Impressions of the Day

Again you have done New Sun proud. I heard so many great comments from the audience about the conference over the lunch hour and then again as people exited the theatre. Believe me, the New Sun Conference is the “go to” event of the year. The conference is on a roll, keep it up!

I thank you ever so much, Allan, for inviting me to bear witness once again to the amazing artistic talents of our Aboriginal Peoples. Proud as my heart is, strong as I am in my identity, and confident as I am that the future is bright for our Peoples, the New Sun Conference re-invigorates my spirit and I leave there prouder, stronger and more confident in the future than ever before. For this I thank you and I pray God blesses you for all your good works.
–AD (Elder)

It is not often these days that I feel a sense of the sacred and the last place I would expect to do so is inside an academic conference. Thankfully the New Sun Conference is not so much an academic conference but a ceremony of togetherness, where people from all walks [of life] join together as a part of the New Sun community. The presenters speak with passion and despite the difference in their respective backgrounds and practices, connections are woven between them like strands in a rope, leaving you feeling as if you were a participant in a wonderful journey rather than someone who has been merely lectured to. This is the most valuable part of the New Sun Conference; it provides us with a glimpse of what academia could be like if we lived in a world where Indigenous teaching was the norm, where the communal is valued over the hierarchical and the heart is given as much heed as the mind.

What great [CBC TV] coverage Allan! I enjoyed the conference immensely—more so than any other year and I’m not sure why. It was 100% entertainment, but such a huge learning experience as well. Congratulations to you and Rae! You put your heart and soul into this every year, and each year more people’s lives are enriched. Meegwetch!

As I reflected on my experience at the New Sun Conference, I was feeling inspired by all of the creativity and positivity that the day brought. On my commute home from the conference, I wrote a short poem. I must admit that I have not written any poetry in several years, but I am thrilled that I finally felt the inspiration I needed to write. I used to write quite often but have felt a block for a very long time. This may not be my best work, but it is my first work in a long time, so thank you for providing the space and opportunity for creative inspiration.

Heavy snow falls
This morning.
A smoke filled room,
The sweet scent
Undresses you.
We sit
In rows apart. Together.
Speaking feather
Spoken word.
Today is blessed
With prayer.
Of inspiration, hope,
Unity, of celebration.
Narratives of the heart.
A feast for kings and queens
And bannock babies.
The drums.
Pulsing through the room
Beating in our bodies.
We dance.
We dance.
Returning, we sit
Together. In rows apart.
Stories heard
Respect shared
Understanding achieved,
We leave as one.
I see anew,
As new fallen snow.


Good morning Allan. Thank you for once again producing a completely magical day for us all. What a high!

The New Sun Conference is a truly unique gathering of academics, artists, and community members, bringing together both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal individuals in a shared cultural experience. I was inspired by the positive sense of community I felt and the cross-cultural dialogue it fostered. Elder Jim Albert reflected that each of us was about to embark on a journey. The idea of a journey resonated with me and I have come to think of my experience at the conference as such, which is more than I can say for any other conference I have attended. The energy in the space was so creative and so positive. I left feeling energized, inspired, and enlightened. I am privileged to now be a part of The New Sun Community and I cannot wait until next year.

This year was the first time I attended the New Sun Conference, and there are no words to express how amazing the whole experience was. Going into it, I was not sure what to expect but by the first presentation I knew it was going to be a fun filled day. The conference was truly inspiring to see all the different talent within the Aboriginal community. The most memorable part was hearing the story of Michael Kusugak, because the book A Promise Is a Promise was my all time favourite book growing up and to see the author there was something I will never forget. I want to say Kitchi Migwech Allan for all your hard work and dedication.

I just want to say one more thing, Allan, you are so kind and are truly an asset to Carleton. Because of your generosity, dedication and knowledge in Aboriginal arts, this is the reason why the New Sun Conference is absolutely the best conference I have ever attended. Keep up the great work!

Allan, I did see the CBC news segment last night, and thought it was great … as indeed was the day. I enjoyed telling Michael Kusugak how his book A Promise Is a Promise had been my children’s favourite. Congratulations once again. Bring on next year!
–John Osborne, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Carleton University
Well Michael [Kusugak] really enjoyed your conference. He came home filled with stories.

Meegwetch for having me as part of Narrative Heart at the New Sun Conference. It was my honour to be part of this event. Thank you for thinking of me! Keep up all the good work that you are doing. You are making a difference!
–Sandra Laronde, presenter

I had a wonderful experience at the conference, and even though public speaking is not something I enjoy doing I thank you for the opportunity to share my work and my stories with the audience that day. I will remember the presentations and stories of the other presenters which was an invaluable experience. I also loved the wonderful luncheon, musical performance by A Tribe Called Red, and the nice dinner at the end of the day. Even though I wish all the presenters could have been at the dinner [with us] it was nice to get to know some of the others at the smaller gathering. Thank you and Carleton University again. I am looking forward to reading the comments from the day.
–Meryl McMaster, presenter

Bravo! You have certainly put the icing on the cake. I am so glad that all the work and time you have put into this New Sun Conference has been acknowledged by the media, and the CBC News Network. My heartfelt thanks for bringing the New Sun Conference to the calibre of an interesting, challenging and appreciated look. I had always hoped in some small way that mainstream Canadians would realize how much we have to learn from Aboriginal Canadians of their wonderful culture of art, music and storytelling. My sincere congratulations, Allan. I cannot begin to tell you how heartbroken I was not to be there with you all [this year].
–New Sun, Joy Maclaren, C.M.

