enjoyed what the presenters had to say and it was exciting having individuals up there who are well-spoken, have a lot to say, as well as also being strong enough to share their stories and experiences! The messages they left us with were very inspiring and you did a fantastic job of choosing who to invite to the conference! Learning from the speakers was also good for me, as I thought about things differently due to their experiences and the way that they were able to discuss issues and their lives. I also thoroughly enjoyed the food! It was a great selection of dishes for the feast! Your hard work paid off again this year and it is inspiring to see how much effort you put into this event every year in order to achieve these kinds of results. Thanks for all the hard work you put into the conference—it wouldn’t be the same without it!
Wow! Thank you so much for your organization of the New Sun event last Saturday. I am shocked that I have not heard of it before, but you had such a good turnout maybe S and I were lucky to have been able to attend at all. It was a memorable day. Again, thank you.
New Sun does it again! “Above the Noise” is an extraordinary showcase of aboriginal culture and talent. The presenters were vibrant and informative. The banquet as always was sumptuous and Andrea Menard’s riveting performance truly a highlight. Nia:wen/Miigwetch.
–PS (Mohawk Elder)
What a great time at the 15th Annual New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts: Above the Noise. Chi miigwetch, Allan J. Ryan. Looking forward to incorporating things learned.
–AB (on Facebook)
Thanks for another wonderful conference. Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of this annual highlight on my calendar is the “story-telling format” that presenters adopt. I love the free-flow of ideas and heartfelt words shared by all the presenters this year.
I was fascinated by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s personal experiences, research, and documentary on women tattoo artists in Inuit culture. It was made very real by the personal experiences with her mother that she shared. Her insights on the personality style of Inuit—quiet, reserved, and shy, who find ways to express their emotions in calm and quiet ways—aligns with my own experiences living and working among the Inuit from 1984 to 1988. I recall a question about how she might use her film to help the dominant culture understand and appreciate that reality—I think by living her values and openly acknowledging and discussing a “different way of being” is far more effective. I was also intrigued by her story about how traditionally Inuit used the drum, songs, and poetry to communicate when others had stepped across boundaries, and how in a mutually respectful and “fun” way they were able to participate in forgiving and healing exchanges.
I don’t think I will ever see Winnipeg’s Red River in quite the same way after seeing Katherena Vermette’s stirring documentary The River. I really enjoyed her stories about how Winnipeg rivers have shaped her life and played such a fundamental role in defining who she is. I loved her descriptions of the four different rivers that cross through Winnipeg and am encouraged to read North End Love Songs having listened to her speak.
Robert Houle’s discussion of the Parfleche series was truly fascinating and I am eager to visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery to see the series on display. I enjoyed hearing his stories about how his residential school experiences coloured his life, and how his Christian upbringing shaped the unique perspectives he brings to his work. I am also motivated to see the installation of the seven grandfather teachings at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation, it was akin to a fireside chat with a grandfather figure—personal and very touching.
While I appreciate the value that Waneek Horn-Miller’s role with Manitobah Mukluks is playing to support the tradition of mukluk making and beading… somehow the commercial undertones seemed to overtake the storytelling. I would rather have heard from one of the artists who are successfully finding a market for their artistic talents.
I thoroughly enjoyed Andrea Menard’s performance and presentation. The traditional French song she sang that dated back to the Riel rebellion really stirred up a lot of emotion in me. I found it extraordinarily powerful on a personal level, perhaps because I am in the process of reconnecting with my Metis heritage. I was honoured to witness her perform the Four Directions Song and sincerely appreciated the angelic clarity of her voice. She is indeed a messenger. The personal journey of transformation that preceded the release of Lift was highly motivating and I was fascinated to learn about the intersection of her “careers”—acting, singing, writing, and being the messenger. It is so refreshing to listen to such an accomplished and grounded artist—that is indeed no easy feat in today’s society and I know that Andrea has managed to keep both feet firmly on the ground as her career (and spirit) ascends. I sincerely appreciated the message she shared.
