Thank You, ILSA Members!
ILSA's 2nd Annual Gathering was a wonderful success because of the inspired creativity and intellectual exchange of everyone who participated and attended!
On May 28th and 29th 2016, ILSA gathered at Academic Congress in Calgary, on Treaty 7 territory in the traditional lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy, to think together about the sometimes conflicted relationship between alliance and autonomy in decolonial struggles as imagined, illustrated, and interrogated through Indigenous literary arts. These issues were confronted with tact and vigor by artists, elders, community members, scholars, and students; and we are grateful for the generosity of participants’ interventions and for their willingness to challenge disciplinary and institutional orthodoxies.
The gathering opened in ceremony with Elder Keith Chiefmoon Onistaya Kopi of the Issoitapi clan of the Blood Indian Reserve Standoff, Alberta. Later Eldon Yellowhorn of the Piikani Blackfoot Nation delivered a mind-expanding keynote talk entitled “Stories of the Once-Were People” that reached to Blackfoot oral narratives to complicate and better understand the archaeological record of the territories in which the gathering was held. Demonstrating remarkable linguistic knowledge and interdisciplinary agility, Eldon had the audience riveted to our seats! There are far too many further highlights to list in full, but we wish to acknowledge:
- the continued community-building success of the Renate Eigenbrod Mentorship Lunch, which pairs newer scholars and writers with mentors in their fields;
- the inspiring evening of poetry and prose featuring readings by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Joanne Arnott, Marilyn Dumont, Gregory Scofield, and Richard Van Camp and book launches by Mini Aodla Freeman and Beverly Little Thunder;
- and the “Plenary on Applied Humanities Work with Indigenous Youth,” in honour of our dearly departed mentor, colleague, and friend Jo-Ann Episkenew, which was facilitated exquisitely by Jo-Ann’s co-workers at the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre Dustin Brass and Erin Goodpipe.
Perhaps nowhere were the themes of our gathering on display more powerfully than in this year’s Aboriginal Roundtable entitled “Decolonial Solidarities and the Work of Sharron Proulx-Turner.” Co-sponsored by both the Canadian Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies and the Canadian Applied Literature Association, this event brought together fourteen Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers to reflect on the work, life, and influence of Two-Spirit Métis poet, activist, editor, and mentor Sharron Proulx-Turner, who has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The event replicated beautifully the ethics of solidarity Sharron has modeled throughout her life—in which she has encouraged and created opportunities for other artists, created safe spaces for Two-Spirit and gender non-conforming people to express themselves ceremonially, and supported with relentless conviction the work of her communities—as panelists banded together to support Sharron at this time and to share her work with audiences that may not be familiar with the profundity of her creative influence.
The session elicited raucous laughter and more than a few tears, and in so doing offered insight into the complex relationship between alliance and autonomy: the roundtable panelists expressed and performed their alliance, yet because little effort was made to render legible the session’s strategic departure from standard academic protocols to the diverse audience, the ethic of care expressed communally by participants indeed constituted autonomous expression. And herein resides the roundtable’s protracted influence: it shared with all of those present the ethics of care and respect not just for art but for artists and their communities that we believe ought to be at the centre of the work scholars in our field pursue. It is a reminder by which we are humbled and for which we are grateful. Many thanks to Sharron for attending, to Richard Van Camp for emceeing, to the panelists for sharing your words, to Keavy Martin and Sophie McCall for your vision for the event, and to Larissa Lai, Aruna Srivastava, CALCALS, and CALA for your financial and other support.
The gathering as a whole would not have been possible without the wisdom, vision, and energy of Aruna Srivastava, who oversaw all elements of organization big and small. We owe Aruna a tremendous debt of thanks and she deserves the most luxurious of summer holidays. We are also indebted to Deanna Reder’s indefatigable team of research assistants from The People and the Text Project, including Treena Chambers, Sandie Dielissen, Natalie Knight, Michelle Nahanee, June Scudeler, Alix Shield, and Rachel Taylor. Further thanks are owed to Warren Cariou and the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture at the University of Manitoba, Larissa Lai and the Insurgent Architects’ House for Creative Writing, Keavy Martin and the Creative Conciliations Research Project, the International Indigenous Studies Program at the University of Calgary, the Congress Aid to Interdisciplinary Panels Program, and Hartmut Lutz.
For those of you who were able to attend the gathering, thank you so much for your efforts and insights. For those who were not, you were missed and we look forward to the next time we can engage in conversation.
Please note that ILSA elections will be held in October with nominations for the graduate representative, the treasurer, and the president-elect due in September 2016. Also, please mark off the dates for ILSA’s 2017 gathering on the theme of “Indigenous Communities in Urban Spaces,” which will be held on unceded Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Watuth territories in Vancouver, British Columbia June 18th-20th, 2017 (directly prior to NAISA).
Sam McKegney on behalf of the ILSA Executive
Deanna Reder, Jesse Archibald-Barber, Sophie McCall, Warren Cariou, Sarah Henzi, and Adar Charlton