This conference is unlike any other conference I have attended in the past. There are a number of factors that contribute to its uniqueness, but perhaps the most important aspect is that it creates an intimate and comfortable new space for learning. The New Sun Conference is about collaborative learning and it is a kind of learning that makes you forget that you are learning. That is the best kind. I can actually say that I had fun at a conference and time went by too fast that day. And what did I learn? Number one: there is a large Indigenous community out there that is vibrant, friendly, welcoming and incredibly open-minded. Number two: the conference really highlighted, for me, that being enrolled in an Art History MA program isn’t worth it unless you feel passionate about what you’re studying. The New Sun Conference helped me further realize that this is where I’m supposed to be right now—studying contemporary Indigenous art at Carleton University.

Thank you for offering me a sponsored ticket to attend the New Sun Conference. This was my first time attending the New Sun Conference and it will certainly not be my last. The environment was welcoming and I could sense the high spirits of everyone were enriched by the wide range of presenters’ experiences, stories and the knowledge that each had to share. The luncheon was carefully selected and my favourite part was the mouth-watering wild rice and cod. It was educative and exhilarating to listen to the presenters, eat Aboriginal food, and dance to the performance of A Tribe Called Red, all in one day. Overall, the New Sun Conference has taught me more than a university course has because I am used to only learning from lectures and readings but this was truly meaningful to my life, touched my heart and exceeded my expectations. Thank you for sharing the [CBC TV] link. I have passed it on to my friends and family.
illalii (thank you in Inuktitut)

Last week’s conference luncheon will go down in the history of the New Sun Conference as one of the best, I think. In all of my imaginings, I could never have predicted that the assembled delegates would accept the invitation to dance; and dance they did! I really wish I could have made it over to Minto to hear the post-concert presentation and dialogue [with A Tribe Called Red]. Did you record it? [Answer: yes] Also, have you ever done a presentation or a short study on the trajectory that the conferences have taken over the years? In my limited understanding of the entire proceedings, you have been building each year…towards what I don’t know, but I’m sure there are many dots that connect. Anyway, that thought struck me this week as I was reflecting on last weekend. Thanks for your confidence in my work. My crew look forward to this event every year and they are happy to be involved in this cultural event.

I meant to say earlier that I asked Elder Jim Albert to smudge the crew and the equipment just as the delegates were entering the [Fenn Lounge] for the luncheon. I’m not as familiar as I might wish to be with Aboriginal rituals—I just know enough to be sure that [smudging] is not incompatible with my own beliefs and in fact brings a richer sense of being a whole person when working within the cultural community at an event. It’s something that I’d like to see continued if I remain your supplier, so feel free to work it into the planning for the day.
–Peter MacDonald, Nutshell Music

Thank you again for letting me be a part of the conference, it was truly uplifting and inspiring as always. It was an absolute honour to be able to photograph it this year, and I sincerely hope the photos measure up to your expectations.
–Marisa Ramey, photographer

Congratulations on organizing such a great conference (concert?) on Saturday.

I have been attending the New Sun Conference for 7 years now, although it is not my field of specialty. Indeed, the conference, for me, has more to do with communal relations and a spirit which guides this event. Each year, I get a chance to freeze time for a day, to put the speedy pace of life and my constant worries on hold, to see the world from rich and invigorating perspectives that are not my own. I step outside myself, so to speak, in many ways. And once the conference is over, I get to enjoy a surreal moment of reflection before I step back in. Thank you and everyone who has made this conference possible, for providing an opportunity like no other…

The conference was great. I had a wonderful time! Saturday was my birthday and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than around inspiring people creating change. Plus the food was phenomenal! I have two articles planned now that will be inspired around the New Sun speakers and will keep you up to date when the articles come out. Congrats on another successful year. I can tell the crowd is a devoted one!

The 13th Annual New Sun Conference was unlike any other conference I have attended. The energy amongst all who attended could be felt throughout the entirety of the day, along with a strong sense of welcoming that gave the conference a community-like feel. This annual conference is hosted as a celebration of aboriginal arts and culture, open to people of all nations and backgrounds. Traditional ceremonial practices, such as smudging, were used as a way of promoting the continuity of aboriginal culture, while also purifying and uniting all who were present. All of the artists that were chosen to speak at the conference were selected because of their innovative and inspiring work. They are all pushing the boundaries and creating artwork that has never been seen before, much like the New Sun Conference itself. It is an event that does not, and has not, taken place anywhere else before. It was a pleasure to be part of a newfangled tradition that takes place in celebration of groundbreaking and unique artwork.