The New Sun Conference continues to be a powerfully inspiring and enlightening highlight on my calendar and while I must admit I always enjoy the fabulous feast, it is the stories that inspiring Indigenous artists share that keep me coming back. Thanks again for organizing another incredible day.
Many thanks for yet another great New Sun Conference! My eighth. Some impressions:
I enjoyed all the presentations. Two stand out for me: Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and Robert Houle.
Alethea was riveting. I was fascinated when she spoke about the need for Inuit people to take back their culture after decades of shaming by Europeans and southerners. She described how, in her down to earth style, she began a discussion about (for example) traditional facial tattoos which were taboo for years but are now returning thanks to her initiative. I found her film, Inuit HighKick, elegant and breathtaking at the same time. A phrase of hers about conflict resolution that stayed with me is: “Lost temper, lost battle.” I also appreciated Alethea’s response to a question about respecting elders and I think it could be a useful technique for others: as I understand it, when she feels she has to disagree with elders, she tells them that for a few minutes she is going to disagree with them and it will be intensely uncomfortable, but once finished, she will return to respecting them. Very helpful.
Robert Houle’s presentation was also very moving. Several times during his talk he interjected details about his life. I’ve been thinking about them since New Sun. He was raised in the Saulteaux tradition on Sandy Bay Reserve, Manitoba, until the age of 5. He was then taken to a TB sanatorium where he was given “a needle every day” for 23 months. At 12 he was apprehended and taken to Blue Quill Residential School where his mouth was washed out if he spoke his own language and he was abused by some of the Roman Catholic priests. He described himself as distraught at 16. However, his father was determined that his children would have a good education. Houle attended summer school in Salzburg and spent some time at the Vatican before attending McGill. I appreciated seeing the Parfleches and I like his idea of the Apostles as medicine men. I think Houle said that he was not allowed to interpret the Life of Christ, or perhaps it was The Last Supper. However, inspired by Barnet Newman’s Cathedra, he decided to interrogate those concepts and align them with his own. The Parfleche Series is exquisite. Houle’s Sandy Bay Residential School Series, 2009, is also on the Web and evokes his experience there.
I enjoyed Andrea Menard’s music and presentation. It was a unique experience to hear Andrea refer to Louis Riel’s prophecy about sleeping for 100 years and then the artists would wake up First Nations people which is of course what is happening. I glanced over at Rosalie Favell who created such a great work about Riel’s words.
Thank you again, Allan, for all you did to make New Sun a success. Thank you to Rae too!!
The conference was from beginning to end, as always, an inspiration.
As I mentioned to you, many of my relatives live in Winnipeg, and my mom was born there, so I was actually very touched by the Winnipeg and Manitoba themes that spread across presenters, from the Red River (with, as was pointed out, it’s tragic stories “they find a lot of hair. Long, dark hair”) to a song Louis Riel wrote in his jail cell come to new life. Wonderful!
I was thinking of you because I am in Toronto this weekend to see friends, and am actually at the AGO now, having dinner. I had the deep pleasure while here of seeing Robert Houle’s magnificent Seven Grandfathers that he spoke about at New Sun. It is a stunning installation!
Thanks again. Transformational—so I append Houle’s “transforming figure of the woodlands” for you.
This year’s New Sun Conference was fantastic. Not only did it open one’s mind up, learning new things and leaving me with something to think about, but also the atmosphere within the conference room definitely contributed to the experience. It’s a conference full of like-minded people seeking to further their knowledge and empower indigenous artists. What stood out to me this year was the number of Indigenous women not only presenting, but in attendance as well. It was magnificent to see the great work and support of the women in our communities. Finally, this New Sun Conference held true to its title: Above the Noise. It was a safe space for people to learn and share ideas without the noise created by mainstream media. Overall, this conference, in my eyes, was a huge success.
