Impressions of the Day

I want to thank you and New Sun for an amazing day at Carleton University. I believe that the human heart is the storage place of our tears. Tears are so very precious, but still, I left a few of mine at Minto Centre, so moving were some of the words I heard. Yes, I left something but I took away much more and I will benefit in mind, heart and soul because of it. If I can ever be of help in the future, please do let me know. God bless you both.

Joy and Allan, thank you so much for combining your energies, vision and support to bring us another outstanding New Sun Conference. Thank you also to the team of staff and students who helped make the Conference such a full experience. Thank you to the trailblazers who brought us together with their personal and moving stories, pathways and wisdom and enriched our lives with a better understanding and appreciation of how we must work harder at dialogue and sharing and reach out to make a difference as we travel on this journey together towards enlightenment and healing.

I was hopeful that, this year, I would make it to the afternoon before crying. That hope was dashed during the first presentation of the day. This is not a bad thing—the emotion, personal connections and honesty are what set this gathering apart from any other. As in years past, this gathering allows participants to gain incredible insight into the lives, motivations, successes and intentions of Indigenous artists. I can never be thankful enough to have this event in my life.

Thanks so much for all your great hospitality, generosity and kindness during New Sun 2013. I had a marvellous time and learned a great deal. What an amazing gathering! You’ve created a truly transformative event, and I’m very honoured to have been a participant.
Daniel Heath Justice, presenter

It was another wonderful, inspiring conference this year! Thank you for your tremendous efforts in bringing this together. I was particularly interested in Daniel Heath Justice’s articulations regarding fantasy literature and its potential for Indigenous readers and writers. I appreciated his comparison to “the escape of a prisoner rather than desertion” in relation to critiques of fantasy literature as escapist. As Justice was discussing the importance of genre fiction to communities, he also raised important points regarding the importance of creative pursuits altogether; while documentary and non-fiction are necessary for articulating Indigenous realities, artwork that resonates with contemporary  issues and themes (without resorting to point-by-point allegory) can be a powerful tool that operates on a less overt level.


Kudos to you and the small army that it took to pull this all together. It was an honour for me to be amongst the Elders present for this gathering of “Trail Blazers.” The blessing by Jim Albert, the honouring at the end, the incredible food, the spirit of the youth and the older ones, laughter, tears, hugs, making new friends and seeing old acquaintances… yes, it was truly a time of learning. A cultural moment that those students attending for the first time will not soon forget and let’s hope that it inspires more thirst and the desire to help us all advance together for the healing of the nations. There were many tender, heartfelt moments that I recall about this gathering and the thread line that ran through all of the presentations was how imperative it is that we live our lives to the fullest, so that the true story can be told. There was also a shadow thread that spoke loudly “to not lose ourselves in the midst of doing the art!”

The gracious, talented designer, Dorothy Grant made a request for a ghost writer. Her retro really expressed visually and spiritually a woman who has been trained traditionally and who is now in a position to help others who wish to take up the torch.

Tantoo is also now in a position to mentor. I caught her excitement and thrill of recognizing the unfolding talent in all facets in the industry that has been taken over by Aboriginal peoples making their own films. She truly has cleared the trail for many actors in film and for this we are all grateful.

Daniel made us laugh as he too encouraged us to write about what is real for us. Our story is one that the world would like to hear and needs to hear. I like how he encouraged others to take it out of the fantasy imaginary world by reading material written by Aboriginal writers, and a way to do this would be through placing it in that genre… Clever!

Gerald knows his stuff and his retrospective of the work done almost became overwhelming in terms of his accomplishments. We had to remind ourselves that there was a small army that made these dreams possible too, similar to what Dorothy shared. It was nice to see the picture he had with his mother and it saddened me that he visits her only once or twice a year. I am sure she is in his heart always but for the work he has to do there are many sacrifices and this is one of them.

Lucie was by far the most gracious as she was the youngest and most “out there” artist. She was real, raw and provoked a desire in the audience to want to know more about what went down for the Inuit of this country. I am so happy for her that she too has taken hold of her life and is now in the driver’s seat. All of this will make her music richer and with a child in her life now, she will become even more the woman she has grown to be. A highlight during her presentation was the intervention by New Sun announcing her desire to support Qaqquiavut, the Performance Arts Centre in Iqaluit. That would be awesome!

Mussi cho for hosting this amazing day. It was the first day of my annual 19 day fast and although I abstained from eating I left the conference very full. Thank you.

To call this annual event a conference is to diminish what it has come to represent to the community of Carleton and the larger community, or communities, within which it has taken root. At once a gathering, celebration, and symposium, the New Sun Conference has unquestionably left its indelible mark on generations of attendees/ devotees. Myself, a New Sun neophyte, I had expected to hear from the speakers of their art practice in relation to the stated theme of trailblazing, introducing innovation in their respective fields. Although art practice was discussed, I began to hear things like “we have the ability to design our lives” (Grant), and “there are a lot of folks who don’t know they’re our friends yet—but they will come to know” (Justice). Later in the day, we heard “every moment has its’ own story” (Cardinal), “travel to see what the world teaches you” (McMaster), and “in life we are all servants to each other. You have to figure out what kind of servant you want to be.” (Idlout). These were part of the messages Elder Paul Skanks regarded as clear articulations of “how our stories are intertwined with our gifts,” an elaboration on his initial remarks, “when we’re sent to this earth, we’re sent with gifts and purpose” (Skanks). Indeed, the speakers of the conference were sent with gifts for us—wisdom and stories to animate their teachings, beginning with stories of callings and purpose.