I wanted to give you some feedback concerning the New Sun Conference that I had the pleasure to attend a few weeks back. It was my first time attending it, and my expectations were high. Many people—David Welch, Jean-Luc Fournier, and others—had said how they had thoroughly enjoyed the conference in previous years and I wasn’t disappointed to say the least! Every speaker that gave a presentation in the morning was amazing in her or his way/medium. The food was awesome, and then the show was great of course. The afternoon presentation on APTN was highly informative, although I think Mr. LaRose’s presentation would have been better received had it been in the morning or shorter. The Q&A with A Tribe Called Red was outstanding and a perfect way to finish the day. They were so humble and kind with the crowd; it seemed everyone was joyfully bonding with them. I can’t imagine how much work goes into organizing something of this calibre, and I want to sincerely thank and congratulate you on a most memorable day. It was a wonderful way to celebrate and learn about Aboriginal arts and culture with all its diversity. There’s a lot of hype around the New Sun Conference, and I now know why. See you next year at the latest.
–JF, UOttawa Social Work

My husband and I enjoyed the conference. He spoke of how wonderful it was to see people committed to supporting each other, encouraging growth. What a wonderful example to all of us. I came away from this conference and the last one with such strong images of what people bring to life and community and how sad it is that we keep hurting each other. When speakers have told of what they have grown beyond and what upset or frustrated them along the way, I heard words I could have been saying. There was much in common understanding, and much I have yet to learn.

Most of all, I leave New Sun conferences and events with questions and reasons to look further. As an example, I had not thought about African Americans writing science fiction and fantasy, or parallels in stories being written with the assumption that a character would die in the plot, or that a culture is dying, when the reality is quite different and new stories need to be written. When I read Me Funny, I wondered if Will Rogers was Aboriginal enough.

I have read about what an elder is and does, and I wonder why I stand out (if I do) as an “elder.” In any case, to be treated with kindness is a blessing, and I hope you will tell the students that helped with the conference that it was appreciated. Now I must grow to be worthy.

Thank you for making one beautiful experience after another possible. I will be back as often as I can.

Hats off to you and your team for organizing another great conference. My wife and I enjoy being able to participate in the exchange of ideas and to learn about important and innovative developments taking place in Canadian Aboriginal art. Having the opportunity to meet and hear from talented artists and innovators from across the country is quite special. Looking across the conference room, luncheon tables and dance floor I was pleased to see so many young people participating. This bodes well for the future. Programs such as the New Sun Conference open up dialogue and encourage and promote the sharing of experience and wisdom.

Congratulations Allan to you and your team for yet another outstanding New Sun Conference. Enjoyed every moment of it (especially the noon hour dance concert). Gchi miigwech,

The conference this year was wonderful, again! 8-) I loved all the presentations, including the low-key one by APTN CEO, Jean LaRose, and will be watching for Red Sky Performance. As a visual artist, I found the presentation by photographer Meryl McMaster especially evocative, since her approach to her work is so different from mine. I loved the presentation by Michael Kusugak, such a wonderful storyteller, with such a gentle way of telling us the hard truths of his life. I had not seen A Tribe Called Red before. Wow! Bravo! Another clear success!

The New Sun Conference this year was a wonderful experience, as always. Each of the speakers inspired me in their own way. I was captivated by the personal narratives of each person who spoke to us about their creative journeys. One moment that I will never forget happened at lunch when A Tribe Called Red started playing and I looked over to see Elder Paul Skanks grooving on the dance floor—it was awesome! It was so wonderful to see so many people of different ages and backgrounds coming together and enjoying themselves while also being inspired by the creativity of the speakers. I’m looking forward to next year’s conference!

It was wonderful to finally experience the New Sun Conference after hearing so much about it for so long. It definitely delivered as promised. The thing I found most memorable was how uplifting and positive the entire day was. The environment itself lent to this, as it felt very much community-centred, supportive, diverse and open. I would like to acknowledge and give thanks to all of the Elders that were present who no doubt played a significant role in this.  Being in an academic environment these days where there is an emphasis on critical analysis, and problematizing from many angles, it was refreshing to be reminded of the unhindered perspective of possibilities as demonstrated, through example, by each of the inspiring speakers. I took away a little seed to explore further from all of them—dance, theatre and the amazing programs offered at the Banff Centre from Sandra Lalonde (and how powerful arts can be in community building and strengthening), how effective repetition, animation and humility are in storytelling from Michael Kusugak, how important it feels to explore self-portraiture in my own journey of self-awareness, identity and ancestry from Meryl McMaster, how I may be on the right path after all with wanting to find ways to educate and help tell history from an Indigenous perspective (using digital media even), as confirmed by Jean LaRose’s mention of APTN’s latest project, True History (I wonder if they need any production assistants? :)), and finally a reminder of how staying true to one’s self and community, keeping it real, creative and fun is key to growing deep roots from which to branch out and even reach the world with, as brought to us by A Tribe Called Red.