The New Sun Conference was a transformative experience.
It was an intimate and powerful day. The conference and its speakers provided a profound degree of levity and perspective. Not only on indigenous issues and culture, but on issues relevant to all Canadians. As an attendee, there was an inescapable sense that we are on the brink of positive societal change. Through uplifting/heart-wrenching storytelling, delicious shared meals and unique and compelling art, attending New Sun has helped me to understand that, as a Canadian, it is my duty to be one of the brokers of change.
Professor Allan Ryan’s New Sun Conference was a beautiful and boisterous experience that I will not forget. I will be penning it in my calendar as an annual event that I will look forward to for years to come. Professor Ryan has curated and delivered a conference that will make you reflect on your own identity, and get you thinking critically about how we should live collectively. New Sun is everything, and therefore, it goes without saying that it is quite simply, “a must attend.”
Thank you, Professor Ryan! I’ll see you at New Sun 2017.
I enjoyed this year’s conference. The speakers during the morning half were the most interesting and inspirational. I particularly enjoyed Alethea’s talk and her video presentation. It was great to hear these artists’ personal stories and to hear them talk about their lives and their work, and how they managed to rise “above the noise” and make their mark. The conference seemed very well organized, with panels running on time. Looking forward to next year’s conference!
Thank you for including members of The Hnatyshyn Foundation in the New Sun Conference. It was my first attendance. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the many artistic members of the Aboriginal community.
Allan, here are a few impressions and congratulations to you and Rae! Feel free to use my name.
In true New Sun tradition, a well-organized genuinely enjoyable day with inspiring artists and delicious food.
Alethea and Katherena—most appropriate that these two were placed side by side—both poetic and lyrical in their personal presentations and their artistic work. I was fascinated with Alethea’s search to revive Inuit tattooing and its healing benefits—acupressure, acupuncture points that we discussed over lunch. Several years ago I purchased a book for our [University of Ottawa library] collection on tattooing throughout the world and will now look for mention of the Inuit. It was also important for me to learn about how the Inuit solve conflict through dancing and singing. This gave me greater insight into different means of reconciliation and a better cultural understanding of the Inuit people whom I meet within and outside of the university community. Katherena’s movie was powerful! I admire how both Alethea and Katherena are using film as a means to reconciliation and to bring about movement on important issues both within and outside of their communities.
Robert Houle—interesting to hear him explain the evolution of his work and how he has incorporated his early school experience.
Manitobah Mukluks—great to hear about this company’s initiatives and Waneek’s storyboot mission.
I am always pleased to hear new musicians… I enjoyed seeing Andrea’s film clips and found it refreshing that she is not always type-cast into Aboriginal roles.
The New Sun Conference also gives me the opportunity to purchase the works of those artists whose works we do not already have in the library network at the University of Ottawa.
There is hope. First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples are moving in positive directions and creating change through the telling of their stories.
–Jennifer Haire, Reference Librarian for Aboriginal Studies, Morisset Library, University of Ottawa
Thanks for putting together another spectacular program with Above the Noise. These days, we all need to regularly spend some time “above the noise,” so this program was timely.
I have been following Andrea Menard’s career since the beginning, and Bob Walsh’s for over 20 years, so it was great seeing them both in person. I really enjoyed all the presenters. However, as an abstract artist myself, I especially liked hearing Robert Houle on his practice. Indigenous abstract art is sometimes viewed as “foreign,” and a co-option of “real” indigenous art by the “oppressor” (colonial society). Abstraction still has, I think, a rather uneasy ride, in spite of its long history in Indigenous artistic practice, so hats off to you for bringing it to the New Sun Conference in 2016. More! More! 8-).
Thank you so much for an amazing New Sun Conference. As always, the speakers brought an energy and spirit that motivates the most settled.