Well Allan, as usual the New Sun Conference was an outstanding opportunity to hear from exceptional Aboriginal people in the arts. The selection of presenters was well balanced with fashion, visual arts, music and film. The bonus was that there was an element of the ultra modern with the science fiction references. This was absolutely delightful and expands the imagination. I have often thought that some of the stories and flights of fancy we know from The Trickster Shift and history could rival any Sci-Fi product, but it was great to hear it promoted in your venue. Thank you for that! I have always loved Dorothy Grant’s fabulous fashion, so getting to hear her stories and meet her was particularly memorable. Without you bringing her to the conference, I would never have had that opportunity. Equally impressive was to hear Gerald McMaster. His accomplishments are so diverse. Tantoo Cardinal really touched me with her raw honesty and sensitivity. Because I have only seen her in her acting roles—she often plays harsh parts—it was wonderful to see her softness and vulnerability. I was especially happy that she was honoured with the blanket ceremony. It was a highlight of, and perfect conclusion to, a day of honouring and appreciation. Thanks again, Allan, for the opportunity to share the experience and the enrichment that accompanies it.

Thanks for all the work you did to organize the conference. It was truly a remarkable day! As a non-Aboriginal person, I was of two minds about being at the conference: On one hand, I felt like I was eavesdropping on conversations about hope and pain that I couldn’t possibly comprehend (although I certainly feel the weight of guilt for the actions of my forebearers). On the other hand, I think it’s very important for people like me to hear these conversations… and really experience a sense of the incredible hope and celebration as well as the loss and suffering of Canada’s remarkable first peoples. As I drove home from the conference and contemplated all that I had heard and felt, I made a vow to myself: From now on, I will speak up, speak out. It was a powerful day, one that changed me. I feel privileged to have been there…

P.S. The lunch was amazing!!

When I think back on this year’s New Sun Conference, I am left with a mixture of sorrow at the atrocities committed against First Nations peoples in Canada, and yet what persists is a feeling of hope and admiration at the resilience and tenaciousness depicted in the stories of the speakers. Dorothy Grant’s sharing of the Haida principle of Yaangudang bespeaks of the self-respect one must first have in order to treat others with respect. Her garments, of haute couture elegance and perfection, cannot exist independently of this principle; they are the embodiment of Yaangudang. I think of Daniel Heath Justice’s forays into the genre of fantasy writing and especially the idea that literature can provide a sanctuary to marginalised individuals. More than this, Justice seems to indicate that literature in its entirety operates as a meta-bildungsroman that develops character and that leads the reader outwards to unknown destinations in order to get a better sense of where home lies. Justice’s message is about compassion and healing; he is a man far wiser than his youthful years. Tantoo Cardinal and the pain of being: this was one of the hardest moments for me, yet a necessary one. Cardinal was not acting when she spoke of her difficult upbringing, and the idea that what brought her through was the creative force around us, the wind, the birds, the sky. She is a woman of deep courage and strength. I think of Gerald McMaster and his interrogation of the Canadian art collection at the AGO, where he implemented a plan to retroactivate the chronology to 11,000 years: Canadian art begins with, and is enveloped in, the spirit of indigenous art. Even if the Group of Seven did not refer directly to indigeneity, the power and beauty of indigenous land is mirrored in their paintings. The blank vitrine installed by McMaster in the collection alerts us to the rupture that befell Native Canadians. But this gap is also one which resides within the western viewer: in hurting others, we hurt ourselves; when we take something away from someone, we are also taking away something from ourselves. And then lastly, Lucie Idlout—a voice that travels tundra, canyons, and forests to speak of what? Nothing that can be captured in words, but which can only be hinted at through tonality, rhythm, drum and heart. I feel honoured to have been the recipient of these different stories, and thank each presenter for allowing me a glimpse into who they and their peoples are. Thank you Allan for your continued efforts in making such a journey possible! You are one of the most courageous allies I can think of.


