book coverBy Karl Hele

After a seven-year hiatus the Canadian Indigenous/Native Studies Association’s (CINSA) Annual Conference will be reborn 11-13 June 2015 at Concordia University.  The First Peoples Studies Program (FPST) and Concordia University are honoured to be hosting this renewed event. Drawing on Anishinaabeg prophecy and recent movements in Indigenous and Canadian society, the organizers titled the conference “Survivance and Reconciliation: 7 Forward 7 Back.”

CINSA’s executive committee decided that the newly inaugurated FPST program at Concordia University would be the ideal host for a relaunch of the society and its annual conference. This honour and challenge speaks to the respect and standing that FPST and Concordia has and continues to gain in Indigenous Studies. Concordia’s FPST program, which officially began in 2013, offers major and minor programs.  Courses are taught mainly by full and part-time Indigenous faculty. FPST courses range from culture to politics to history to contemporary issues with the primary focus on the Indigenous peoples resident in Quebec and Canada. The event will give Concordia an opportunity not only to host a conference but to showcase its recent efforts at indigenizing the academy.

The conference’s theme, “Survivance and Reconciliation: 7 Forward 7 Back”, draws on the Anishinaabeg perspective that calls upon all people to consider themselves at a central point looking forward seven generations as well as back seven generations. With this perspective in mind, participants will address how First Peoples’ ancestors, while struggling against colonialism, ensured that our communities, cultures, and languages would survive and eventually enjoy a renaissance. Yet the concept of survivance is more than simply survival; it speaks to the idea that our cultures and peoples have changed and grown and will continue to do so. Now the current generation is looking forward seven generations to ensure our continued survival as peoples with vibrant cultures. As part of the process we have embarked on a path of reconciliation with ourselves and settlers. We hope that such efforts will help ensure our collective survivance through reconciliation.

Hosted by the First Peoples Studies program the conference will have more than 125 presenters and speakers sharing their collective knowledge on everything from land claims, to literature, to film, to education, to urban issues, and the environment. The conference is not strictly academic. Community members as well as elders and artists have been offered a place to speak or perform. By acknowledging and supporting all forms of knowledge transmission we are seeking to present a more holistic version of how knowledge is created, transmitted, and learned.  In addition, both contemporary and traditional cultural workshops have been added to the program – basket making and beading as well as spoken work performance and artistry. Organizers convinced Drew Hayden Taylor, Anishinaabeg playwright, author, and comedian, to not only perform at the feast on 12 June, but to offer a workshop on 11 June for twenty participants.  Finally, since the conference is being held in Quebec, organizers have created sharing circles that will look at issues within the province, such as the state of Indigenous Arts, the 40th anniversary of the groundbreaking James Bay Agreement of 1975, and the 25th anniversary of the Oka Crisis.  In keeping with the theme of the conference each sharing circle will examine the past, present, and future within the context of survivance and reconcilation.    Registration is open to everyone at  https://genesis.concordia.ca/events/e1502002    for more information contact cinsa@concordia.ca  or under featured events at http://www.concordia.ca/artsci/scpa.html