Alethea Arnaquq-Baril: I love how Alethea is focusing on tattoos and the history and foundation that surrounds this cultural tradition. She was so inspiring, and having embraced the art of film-making to document and educate those of us who know nothing or little of a tradition that was almost lost, is so impressive. So well done. The “enormous amount of knowledge and history that needs to be documented in a short period of time” is a huge undertaking and I wish Alethea all the best to educate the world on, not only the art of Inuit tattoos, but the history that supports it.
Katherena Vermette: Katherena’s passion to take on the Red River and the tragic history of so many Indigenous people who have lost their lives, only to be discovered in “The Red” is humbling. It’s not an easy subject and I can only imagine that so many people tire of hearing about “This River” once again. If they would only take the time to listen to the stories that surround this River then maybe a caring and concerning trend would erupt over Canada. Katherena’s passion for what she does is palpable and should be applauded.
Robert Houle: Robert’s work begs a close look to really see what lies beneath that first look. I can’t say I am much of an art critic, however, I found Robert’s work something to ponder and reflect on the deeper meaning. I so appreciate him sharing his work. To me, there lies deep meaning behind and surrounding his work. I won’t pretend to understand it all, however, it seems clear that the joining of Europeans and Indigenous peoples reflects so many stories in Robert’s work. Thank you.
Waneek Horn-Miller: I am familiar with Waneek from the CBC and was so very impressed by her passion for Manitobah Mukluks. I love that the company is Indigenous and the pride that is taken in each piece of work is so impressive. They have not sold themselves out and I love that! Waneek is clearly an impressive and perfect spokeswoman for this company. I’m excited for their future. Thank you for sharing your story!
Andrea Menard: I had heard the name before but had never heard Andrea’s voice or seen her in person. Wow!! Andrea is so impressive and her live performance was captivating. Such a talent and she clearly loves what she is doing. It was truly an honour to be a part of the audience at the New Sun Conference. Thank you, and thank you for your magical CD. I wish you all the best!
Last weekend was simply FABulous! There were so many lessons I learned at the New Sun Conference! So many new stories, new people, new experiences that reinforced my desire to keep learning, unlearning, and share this wonderful information with as many people as I can. I continue to be humbled and moved at the welcoming nature of the Indigenous community who encourage and support my path as I grow as an Indigenous Ally. “Above the Noise” was a perfect title for this conference: I heard the voices and messages of a strong and unified people. Loud and clear and un-diminishable. Thanks so much, Allan!
The thing the stuck with me most in the whole day was something Alethea Arnaquq-Baril said, almost in passing, about history in relation to time. As a history student I’ve come to realize that time, like most things in life is relative, and that history is not finite. This story of Turtle Island, also called Canada, is being written day by day and that it is in our control to write this story. I’ve realized it’s not enough for me to be a passive observer and that I can make a real positive impact on this world. Thank you, Dr. Allan Ryan, for all you do in making the New Sun Conference possible, it is an experience of a lifetime.
This was my first time attending the New Sun Conference and I had a wonderful experience. The event was very organized and I loved the fact that the environment was not too formal. I also found it interesting how each presenter had something new and interesting to talk about. I am looking forward to next year’s conference just to listen to what the presenters have to say and of course have a taste of the delicious food that will be served.
The first presenter was producer and director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril. Arnaquq-Baril is an individual whose professional pursuits I find utterly inspirational. I view her role as a producer/director as vital, especially in a period where cultural practices are swiftly white washed and made ready for mass appeal. Here she controls a part of her culture’s narrative, and is not an acting piece within someone else’s. Opening her talk with a short film on the Inuit high kick, Arnaquq-Baril’s work struck me as poignant, reflexive, saturated and most of all, necessary. As her discussion developed she began to allude to a film that she has yet to screen outside of her community. The film she was referencing explores the history, disappearance, and resurgence of traditional Inuit tattoos. As she revealed to us her mother’s initial hesitation to the idea of her daughter being tattooed in areas western society deemed inappropriate, she spoke of a “hyper-vigilance” that is crucial amongst once colonized communities. This point was one that continues to resonate with me. Myself being a product of colonialism, it seems as if I am a part of, as well as witnessing, a period of perpetual unlearning and questioning post-colonial ways of navigating life. Arnaquq-Baril, her mother, and I are navigating a cultural landscape where we must ask ourselves: from whom did I learn these rules, how are these boundaries connected to my culture, and will I continue to work within these constraints? As Arnaquq-Baril endeavors to document and “de-shame” the traditions of her culture, I hope to be presented with future instances of indigenous cultural reclamation.”