As always, the event was most enjoyable and enriching. I loved how Dorothy shared the importance of respect for yourself and how she has held deeply this value in her work and how she conducts her life… design your journey. She has stayed true to herself and the elders she so clearly respects. I appreciated Daniel’s honesty about his childhood, and that he discovered his journey through humility and generosity. How fantastic to discover how important your stories are and that they need to be told today and tomorrow; to keep telling stories. I was captured by Tantoo’s down to earth presence and the respect she carried with her for the animal hunter.  I enjoyed hearing about her childhood and feelings that have stayed with her. I spoke with Tantoo after the conference and encouraged her to tell her story. I believe a very candid and honest story will help non-Aboriginals grasp a better understanding of the generational Aboriginal experience endured as a result of colonization. She is fabulous and I would love to hear more from her. Gerald is most interesting and his dedication to Contemporary Indian Art is a wonderful outlet for young Aboriginal artists. I love his idea of there always being an outlet to ask questions and that we should not hesitate. Lucie tells it like it is and I love the honesty!  Her music is so unique and what an honour to have such an understanding of her mother’s life. She is really in touch with reality. I loved the candidness and honesty of all the participants, and I’m looking forward to next year. Many thanks, again. I truly feel humbled to have been able to share the day.

Good morning Allan,

As an educator working in the area of Aboriginal Education I found this conference to be extremely informative. It was so wonderful to hear the stories of these successful individuals. Tremendous positive role models for all Canadians to listen to. The common theme around the arts, and the authentic voice was powerful. I truly believe that we need to build relationships, and listen to the voices of First Nation, Metis, and Inuit. The Conference truly attracts a mixed audience of very well known individuals, including prominent Elders from the community—the likes of Albert Dumont, Paul Skanks, Maria Campbell, Irene Lindsay and Guy Freedman to name a few. Bringing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people together to build relationships is positive. The quality and caliber of the presenters was amazing! They all spoke so well and I left feeling enriched by their stories and their success. The lunch was fantastic and allowed time for people to connect. Lucie was wonderful. I can’t believe that this conference has been held for the last 12 years and I didn’t know about it! A gem and something I would encourage teachers from our Board to attend for their own learning. The conference is well worth the fee for the day! I think this will grow and perhaps you will have to seek out a larger venue. I would sign up today for next year if registration was open! [J, G] and I would all return and others are now interested. We would appreciate it if you could keep us on your mailing list for future events which focus on First Nation, Metis, and Inuit culture, histories, stories, issues etc. Thank you for this great experience and hopefully we will all return next year.
CB, Learning Partner for Aboriginal Education, Student Success Department, Ottawa Catholic School Board


This was my first year attending the New Sun Conference, and I was really excited since I had heard so many great things about it. The Conference definitely lived up to its reputation! What an amazing opportunity for holistic learning—our minds, hearts, spirits, and even our bodies were nourished. Each speaker brought a different approach, but everyone shared their knowledge and their stories with us in such a generous and honest way. Lucie Idlout made such an impression on me—her words were like poetry. I am so grateful to you and New Sun for this wonderful learning experience, and I’m looking forward to next year!

Hello Allan,

Thank you for introducing me to the New Sun Conference. It was a valuable and thoroughly enjoyable experience for me. As this was my first year attending, all aspects were a first. The introduction presented the spiritual aspects of the learning environment which was very appropriate to the discussions of all the subsequent presenters. All five presenters were extremely lucid and candid, and I was impressed that although all these individuals have succeeded remarkably in non-aboriginal environments, they all indicated that they had received critical direction from aboriginal mentors. The only minor exception was the advice that Daniel Justice received from his university advisors to pursue studies in Native literature. I also appreciated the theme of the importance of aural histories and stories which was corroborated by all presenters. Although it might be anticipated that the biographies of many artists would include hardships and challenges in achieving recognition, what was informative to me was that the Trailblazers all faced the additional challenge of reconciling their native heritage and traditions with the successes in their careers which sometimes carried them away from their origins. I did appreciate the wide scope of the visual, literary, and performing arts represented by the Trailblazers to the conference attendees, and the commonalities in the experiences of the artists. The organization of the conference was faultless from my perspective, and I was grateful that you were able to acknowledge all the individuals involved. I would like to add my personal thanks to you for all of your efforts in creating a thoroughly memorable event.


this was my first experience with the indigenous community and I’m eager for more (sign me up for next year). What a warm and welcoming room, your guests were charming and captivating. I particularly enjoyed listening to Tantoo, Lucie and Daniel. It would have been interesting to hear from the elders, and the younger members as well, how the community could become more involved.


I really enjoyed being at the conference and thought I would write a note to say thank you when I received your email requesting some feedback.

First, I should tell you I have shared what I learned with two people already. It was not just a superficial overview, I spoke in depth about how important I thought it was for us all to get a better understanding of the contemporary situation in Canada as it relates to aboriginals. My friends posed interesting questions. I was especially shocked to hear their pretty negative views of native people; they raised the issue of alcoholism as well as some other familiar stereotyping. I would not have guessed these mindsets were still around. I was glad I could counter all of this with the immediate good news stories from the New Sun Conference. Both seemed to feel that what I learned was enlightening and they seemed more prepared to take a fresh look at revising their own ideas.