Really, everyone present seemed to contribute to creating the special vibe of the day. I really liked how you concluded by remarking on how everyone’s story is important and how much we can learn from each other through sharing them. My sentiments exactly ;) Congratulations again and thank you for organizing and orchestrating such a memorable and beautiful day. And great thanks to all of the speakers for sharing their stories.

The conference was fabulous, as usual. I really liked the mix of different kinds of arts, mix of generations, and mix of performance (A Tribe Called Red, Michael Kusugak) and traditional presentation. The food was also superb.

I guess what stood out most for me was A Tribe Called Red. I had heard about them, but had never seen them perform. Actually seeing it [their performance] was much better than just hearing it described. Bear, Ian and Dan were so open and articulate during the Q and A session. All the presenters of the day were very gracious, honest and generous.

One of the things I enjoy most about this conference is how you set the stage and refer to us all throughout the day as a community. Elder Jim Albert’s smudging and prayers, in addition to your touching all of us with your words Allan, co-creates a spiritual experience, not just a conference. Thank you.

13th New Sun Conference, entitled Narrative Heart was for me a repeat experience of hope and positive affirmations that built upon the impact of the previous year’s conference, entitled Trailblazers. Sandra Laronde’s presentation anchored my appreciation for the day when she spoke about bringing indigenous arts into communities and her views about the movement of distinct native cultures working collaboratively in efforts of focused philanthropy. Michael Kusugak lovingly reminded us about the importance of oral and written traditions in encouraging curiosity and supporting a grounded sense of identity. Meryl McMaster demonstrated how the focused application of curiosity to self-discovery through the arts can ignite self-reflection in others and create a safe space to challenge cultural precepts. Jean LaRose brought forward the artistry behind an unwavering commitment to the mass dissemination of native arts and culture for the reclamation of indigenous identities. And finally, there was A Tribe Called Red which made the day’s teachings experientially accessible to all of us through the unifying momentum of their music and by allowing us to witness their relationship with one another. In the end we understood that there was nothing mysterious about the day’s message. It was about taking disparate, sometimes marginalizing experiences, transforming them into confluences of collaboration and cultural empowerment, and having fun doing it.

The energy in the air was palpable on the morning of March 1, 2014 at the New Sun Conference, Narrative Heart, at Carleton University. The sweet grass smudging ceremony by Elder Jim Albert fostered a welcome, inclusive atmosphere for the day’s events of narratives, creative storytelling, music and native cuisine. Overall my experience was a positive one, boosted especially by A Tribe Called Red’s performance and afternoon discussion. It was wonderful to see such a great number and diversity of conference participants dancing together, exemplifying the values behind the conference—of possibility and promise and the celebration of indigenous creative expression. I found the conference refreshingly welcoming, inspiring, and motivating. It reinforced that there is a continued need for this gathering within the indigenous and non-indigenous community in Ottawa. It highlighted the creative possibilities that artists, businesses and organizations are pushing towards. In return, this encourages new dialogues and celebrates the presence of an active Aboriginal arts community in Canada.

Wow—what an amazing day! Thank you Professor Ryan for putting on such a great conference. Hearing from such a diverse group of presenters reminded me that if we open our minds and hearts, we will find that we are never too old to learn new things. The generosity shared by both the presenters and guests made me feel a part of such a welcoming community, making my experience all the more unforgettable. I especially enjoyed the stories told to us by Michael Kusugak, who enriches his readers and listeners with the traditions and wonders of Native storytelling. This conference sums up the incredible importance of the Aboriginal arts, and I’ll definitely be back next year!

I found the 13th New Sun Conference, Narrative Heart, to be extraordinary in many ways. The presenters were enlightening, creative and engaging. Michael Kusugak’s incredible storytelling captures not only the little child but the bigger child in all of us. Meryl McMaster’s youth shone through all the voices of years of experience and skill and she demonstrated through her photography the broad spectrum of creativity that is abundant in the young. Her work was fresh and it was exciting to see the perspectives of space and identity. APTN’s executive director, Jean LaRose, promoted a new relationship between large media and the Indigenous culture. APTN’s perseverance to stay on course and not resign to mainstream norms for the sake of the end product was refreshing. Sandra Laronde, Artistic Director of Red Sky Performance was an inspiration on many levels for me.  She introduced the international scope of the Indigenous dance group, showing that there are no barriers to where Indigenous artists can go. To me she also showed that through their cultural heritage of music and storytelling Indigenous artists will prevail in educating the masses about what and who Indigenous Peoples are. A Tribe Called Red pumped out the tunes, making the people move and bringing it all home to language, culture and tradition. Their music speaks of a place for all of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Music is the good medicine that brings to life the good in peoples all over the world. No matter what culture, no matter what level of understanding, A Tribe Called Red can move us, which is what all artists, musicians and creative souls want to do.