Being in my final semester at Carleton I am sad that I waited this long before attending the New Sun Conference. The day was truly inspiring and one I will never forget. It made me stop and think about myself, my life, and this country. I want to thank the speakers, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Katherena Vermette, Robert Houle, Waneek Horn-Miller, and Andrea Menard, for sharing their stories with me and allowing me to glimpse into their lives and learn from them. Thank you to Elder Paul Skanks for sharing such wise words. Finally to Allan Ryan and your wonderful wife, Rae Ryan for working so tirelessly to put together such a wonderful and one of a kind conference that I think struck a chord with everyone in attendance. Even though I only managed to make it to one during my time at university I know for sure that I will be back in years to come on a cold Saturday morning in February to learn more stories and also uncover more about my own story.
I was very pleasantly surprised to hear the positive upbeat messages coming from the presenters at this year’s New Sun Conference, Above the Noise. This positivity does not diminish the magnitude of past wrongs or the job ahead, but shows that healing and cultural revitalization are thriving in aboriginal communities across Canada. First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists have played, and continue to play, an important part in the healing process by re-energizing old traditions and stories and making them new and vital to their communities. I am thankful I have discovered the New Sun Conference and to paraphrase the words of Thomas King that he used in his book The Truth About Stories (2003): At least now I can’t say in years to come that I would have lived my life differently if only I had heard these stories.
It takes something like the New Sun Conference to make me realize how much of a privilege it is to be able to create art and how large a responsibility that is when you’re an artist on colonized lands. I contemplated my role as a settler artist during much of the conference and time after. I think it is important for people like myself to take cues from Indigenous artists and activists in order to be a productive ally. Speaking to the community is crucial, but figuring out what that community is can be difficult when so many Canadians are unaware of the realities Indigenous peoples experience every day. The New Sun Conference forced me to critically reflect on my consumption and production of settler “ally” art.
“Above the Noise” was the theme of the 15th Annual New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts. The lyrics of Métis singer/songwriter and actress Andrea Menard, who sang and presented at the conference, inspired the theme. The presenting artists explored the theme in different ways but shared the similar idea that by being true to one’s person and spirit, you can rise above daunting, seemingly unsolvable circumstance—whether it is unearthing lost traditions, coming to terms with loss, addressing tradition and the reality of Western modernity, stirring genuine appreciation for a cultural practice, or walking into one’s identity—by being true to one’s person and spirit. It was incredibly breathtaking to witness people so certain and comfortable in who they are, the cultural identities they have, and the communities they belong to. This conference overall, pointed out that sometimes there are things we have to deal with head-on, even if we are fearful, and trust we are strong enough to deal with them. Through that we can slowly strengthen ourselves, those close to us, and the communities we are in.
Thank you very much, Allan, for such a wonderful conference. I don’t know what all the other conferences were like—I’ve only been to three—but this one was a knockout. Those girls [sic]—all of them—were truly inspirational. My son (and I) both thought Alethea Arnaquq-Baril was “the cat’s ass.” She was just simply enchanting. Just straight ahead—no reservations—”this is me and my history”. We loved her. I want to write music for her! She is amazing. We both liked all of the others too. That story about the Red River should be a CBC prime time event. Andrea Menard was excellent and my son and I had a chance to talk to Robert Houle, and that was great too. The food as always was superb. We were sorry to hear about the elder who was not able to open the ceremony as is typical. His absence was conspicuous. I look forward to the event next year and hopefully will bring my wife this time. Thank you again for a wonderful conference.