On a personal level I loved the sacred space that was created and the deep respect that was shown by all who were present. I had seen Dorothy Grant’s work in Santa Fe and enjoyed the filmed retrospective. Her comments about the ceremonial aspects of clothing touched me as did her challenge to design our own lives. “Imagining otherwise,” what a great title. Daniel’s talk was so enriching. I would like to be part of that otherwise. His term “settlers” was a new way of naming the “colonials.” Somehow it seemed less harsh and more encouraging of dialogue between the descendants of these settlers and the aboriginal people of Canada. His discussion of empathy, our need to forgive ourselves and each other, gave me hope. I like the idea that we need to write a new story, a better story and we need to do it together. I am looking forward to hearing more from him as he publishes his work. Tantoo Cardinal was brave to speak from her heart and from her memories of her life as a young girl. I will remember to work with what I have and not try to eat the whole bannock bread at once. Gerald McMaster spoke about so many things but one of his messages resonated with me, that we should not be hesitant, that we should make mistakes and not worry, that we should see this as part of our development, as character building, as identity building. It is nice to be reminded that we are all here still learning, forever learning and that it is through this process that we will grow and find new ways of understanding and sharing what we have learned. Lucie Idlout, what a fantastic, wonderful, thoughtful, kind person; thanks so much for having her sing to us. Her message to the young student was so caring, “work towards the servant you want to be, use your gifts with purpose.” How inspiring to see her. I wonder how many Canadians know that the Inuit were given numbers because no one could be bothered to learn how to pronounce their names?

I just want to mention that the thread of kindness and respect that was woven into the day was palpable. I enjoyed the delicious food and the people I sat beside at lunch. Thank you for introducing your family members and for your generosity as you kept things going, despite the difficult circumstances. Please express my best wishes to your wife. Thank you for the conference and for your commitment.

This was only my second year attending the conference and I want to tell you that it is already something that I look forward to every year. The food was magnificent, as were all of the talks. As with last year, I really enjoyed the selection of speakers across a number of different domains.

On a personal note, I would like to mention that I was deeply touched by what happened at lunchtime. This year my aunt attended the conference with me. She is an African-American and she grew up in the deep south during segregation. She was standing with me in line when one of the students from the Aboriginal Centre at Carleton—she was the first one who spoke at the end of the afternoon on behalf of the Aboriginal Centre—came up to us with a plate of food and told my aunt that she was not permitted to stand in line. She told her that some of each item had been selected for her and escorted her back to her table. My aunt was deeply touched, and so was I. It was a particularly touching gesture given her past history of inhumane treatment.

So I commend you for arranging a wonderful conference and I would like to deeply commend the students at the Carleton Aboriginal Centre who are such excellent representatives of its values. I also went home wearing a Dorothy Grant scarf! What a treat. I’m already looking forward to next year.
–SH, Senior Strategist, National Cyber Security Directorate, Public Safety Canada

Thanks for involving CACE in the day.
–Mallory Whiteduck, Carleton University Centre for Aboriginal Culture and Education

I had a lot of fun, it was a great learning opportunity! Thank you for allowing us to be part of the honouring [ceremony for Tantoo Cardinal].
Naomi Sarazin, Carleton University Centre for Aboriginal Culture and Education

Hi Allan,

Upon reading the initial email you sent last week, I didn’t read the comment you forwarded from SH. Yesterday, LC asked me if I had read it, and said that I must. I am so touched that I made a positive impact on one of the participants by such a small gesture of kindness. The work we do at Carleton is so rewarding! So thank you again for allowing me to be part of this extraordinary event.
Naomi Sarazin, CACE

The presenters were outstanding, as usual. They seemed to riff off of each other, which was very nice, too. It was good to see CACE make their presence known. I suppose it wasn’t long ago that Mallory Whiteduck was a student at Carleton. So, it was good to see that progression. All in all, a great day, thank you!

Thank you for another memorable New Sun Conference. I was moved to tears several times at this conference, by the emotion of seeing friends and colleagues that I only see a few times a year, by the strength of the presentations, particularly Tantoo Cardinal’s, and by the circle of students, mentors, staff and friends at our luncheon table. Also, I am delighted to have heard and met Daniel Heath Justice, the surprise discovery of the conference for me, as I really like fantasy writing, and had not encountered his work before. We all missed Rae, and send our condolences, but were very impressed with the way your son and his family moved seamlessly into the organization team. I’m only sorry that it’s over for another year—seems a long time to wait.

I’m now back in Philly and wanted to thank you for the invitation to present to the New Sun Conference, and for the wonderful dinner which [my wife] Lynn and I greatly enjoyed.
Gerald McMaster, presenter

Hi Allan,

I want to express my appreciation for all the work that went into this day. It was incredible—honest, empowering, heart-warming, inspirational. I especially appreciated Tantoo’s talk. What a journey. And what a message. She provided some very strong imagery for living life fully and with resiliency… Her description of picking up gems in the rubble… it was just so raw and poetic. I also appreciated her discussion of taking on roles she did not want to play in order to get to the ones she wanted. It was so genuine.
Thanks again, Allan.

The conference was absolutely amazing. It was very moving and I found myself listening very earnestly. Thank you again for organizing the conference. Your hard work and personal dedication are truly appreciated.