Attending the 2014 New Sun Conference was like meeting an old friend who never fails to inform, entertain, and surprise. It is hard to describe the rich and comfortable feeling of being with so many old friends and colleagues with whom I’ve shared this experience over the past years, including Elder Jim Albert, whose presence grounds the event. In addition, our program sponsors Aboriginal students to attend, and as always, the experience is the highlight of their year at Carleton.

Of special interest for me this year were the presentations by Sandra Laronde, Indigenous Artistic Director of the Banff Centre for the Arts, and Artistic Director of the Red Sky dance troupe, and Inuk author of children’s books, Michael Kusugak. I am in awe of Laronde’s accomplishments, which have greatly contributed to the strength of Canadian Indigenous presence on the national and international art scene. She is a model of Indigenous originality and creativity, and also of administrative excellence. Michael Kusugak, whose work and collaborations with Robert Munch were familiar children’s literature for me, gave a moving and somehow gripping enactment of himself as a young child in a generational ritual of entreating his grandmother to tell more stories. Through this he magically conveyed his own experience, and some beautiful cultural conventions and meanings around storytelling. His little boy voice is still in my head, so appealing and open-hearted.

The main surprise was the all-out dance party with A Tribe Called Red at the lunch time concert. Appreciation of their music and message was heightened by the sense that they were on the verge of winning their first Juno award, which of course they did. Sincere thanks to Dr. Allan Ryan for engaging [with artists] to craft and present this yearly event: it represents an enormous amount of work on his part, and each year it is evident that it is a labour of love.
–PR, Coordinator, Aboriginal Enriched Support Program (AESP), Centre for Initiatives in Education, Carleton University

I participated for the first time this year in the New Sun Conference and I would like to thank you for organizing it. It was very interesting to meet native artists and share their perspectives on their projects. I thought Michael Kusugak was particularly interesting and lively. In general it was very interesting and it showed me a positive perspective on the native people of Canada.

The conference was so amazing! T___ and I had a great time. I saw the story on CBC and posted it to my facebook. My granny saw it and was very happy to see me handing out a gift in it. :) I hope you are less busy now that the conference is finished! What an accomplishment… I heard nothing but great things from everyone around me about it.

I would like to thank you for the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2014 New Sun Conference. I had the opportunity to attend last year’s New Sun Conference which was also fantastic. All of the speakers at the conferences were very motivating. It is a pleasant reminder of all the good things that people can achieve in life. It is nice to see how the speakers can express and share their successes through the arts. Seeing people congratulating and celebrating the successes of others is truly inspiring. The conference is a great event that allows people to be reminded of the positive aspects in life. Listening to other people’s stories of success generates hope. Although the road to success is not easy, the New Sun Conference is a reminder that hardships and obstacles can be overcome on your way to success. The speakers at the conference all had amazing stories that showed that hardships can be overcome through hard work and dedication. I look forward to what is in store for us at next year’s New Sun Conference. It is always a pleasure and privilege to attend such an event.

Thank you and everyone involved in making this year’s conference a success yet again. The conference is always so inspiring. The luncheon was delicious. I think it’s great that the number of speakers was limited to five. It really gave us a chance to hear what they had to say and exchange with them thanks to the time that was allotted to the question periods. I don’t know of a lot of conferences that give that much time for artists to express themselves in an academic setting. It is wonderful that the New Sun conference does this every year. I have been interested in creation as research lately so I was delighted by Meryl McMaster’s eloquent and articulate thoughts on her creative process. I was wondering if you would consider inviting theatre artists for the next editions. I would really love to hear from the folks at Native Earth Performing Arts, the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company or Full Circle in Vancouver. Just a few suggestions! Thank you very much! I am looking forward to next year!

The Conference was a tremendous and unforgettable experience. It was the first time that being at an academic conference was more than just informative, it was also fun. I hope that the conference continues for many years, and that I am able to attend it in the future. The conference demonstrates the potential to challenge the dominant exclusionary narrative in a variety of different ways. Challenging narratives that reinforce racism, lies, and false dichotomies can not only take place in academia. Indeed, the conference and the presenters prove that such a challenge can—and should—take place within culture, art, and the media.

The New Sun Conference was extremely well organized, a complete success. It was a friendly place to learn and to share, to listen and to be heard. The choice of speakers/artists was excellent and all of them touched us in very special ways. They were very well prepared, rigorous yet creative and warm. I also like the fact that we had opportunities to enter into a dialogue with them—usually, the audience is only allowed a couple of questions. What struck me and touched me was the respect everyone had for each other. Allan Ryan communicated that intelligence of the heart from the very beginning of the conference. My sincere thanks to all who made it possible, including [UOttawa professor] David Welch, for inviting us.