Dr. Ryan opened the conference with the phrase, “Expect to be inspired.” The opening of the conference had quite an impact on me: Elder Paul Skanks set the mood and brought in the spirit and intent of the day―with prayer, in his own language, asking the Creator for a good day. I loved how the opening words encouraged us to be more compassionate in our lives. My heart and mind were in a good place for the rest of the day. Thank you for that, Dr. Ryan, indeed I felt inspired from the very beginning and the feeling continued throughout the conference.
While all of the presenters had inspiring stories, I was inspired most by my fellow Inuk, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril. She first shared how she liked the tradition of acknowledgement by First Nations peoples and how Inuit do not do that. I immediately felt that I was not the lone Inuk in my journey here in southern Canada with a First Nations focus. As an Inuk, I often compare us Inuit to First Nations. Her moment of sharing freed my mind to understand the lesson of life celebration and being thankful for others and their traditions, without the constant need to compare.
Alethea was so articulate and passionate in describing her motivations in filmmaking, that is, to tell our stories as Inuit. I felt compelled by her example, as she introduced us to her efforts and challenges in making Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of Inuit Tattoos―the Elder whom she wanted to interview was the last living woman with traditional tattoos, and she passed away before she could have the opportunity to share what would have undoubtedly been a lesson in life for generations to come. I realized then that films are a mirror into the soul of our people and that there is a need for this artistic form to continue to inspire us through stories like this. I knew that I wanted to tell our stories, too.
Her presentation offered me the platform to begin tackling two lifelong questions: “How should I deal with interior conflict and anger?” and “How do I carry [on] difficult conversations with some Inuit Elders whom I believe are wrong?” These questions have been on my mind for a long time and I realize now that answers to them can only come in the process of reconciling with my own identity as an Inuk in a world where daily experiences of Inuit and Indigenous peoples in general continue to be shaped by colonialism. The New Sun Conference fostered this understanding and created a safe space to reflect on it.
Each year the conference is something I look forward to as winter draws to an end. Everyone was a gift to me this year: presenters, performers, students, audience, elders, and you as organizer. I was pleased to be able to share Lift with our minister (she is of Mohawk descent; it brought a deeply pleased smile), and music lovers in my family. I found the link to [Alethea’s] video of the Inuk athlete [Inuit High Kick] and shared it with my personal trainer. I’m part of a couple of networks that might find the conference next March of interest. I will talk it up.
We were asked what we would do with what we learned. I see things to be done, but don’t know if I am the one to do them. Most of all, I get tools with which to learn about myself and find hope for wholeness. Perhaps then I can free others. Please tell each of the artists and performers to keep doing what they are doing, telling stories, singing songs, and reconnecting people with their roots.
I was touched to have Amanda, a student, call with thanks for ongoing support [of the conference].
The 2016 New Sun Conference was once again an inspiring, beautiful, and healing event. The thoughtfulness and care that goes into choice of presenters and artists makes it truly a milestone, not to be missed event each year and this shows with the number of repeat attenders (not offenders!) who return every year for introductions to a diverse, multi-disciplinary range of creative works and endeavours grounded in holistic Indigenous knowledge. This year’s stand-out presenter was Andrea Menard for the joy, the positivity, and the inspiration of both her musical and speaking presence. She radiated such love and joyful energy through her work in a way that made me feel blessed to have encountered her. The other presentations were also inspiring, challenging, and informative and again compelling in their range: from video poem on to documentary to visual arts to mukluks. Several honoured painful experiences of oppression due to settler colonialism, but all emphasized resurgence, resistance, and resilience in compelling ways. It was an honour to be there once again.