It was a very warm gathering. The artists and the topics they presented were highly thought-provoking. The question/answer sessions helped give greater body to their work/ideas/issues. Beauty, intellect, and above all, truth, were all on full display this past Saturday. I had so many questions to ask the presenters, especially Tantoo Cardinal, that I would need at least a couple of hours with each of them in order to establish the level of conversation and understanding required to accomplish some of this. However, reality must assert itself—there were 199 other people also chock full of questions I’m sure. I was more than happy enough to hear them speak and to get some idea of where they were coming from. The questions that arose are still there and it was good to have my mind working double-time to understand some of the ideas. It’s rather hard to pinpoint what the most memorable aspect of the conference was.

I enjoyed all the speakers and found the diverse spectrum of their practices to be extremely interesting and refreshing[ly different] from other conferences I have attended. I also found the juxtaposition of those creating art and those studying it, in conjunction with their personal experiences, to be a fascinating platform on which to think and talk about the arts. Other conferences I have attended in the past have had presenters and audience members who were extremely critical of one another and the environment was rather hostile. I found the New Sun Conference to be a supportive, inclusive and productive environment that allowed everyone to progress and move forward, which is how it should be.

It is not my first time attending New Sun. I am always very pleasantly reminded why I like coming out to them: good people, interesting and beautiful works, plenty of food for thought, and plenty of food (always a very nicely done lunch, both the food and the artful entertainment). I have always had a very rewarding experience at the New Sun Conferences. I look forward to many more such opportunities.

Thanks very much, Allan, for working so hard to bring these conferences to fruition each year.

Excellent job on the conference Dr. Ryan, you should be extremely proud of what you have achieved!
DM, Aboriginal Art Centre, Corporate Secretariat, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC)

Good morning Dr. Ryan,

First, I want to say thank you for organizing such an inspiring event. It was my first year attending the New Sun Conference and I felt extremely welcomed. Although I did not study Aboriginal Art History in school—I specialized in collections management and archival studies—I have been working in the field for the past couple of years at the Inuit Art Foundation and more recently with Linda Grussani at the AANDC Aboriginal Art Centre. I wanted to attend your conference because I knew it would help me better understand the collection I am helping to preserve and help me better represent the artists that contribute to our collection.

Hi Allan,

I was so impressed and moved by the speakers you chose to have at the New Sun Conference. Such a loving and honouring process that occurred during our shared time! I would love to share some thoughts about the speakers!! I found each one inspirational in very different ways!! They all moved me! Thank you for organizing this and missing out on precious sleep time in order to make it happen!! I grew up on Manitoulin Island and even as a teenager I wanted to learn more about aboriginal art, but I ran into many roadblocks along the way. Although my high school was situated in M’Chigeeng, there were very few options for a non-aboriginal student to learn more about the community around us. An undergraduate and masters degree later, I have returned to one of my earliest interests in art and I guess it’s better late than never. I had an idea I wanted to pass by you. What do you think about asking Dorothy Grant to do a design or two for New Sun Conference tee shirts for next year? That means that many of us could be wearing a Dorothy Grant but not have to pay an enormous price. Money made by this sale could go into a native charity of some sort…..??? What are your thoughts on this? The price would have to be one that folks could afford and advertising ahead of time could make this all happen. I was thinking the tee shirt could cost $50-65. Affordable for even students!  Anyway, just an idea!! Thank you Allan. I will be back next year. Take good care and catch up on that sleep!! Well done!

Dear Dr. Ryan,

I would like to thank you for organizing this marvellous event for everyone. I am a student in B.PAPM specializing in Social Policy at Carleton University, and as such, gaining an in depth perspective on Aboriginal issues through the lens of the artists—who are also amazing educators—was absolutely enlightening. The talks, the shows, the music and the food for thought… I definitely feel my horizons have broadened. I would also like to add that as a co-founder and president of the Dialogue Students Association at Carleton, intercultural and interfaith dialogue are a perpetual part of my life, so events such as this revive my spirits and allow me to persevere in ideas I believe should be an essential component of every individual’s life—and that is promoting dialogue, respect, and appreciation. Thank you again for arranging this wonderful educational and entertaining opportunity for all of us.

Hi Allan,

I really hope this email finds you sitting on your sofa in your living room, feet up, with a nice glass of wine in hand. A soft pillow behind your head. You deserve it. It was another wonderful New Sun Conference, and you had to pull the last-minute pieces together without Rae’s help. I can only imagine the frantic activity that went on. The presenters truly reached deep into their hearts today to share with us.  It was fun to see so many classmates from our graduate seminar there, many for the first time. I had a few moments to speak with [M] afterwards, and she was simply overwhelmed with emotion, as was I.

Hello Professor Ryan,

Miigwetch for another inspiring and stimulating conference this year. The presenters are great role models and I was particularly touched by the talks of Dorothy Grant and Tantoo Cardinal, by their commitments to the community and their passion. For a non-native person who is looking for an understanding of the history and for the situation of native communities nowadays, their talks were very insightful. As always, the food and entertainment were great.