The New Sun Conference was an amazing event that showcased some of the wonderful things that are happening in the arts today. The conference was very inclusionary and personal, as the space was made both familiar and sacred by having elder Jim Albert smudge the rooms with sage. The guest speakers, Sandra Laronde, Michael Kusugak, Meryl McMaster, A Tribe Called Red, and Jean LaRose were varied and all had different approaches and themes to discuss, which kept things interesting and informative. They all contributed in some manner by recounting their stories and their traditional stories, representing a dynamic artistic presence in a Canadian and global context, and by giving voice to a contemporary Native identity. The lunch was delicious and the entire experience was pumped up to a whole new level of excitement with the live performance of A Tribe Called Red, whose throbbing powwow inspired music and subversive videos gave a real experiential and interactive aspect to the conference. All in all, the conference was a great reflection of the thriving artistic Native community in Canada that inspired its participants.

We really enjoyed the New Sun Conference! I thought that it was well organized, the food was great and the speakers were inspirational. I really enjoyed Meryl McMaster’s presentation, K___ liked A Tribe Called Red’s Q&A and we both thought Michael Kusugak was very funny and engaging. Thanks again for organizing it! I look forward to going to the next one.

I was struck by President Runte’s opening remarks about the fresh white snow covering the dark dirty earth. Though some people critiqued her speech recounting her four different experiences with the snow I found it set the perfect tone for the conference. It made me realize that just as snow could have so many experiences and identities at once (peaceful, dirty, pure, heavy) so too could all other aspects of daily life. It helped put me in a mindset very similar to that of the Inuit (and from my understanding many other First Nations and Aboriginal groups), one of circular non-linear thought. Instead of the snow having one identity at a time it can comprise multiple experiences and be approached from multiple perspectives. I felt that after hearing her speech I could more easily and comfortably come to appreciate perspectives such as First Nations/Aboriginal that I am not used to considering.

As you know, my overall impressions of the conference (over the past 3 years) are very positive: 1. The themes and lineup of presenters are always an interesting mix—a good cross-section of folks speaking on a theme that is not only topical (and innovative) but also has good theoretical implications (which is important for those pursing academic research); 2. There is an excellent balance between the “lecture” component and the “non-lecture” section (i.e., lunch)—time to think and reflect but also to experience Aboriginal art and culture directly through song, dance, etc.; 3. It is an excellent opportunity for folks from different parts of the university (i.e., academic units, students, faculty and staff) as well as the broader Ottawa community to “meet, mix, and mingle”—relationships can be made, strengthened etc., and clearly those in the broader community see the value in what is being presented.

Imo, the New Sun Conference fills a necessary void regarding academic presentation of Aboriginal arts and culture (A&C), particularly with respect to increasing community awareness of the valuable contributions made by our First Nations, Metis and Inuit A&C practitioners. The loss of such a dynamic and crucial conference would damage relations built up over the years of the New Sun Conference’s existence to the extent to which it would be next to impossible to recover. In today’s climate of reconciliation with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters it is essential that the New Sun Conference continues to lead the way in inspiring resilience, engaging authenticity, healing through the arts, and transforming mind-sets. Cross-cultural understanding will enable humans to move forward TOGETHER, to resolve our communal, environmental and social issues.  Please ensure that this EXTREMELY valuable conference continues!
Love and light,
–RDP, Bonnechere Algonquin Anishaabe Kwe-mixed race descent

The conference was amazing, as usual. Thanks so much. The highlight for me was dancing to the music of A Tribe Called Red at lunch. Immediately after I got home I ordered their most recent album from iTunes. What a treat. I’ll be sure to check out some electric powwows at Barrymore’s in the future!  I was wondering, since the conference is recorded, is it possible for people to have access to those recordings? I would actually like to re-watch the talk by the Inuit speaker as I am working on an article about poetry right now and I think I can work in some of his fabulous observations about writers and astronomy.*

[*The answer is yes. All presentations are archived on DVD and can be borrowed from Carleton’s MacOdrum Library.]

I was impressed with the variety of the speakers who were invited. I was very happy with the fact that they were all very diverse professionals and not academics. Sandra Laronde described dancing in terms I would never have thought of, and yet it seemed like it was exactly what I had been thinking my whole life. A Tribe Called Red gave me ideas to transmit to my musician friends on their road to fame in Europe. Jean LaRose gave me detailed evidence of the possibilities to achieve economic growth and development while staying true to one’s roots and values, Meryl McMaster provided me with answers to questions I did not even know I needed to ask, and Michael Kusugak made me love seals and old stories even more.

The 2014 New Sun Conference inspired me to work even harder at making things better for aboriginal communities in Canada, not because I feel guilty or because I feel like they will not be able to achieve anything without my help, but because it is what is right. The speakers provided me with images and words of pride and hope, and that was exactly what I was in need of. I wish that every Canadian citizen in this country were able to witness all the ideas, projects and achievements that emerge every minute in aboriginal communities. I wish everyone were aware of the success they encounter and would start realizing that: 1) aboriginal peoples are still here, 2) they are doing what everyone does, from ordering pizza to worrying about their children’s future, 3) they might need help with a couple of things but are also very good at taking care of their own matters, 4) the best way to help is simply to ask and then provide them with help according to what they need and what we are able to give. I wish many other things, but wishing is not enough, I need to get to work. During this New Sun Conference, I learnt what people need and how I can give a hand. Learning stories comes with the responsibility to honour them and make good use of them. This will continue to be my goal.