P.S. a few thoughts for next year if your list isn’t full? Leanne Simpson (Michi Saagig mover and shaker from Alderville FN near Rice Lake, author of Islands of Decolonial Love and many other things). Taqralik Partridge (Inuit throat singer and spoken word artist who goes to Carleton).* Niiganwewidem James Sinclair (Anishinaabe scholar and storyteller)—very compelling speaker.
[Note: *Taqralik Partridge presented at the 7th New Sun Conference in 2008]
Dr. Ryan, thank you for your dedication to overseeing the New Sun Conference. New Sun invites such beautiful artists who not only entertain us but bring us good information to share over a great meal. Looking forward to next year’s new artists and scrumptious meal.
–MM (Algonquin Elder)
I’m just back from a great road trip and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed spending time driving and listening to Andrea Menard’s CD. Her music is so positive, uplifting, and joyous—very aptly named CD, Lift—another talented artist to add to the list of those I have been introduced to through the New Sun Conference. Thank you so much!
As far as feedback for the conference, I enjoyed it all very much. It was my first New Sun Conference so I had no specific expectations, nor anything to compare it to. It is a unique event, at least from my experience. I found the conference very educational particularly around how Indigenous peoples are using performance in its varying capacities to contend with the myriad of issues they face—something I expect to find in my current [research] project. It was uplifting in terms of the hope it inspired even in the face of insurmountable odds as demonstrated so poignantly by Katherena Vermette’s talk about her missing brother and the dragging of the Red River. As a historian I enjoyed Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s piece about Inuit traditions and how their desire for harmony has been used, and abused, over the history of colonization and how she has struggled with it and issues of appropriation. Not being a student of art I suppose there was more I could have gotten from Robert Houle’s talk, but I did find his history and use of Catholicism and Indigenous culture to inspire his work complicates my understanding of the negotiation between Indigenous and Western ways. I think Waneek Horn-Miller occasionally crossed the line between inspirational story and marketing but her message was still a strong one and she is a good speaker. Of course Andrea Menard was a great entertainer and her talk was interesting and inspirational. Generally, hearing each presenter’s story and how they embraced and incorporated their culture to get past the obstacles they encountered as colonized peoples are important narratives to hear and, as educators, to pass along to our students.
I only attended the morning portion of the conference, however, I did appreciate Alethea and Katherena’s presentations. They were both eye openers and important subjects. The fact that I did not know about them (and I’m assuming most people wouldn’t) is always surprising. As we move forward, we will continue to discuss the tough topics but also celebrate the amazing accomplishments and I believe that the conference has achieved a great balance of both. Congratulations, Allan. We need these types of subjects to be discussed as much as possible. I hope to see more of Alethea’s work in the future and I’ve been following a little bit the “Drag the Red” project, such a sad story but important to discuss. The food of course was amazing!! Keep up the good selection [of presenters]. It was really great to attend!
This year’s presentations were all well worth setting aside the day to celebrate Indigenous arts and knowledge. I was most moved by Alethea’s presentation and her determination to recover Inuit tattooing practices. She demonstrates that it is possible to reclaim knowledge with integrity and become stronger in doing so. Thank you for making me aware of Katherena’s and Robert’s work. I enjoyed both presentations. Waneek’s presentation was full of humour and passion for the artisans associated with Manitobah Mukluks. Andrea’s concert was superb. Thank you for the gift of her CD. As usual, the day went smoothly, the food was soul-satisfying and the conversations stimulating. I look forward each year to this community gathering and expanding my horizons.
I really enjoyed the morning and early afternoon events [which were] quite engaging and opened me up to yet more fascinating aspects of Indigenous art and culture. I was sorry to miss the afternoon [due to illness] but I found it time well spent.
Thank you for the inspirational artists. I was taken away by their talks about their achievements. I appreciate how all the aboriginal artists kept their history alive by using their talents. It’s very important for the future. It was an educational weekend for me and you did a wonderful job of organizing the conference. Thank you.
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