Professor Ryan,

Thank you so much for organizing this event and for allowing me to attend. It was a real privilege. Events such as this can help counter negative media stereotypes. They should be broadcast on radio. Canadians perhaps have too few opportunities to have conversations with their First Nations fellow citizens and neighbours. I remember in South Africa with the Canadian Embassy before a democratic government, we used to have a Dialogue Fund to support organizations which helped people-to-people contacts. There are too few groups in Canada building bridges of understanding, but I sense a new pride in First Nations achievements which we can all share. Best of luck with next year’s event.

Dear All [Canadian Studies faculty]:
I wanted to give a heartfelt congratulations to Allan Ryan on the New Sun Conference which was another great success this year! Congratulations Allan for a remarkable (sold-out to capacity) turn-out on Saturday and an outstanding line-up. The luncheon with music by Lucie Idlout will be particularly memorable for many, I imagine. Thanks for all your hard work on this Allan and for your diplomacy as a member of the School of Canadian Studies—presented in such a well-established community forum. One of the pleasures of attending was to see so many of our prior MA graduates (and current students), and to catch up with colleagues. Thanks for providing a forum to do so!
Donna Patrick, Director, School of Canadian Studies

Here are a few thoughts about my experience with the conference. What stood out for me was how real the speakers were, each able and willing to speak to their strengths and their vulnerabilities which keep pushing them forward as trailblazers. This is a testament to the safe space created at the conference and a HUGE cross-cultural olive branch and show of leadership which I have never experienced before in a conference setting. When looking for role models, I think it is important to recognize and honour the kind of leadership that comes forth from those areas we have had to work hard at growing, overcoming or that we may continue to struggle with throughout our lives. From my perspective, the evidence of leadership was not only in what the speakers had achieved artistically, but also the manner in which they have been able to connect these achievements for the benefit of their greater community. I felt very blessed to be part of this year’s event.

Dear Allan,

Here are my notes about the conference last week: “Each year the New Sun Conference proves to be an unforgettable experience, and this was no exception. The variety of talent showcased each year is truly phenomenal, and the unique energy of each speaker helps create a rich tapestry of stories. How encouraging and motivating it is to spend this memorable day in the company of others who are passionate about Aboriginal arts and committed to improving the lives of Aboriginal peoples on all fronts! I left—as I do every year – feeling inspired, strengthened, revitalized and ready to take on a challenge.” Please feel free to quote me in part or in full when doing promotion for next year… :) Miigwech,

The Conference was, as usual, outstanding. Every year my friends and I look forward to attending the event and wonder what type of surprise you have in store for us. Thank you so much for inviting us. I look forward to the next New Sun.

Thank you for another amazing experience at the New Sun Conference! It certainly went above and beyond in achieving its goal of exploring artistic inspiration surrounding the theme of Trailblazers. I always find this conference to be a great source of inspiration and I am already looking forward to next year. Thank you, again.

The New Sun Conference was as shining as ever, such strong talks, delicious lunch, and stunning performance. You outdo yourself every year in the new ideas that we hear, fresh perspectives, and great music!

My Dear Allan,

That was a wonderful conference you produced yesterday. You carried it off as a real pro, despite the fact you were missing your backstage manager and quiet support. We all missed her too. I am still trying to absorb the ideas and challenges that each of your speakers presented to us, each in their own way. They were certainly trailblazers in developing alone their various artistic skills. Thank you, Allan, for producing another successful New Sun Conference.
Joy (New Sun)

I felt this year’s conference was the best I’ve attended yet due to the theme and speaker choices. I particularly enjoyed hearing from Tantoo and Dorothy Grant though each speaker had something very special to offer. It was great to see so many new faces at the conference and it’s too bad it cannot accommodate more people! The lunch was phenomenal; the food was delicious and Idlout’s performance captured everyone’s attention. All in all, a great day! Thanks Allan, I hope to be there next year!

Dear Mr. Ryan,

First, I want to say thank you for that amazing event I was invited to. As a student, I appreciated the New Sun Conference in many ways. First, I think you chose wonderful people to come have a talk with us, both men and women. It gave me the chance to take some very nice quotes for my research. I am doing my research on the representation of territory for indigenous youth, and that through contemporary indigenous art. (I am sorry for my English as you can see I speak mostly French). I think it was nice to hear about different artists’ experiences. I learned a lot. The lunch was also amazing. I found the day very well organized and very enriching and I realized it better when I came home with all these gifts that stayed in my heart and in my mind. Thank you very much and I hope to be there next year.
RD, étudiante à l’Université du Québec en Outaouais 