It was such a wonderful day and I am so grateful to have been a part of it. It is always such a powerful event.

The New Sun Conference aims to make a deep and long-lasting impression on attendants by disclosing Aboriginal artist’s own views of their work. Every year I have attended, it manages to effectively convey artistic intent while leaving attendants with a long-lasting emotional impression characteristic of Indigenous pedagogy. I say this because in my experience with Indigenous teaching, a lot is learned merely by observing and listening intently. For the most part, that is what we do when we attend the conference; listen intently to each other and observe artwork.  How the conference manages to leave lasting emotional impressions has a lot to do with the power of the artist’s care and conviction expressed in the art’s messages. Over the last five years, the conference and the people involved have significantly influenced my life. If not directly, they have led me to a person who opened a door that took me to a new place and so on. I agree with the sentiment that there is a New Sun Community, and that by celebrating Aboriginal artistic success, we can create allies in the larger community and promote the artists at the same time.

This year stood out for me as a year where more youth came out, and it might have had something to do with A Tribe Called Red.  Either way, it was really cool to get up and dance at an arts conference; it gave the luncheon a different feeling than usual. My table was reluctant [to dance] at first but I guess I saw a chance to exercise my impulsiveness and get up there myself, and they all followed. lol Dancing is a great addition to the program! I really enjoyed that incorporation. Michael Kusugak, Meryl McMaster and A Tribe Called Red left the greatest impressions on me from the presentations, although they were all very interesting and inspiring. Wela’lin,

I really enjoyed the conference, and so did my father. How wonderful that so many people came and created such a nice spirit of togetherness and passion. I definitely felt the air was buzzing when I entered the conference hall. I particularly loved the story telling by Michael Kusugak—what talent! He had me captivated. I also loved hearing about the creative and artistic initiatives led by Meryl McMaster and Sandra Laronde. It made me think about my own need to enliven creativity in my day-to-day life. If I had one piece of feedback, it would be to really encourage presenters to tell their personal stories—this is what captivates audiences. I loved the food. It was absolutely delicious and [the luncheon was] a great way to mingle with people. [The day was] wonderfully organized, and if I can again next year, I would love to attend.

Thank you so much for a wonderful conference!  I am still talking about it with my colleagues! Already looking forward to next year’s!
–LDE, Learning Partner for Aboriginal Education (K-12), Student Success Department, Ottawa Catholic School Board

Thank you so much for this. I really enjoyed New Sun, and dancing to A Tribe Called Red was cathartic for me. An excellent conference, as always. Thanks again Allan, I so appreciated this.

Congratulations on the superb organization of the annual New Sun Conference last Saturday! What an exciting, inspirational, and educational day—and the traditional gourmet lunch was delicious, actually more than delicious! Many thanks for letting me know about the Conference. The day certainly was special, and a very moving one as I listened to the words and messages of the artists and the elders. I now have more information for my Contemporary Aboriginal Art in Canada presentation in April, and I am just starting to read your book. I would appreciate receiving any post-conference information you may be sending out, and would like to ensure that my email address is added to your list of attendees, for any additional information you may provide in the future. Thank you again!

The main idea that resonated with me, from the conference, the presenters and especially from Elder Jim Albert, is the reference that Dr. Ryan makes often in our class: “how many ways can we say that we are still here?” Through the various media that was presented at the conference and the interactions that were had personally, it is ever apparent to me that we, Aboriginal peoples, are still here, in various forms and expressions and we will always be here. We will always be here because we are a strong and resilient people, capable of surviving even the most heinous obstacles and we can come out stronger than ever, adapting and thriving to survive.

I truly gained a lot from being privileged to attend the 13th Annual New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts: Narrative Heart. I have gained a new perspective on how university classes can be organized and how very interesting events outside of the classroom can have a significant role in the classroom. I have been motivated to get back in touch with my artistic side and possibly seek out a formal art or photography class for adults. I especially loved Meryl McMaster’s presentation of her photography and her creative process. I was truly inspired by all of the presentations at the conference. It has been re-affirmed in my mind that each individual can make a difference in the world and as a part of the Aboriginal community in Canada I can contribute to the national and even global movement towards a positive future for Indigenous peoples.

This has been my sixth conference and like previous ones it has been a pleasure and privilege to attend. I have been impressed with the diversity of the artists that you have invited and of their art. Finding success as an artist is difficult but it must be more so for aboriginal artists in a society with pre-conceived notions. From traditional artists to those who have succeeded in business I hope they serve as an inspiration to Aboriginal youth, to let them know that a world of opportunity exists for them out there. I look forward to attending next year’s conference and I am sure it will be as rewarding as the last six!