Dear Allan,

Thank you for Trailblazers. It was outstanding. I found the speakers dug deep and captured your intentions for the day. Loved the way Dorothy Grant phrased it: “designing my life” and negotiating “the tunnel—the straight parts and the narrow ones.” The feeling that she’s in the light now. A fascinating account of her life on the world stage. Daniel Heath Justice’s reference to Maracle on Idle No More was right on: “go talk to the grandmothers and find out how idle they’ve been!” He is an eloquent speaker—his story of growing up as a nerd in a tiny Colorado town and his thoughts on the potential for fantasy to lead readers into new ways of thinking. As agency. I could have listened to him all day. Tantoo Cardinal was wonderful too—her story of her relationship with her grandmother who said, “I never wanted you to expect anything.” And, now when she reflects that “There’s a lot more to that story than I thought there was.” So true. I loved her description of the Creative Force: “A place of energy, light. Part of this planet—she has a pulse, she gives.” Many beautiful metaphors, like when she got to the city for high school and there were too many people. For her, they became trees. I felt that Gerald McMaster found it challenging to speak personally. But he did tell the audience some of the ways he accomplishes so much: the Cree creation story from his childhood: “just go out there and see what the world teaches us.” Also, his reference to “weaving the narratives” and the need to move Indigenous art from CMC to the National Gallery. A thrilling prospect. Lucie Idlout’s message was strong too: music as truth through song and the fact that we’re sent here with gifts and purpose.

The New Sun Conference really is a great gift to the world, Allan. Thank you!

She:kon Allan,

As I said to you personally in the library lounge on the Monday following the New Sun event, WOW! You always manage to raise the bar with new and engaging performers who edify us greatly. What particularly struck me this time was the synergy of the storytelling of the lives of the presenters in contrast to their ultimate careers as “Trailblazers”. For example, how some of them survived challenging upbringings to emerge as highly successful role-models for our culture(s).

Nia:wen for a most entertaining day highlighted by the customary delicious feast. Ever onward ever upward.
Skennenko’wa / Great Peace be with you.

Hello Allan,

I want to acknowledge, once again, the joy and wisdom the New Sun Conference gives to me every year and this year was no exception. I was delighted to listen to Dorothy Grant’s story and was honoured to have an opportunity to offer my support as a writer, to support her on her book project. While I don’t know whether that will come to pass, having an opportunity to connect with her and explore the possibility has sparked my passion to get on a path that will enable me to actively engage in creative writing again. I continue to sing the praises of this annual event and highlight it on my calendar to my Health Canada colleagues in the First Nations and Inuit Branch, members of the Peace Flame Drum Circle that I belong to, and friends whom I meet while attending the noon hour teachings at Health Canada’s Iskotew Lodge. I look forward to the next edition! It is always inspiring and I am honoured and privileged to be a part of such a wonderful community of positive and creative energy. Chi Meegwetch,

Hi Allan,

my impressions of the recent New Sun Conference are plentiful. To begin, it was such an extraordinary event. I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to attend the New Sun Conference. To witness so much talent, creativity and new insights was a total inspiration for me personally. [As was hearing about] the ongoing work of the New Sun Conference, the people, the stories, the history and the art, in a space where many can listen, learn and acknowledge the strength of Indigenous peoples in the larger community. The many great speakers at the event really left a lasting impact upon me. To listen to Tantoo Cardinal tell her stories was incredibly moving; she is a strong woman who continues to broaden our perceptions of Indigenous peoples in the arts. To have seen Dorothy Grant’s amazing artwork/designs and her connection to her ancestral roots was wonderful. Every speaker shared something that left one with a sense of hope and new awareness. The noon day concert by Lucie Idlout was perfect. Allan, I want to thank you and all those who put this wonderful conference event together. I must say, after looking around the room that day, that I could see how huge the New Sun Conference could become, although one of the great aspects of the conference is the intimate nature of the space. I so look forward to next year’s New Sun Conference. Congratulations, it was such a successful event for myself and for others that I spoke with at the conference. Thank you once again and all the best.

Hello Allan,

I came with KG—it was my first time. She had primed me for what a special day it would be. She was not mistaken. I want to applaud you and your team on the great organization of the day. I came away in awe of the deep truth about themselves that each speaker shared. I have learned painfully that not knowing your own truth and accepting it, is destructive. To learn how each participant rose above difficulties with their identities, self-esteem and heritage through their artistic talent was so inspiring. I was very glad to have been part of the day and look forward to attending next year.

Allan, it was an unparalleled conference! The quality of speakers and food was outstanding! Lucie was excellent and for me the highlight of the day, as she was down to earth and very genuine. I really liked your message to us in the audience to spread change and awareness that Aboriginal people are in the present and doing great things  to influence art and culture in Canada. Thanks again for all your work to make that conference a success.

The New Sun Conference was, as always, up-lifting, energizing, inspiring and encouraging. It has been several years since I have had the opportunity to attend this event, but have been missing the amazing feeling and stimulation that it brought me, and always has. As of late, I have been finding my work to be humdrum and I have been feeling a bit jaded, wondering what it was that had gotten me interested in Aboriginal people in the first place. The New Sun Conference was a great opportunity for me to hear the voices of Aboriginal people, the stories, the courage and the strength that I can draw so much inspiration from. Thank you, Allan, for putting this together. What a special and inspiring event.