Thanks once again for planning a wonderful New Sun Conference. A clever title/theme. All I can say is that your selection of artists is always superb. It seemed that there were fewer artists this year and that created a less hurried feeling which was good.* I thought that Jean LaRose’s presentation could have benefited from a few more visuals. Video clips and visual images of APTN work could have livened up the presentation. It did pick up after he mentioned the Olympics. I sent Michael Kusugak names of Canadian publishers who publish in French and who might be interested in translating his works. The food was wonderful as usual. Once again, thanks to you and your great team for putting this together.

[*The number of artists was actually the same as in previous years.]

Congratulations on delivering another amazing New Sun Conference! It was extremely well organized and the program was excellent—as was the food! You must be very pleased and very tired! I really enjoyed the day—it is always so good for the soul.

The opening prayer touched our hearts and reminded us how sacred these gatherings are. Jim’s words brought tears to my companion’s eyes with the gentle reminder that we are all important and have to be good to one another. I was honoured to see the spirituality being acknowledged as part of this event. To remind everyone that we are on Algonquin lands was wonderful.

I really appreciated the gentleness of Michael and hearing the ways of Nunavut. It is far away from the concrete and traffic. It’s was a reminder that nature gives us a peaceful existence but I know life and survival was hard up north. He reminded me of where I began my life (except that where I began life there were many trees and boulders). By just hearing his voice and the warmth of his speaking style I felt like hearing the whole story. It was clear that children must just adore his stories and parents everywhere delight in reading them to their children. I appreciated all recounts of the past during the times of change when the names had to be “adjusted” to suit the English/French speaking people. His naming of the moons was fun to hear too!

For Sandra’s presentation she instilled hope for the Indigenous Peoples of the world. She has found a voice and a platform to express to the world that we are not dead. And that we are beautiful people. And we have much to say.

Young Meryl being one of them! What a lovely young lady. She is very talented and her art is powerful with intense colours against shades of white. The message in her canvas is deep with symbolism. Though her canvas is comprised of photographs she dreams up wonderful ways of making her images inspire questions and answers at the same time.

I was encouraged by Jean’s representation of APTN—how it also gives Canadian Indigenous peoples a voice and platform. They really are trailblazers with other news stations borrowing their material for their networks.

Finally, the three young men who are A Tribe Called Red (Ian, Dan and Bear), showed us the unique and splendid way they have of reaching the younger audiences with the most ancient and traditional music of the First Nations drum songs. To think they’ve taken this sound out of the powwow and allowed it to reach the general population in an interesting way. I was also happy to hear that they only use music they have permission to use. (For example there are drum songs so sacred that they should only be sung on occasions such as at funerals.)

The meal prepared was delicious. My compliments go to the chef. Thanks so much for all the effort made to put together this event!

The New Sun Conference was wonderful this year. I’m sure you’ve received lots of great feedback to which I’ll add that A Tribe Called Red put on a great performance. They’re such eloquent and educated young men as well. I particularly enjoyed McMaster’s presentation, though all of them were interesting. So many ways that art can express itself through us!

I enjoyed the conference quite a bit, not least the lunch, which was absolutely exceptional, reflecting the variety of the conference. I walked away inspired and with useful contacts—and also a different idea of Carleton, which I had always thought of exclusively as a hotbed of technocracy. Thank you for your efforts in organizing this conference.

That’s very nice news coverage by CBC, seemingly out of character when considering Jean LaRose’s presentation. I think what was memorable is that both Meryl McMaster and Bear Thomas are a younger generation of contemporary Indigenous artists. I’m not sure if Jeff Thomas has presented at New Sun in the past* but it was great to see Meryl present after Gerald McMaster did last year, showing the future as it unfolds. Thanks again.

[*Photographer Jeff Thomas presented at the First Annual New Sun Symposium in 2002.]

I hope the strain from preparing the conference was outweighed by the joy of its success.

Another great gathering!! You could feel the positive buzz in that room. My friends L and G were all smiles and so thankful to be there.
–Jim Albert (Elder)

Congratulations on another amazing New Sun Conference. I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s edition and found it entertaining and enlightening, as always.

Many thanks for all of your hard work! The day was amazing and well-balanced as far as presenters go. The meal was fantastic, and I will see you again next year.
–KBS, teacher, St. Mark High School

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. It was a moving experience for me. Thanks so much for making room for me.

Every year you hit a home run. Well done!

I saw the CBC coverage of your conference. It was really impressive. Kudos.

I have been meaning to send a note to tell you how wonderful the New Sun Conference was. Thanks so much!

What a wonderful conference, it was amazing, all the speakers, and then the music! I hope you are enjoying a day of relaxing and doing nothing and spending time with Rae!

Great [CBC TV] news report on what appears to be another great conference. Congrats again. I hope you post it to your website!

Congratulations Allan! That was a nice piece the CBC did on your conference. Sounds like it was a tremendous success once again. I’m impressed with how it just keeps on picking up steam each year. Well done!

Allan, what a great news piece!! Congratulations on another wonderful day.

Congratulations on the once again fabulous conference. I know we all enjoyed attending it.

Thank you again for a wonderful day—now take a day off!

nsc- logo-small

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