Thank you, Dr. Ryan! The New Sun Conference 2013 was another wonderful arts symposium, organized meticulously with artists of all genres always so selectively chosen, to help us experience, reflect on and contextualize their contemporary work/gifts, with their own interpretations of their art/craft. It’s always a most transformative day and experience for me. I look forward to many more.

Hi Allan,

I just wanted to add my confirmation to what so many other people were saying. It was, as always, a highlight of the academic year. The mix of academics, cultural history, music and art, not to mention the cuisine, is perfect. And of course this year, it was particularly timely, given all the political issues that are coming to the surface, showing so clearly what a shallow and greedy government we presently have. Your presenters and audience were such a refreshing contrast, and gave me hope that maybe in the next election we can change things and create a country that serves the good of all, rather than a very small minority of colonial hang-ons. My only feedback would be to keep the conference going and growing!

The New Sun Conference taught me a lot about not only Native art and culture, but a lot about myself. I learned how ingrained in me stereotypes of Aboriginal peoples are, and was made aware of how desperately I want to help change those stereotypes in every way I can. The conference was a welcoming environment, and very healing for many. I was inspired by the speakers, who have all fought to keep their clans’ traditions alive, all in unique ways. As a non-native person, I was terrified of not fitting in, but that fear vanished upon arriving. I look forward to next year’s conference.

I greatly enjoyed my time at the New Sun Conference—not a surprise. The presentations were inspiring (as always), and the New Sun community is one that I’ve missed. I certainly do not want to miss any more.

I wanted to say thank you for the wonderful conference. I enjoyed it very much. I am from Vancouver and it was wonderful to hear about Dorothy Grant. I spoke to her afterwards to discuss her work with the Aboriginal Mothers’ Centre. My mother is on the Board of Directors for the centre and it was wonderful to hear how Dorothy Grant is giving back to the young people.

Hi Allan,

It was a very inspiring time to be involved and a presenter at New Sun. Thank you for the invitation. A few things have transpired out of the event. Two writers want to be the ghost writer for my book, and I’m starting a process with Canada Council for a writers grant. The nice thing is I’ve given myself lots of time for this project. I’m now working at the Aboriginal Mother Centre, in the production centre. Thanks again, I got a lot out of the experience.
Dorothy Grant, presenter


I really enjoyed Saturday—as I always do. So did [D]. I think he’ll want to start going every year. I loved Tantoo’s spot the most. I chatted with her for a bit afterwards. Said she just moved into town [Toronto]. Lucy was great (and a great laugh), both singing and speaking. She could use a bass player. Again, a great time.

Considering your circumstances, you did an amazing job and kept it all together quite nicely. Please send my warmest wishes to Rae.

I enjoyed it a lot. Very interesting stories, strong and fascinating people, and plenty of food for thought. Speaking of food, the lunch was delicious. ;) Thanks,

All the speakers were great :) I found Tantoo Cardinal talking about how the land is her source of creative inspiration really moving and memorable. The food was really really good!

Hi Allan!

Another wonderful conference! Glad that I could attend along with my daughter. I’ll stick to general comments as the speakers all brought their own styles and experiences to the mix to make for an enjoyable and informative day.

It was particularly interesting to hear the social issues which brought about the blossoming of Tantoo, Lucie and Daniel. Their very personal approach to their stories made their presentations so much more intimate and palpable. Their need to rise above the social difficulties during their formative years makes their stories an inspiration. The courage to follow their creative natures has certainly helped them.

The presentation by Lucie during the lunchtime was excellent. It was good to have the two screens as the people on the sidelines were somewhat obscured by the crowd. Sound level was good and clear; we could hear Lucie quite well. I can see why you wanted her to be at the conference. She is quite unique. Her stories during her talk made me think of the stories that our former border used to tell my wife and I of his community of Inukjuak. Most northern communities have major social issues. It is good to know that some progress is being made.

The setting is, as usual, quite appropriate. It would be a loss to have the conference in a large hall. I would agree with you that the intimate nature of the room makes for a better overall experience. A few technical glitches are to be expected but I found them to be of no concern.

The meal was very good. I heard many compliments for the food. Parking was ample. We did not find it difficult at all to find a space. Signage to get from the conference room to the lunch area was quite good; we followed the crowd and arrived there in plenty of time. Good pace to the conference and the timetable is well spaced with needed breaks and time for both the presentations and question periods. Thank you again for an informative and memorable conference.


Thanks again for finding a ticket for me. I really enjoyed the conference. I thought that the diversity among the speakers was a particular strength. I also liked the small intimate feel of the conference. The entertainment at lunch was also a unique touch. I enjoyed Dorothy Grant and Tantoo Cardinal the most. It was also interesting to speak with some of the elders (especially New Sun) at lunch.


Those are excellent articles [in The Ottawa Citizen and FASS Newsletter]. The sense of intimacy is conveyed in both articles. This is among the reasons the New Sun Conference sells out every year. It is truly the annual gathering of the New Sun community, as I heard it called, in which all are participants and none are merely onlookers. [D] and I are honoured to have been among those participants over the past 12 years. How’a sta,


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.