North

Dechinta plays host to Indigenous-focused academic conference this week

This year’s Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) conference is happening in Yellowknife this week. Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning is one of eight conference hosts throughout the world this year.

Conference starts Wednesday in Yellowknife and runs until Saturday

Kelsey Wrightson is the executive director of Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning. The centre is hosting a conference this week in Yellowknife of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the largest academic association in the world with a focus on Indigenous studies or Native studies. (Morgan Tsetta/Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning)

The land-based Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning will be hosting a section of a world-renown event.

This year's Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) conference is happening in Yellowknife this week. Dechinta is one of eight conference hosts throughout the world this year. Other conference hosts are in Toronto, Norway, Taiwan, and Australia.

The conference, themed "Sustaining Indigenous Liveliness: NAISA North," is the largest academic association in the world with a focus on Indigenous studies or Native studies, said Kelsey Wrightson, Dechinta's executive director. 

She said Dechinta applied to host the event late last year.

'Showcasing knowledge from community members'

The local conference is meant to celebrate northern Indigenous scholars and share their findings. Wrightson said it will also be a chance to showcase the work Dechinta has been doing in the North.

"We're really focused on showcasing the knowledge from community members, from elders, and from the land. So when we chose our conference panels and conference presentations it was always with that in mind," Wrightson said.

The conference will be held at a few locations including the Yellowknife Ski Club and the Wıı̀lıı̀deh site by the Yellowknife River.

Dechinta has already hosted three versions of the program this year — one in Whitehorse at the end of May, along with a series of virtual panel presentations. The one this week in Yellowknife is the final NAISA event.

On top of the in-person panels, there will also be a music showcase and a book launch taking place on Saturday. 

"I think I'm probably most excited to participate in that and to celebrate all the incredible thinkers that are coming together for this conference," Wrightson said.

"What I really hope people get out of this conference, is just seeing all the brilliant folks all around them, really understanding that there's a lot of really amazing conversations, a lot of really incredible research that's being done in the North by northerners."

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson helped work on a book launching at the NAISA conference this week in Yellowknife. (Nadya Kwandibens)

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist, edited Ndè Sii Wet'aɂà: Northern Indigenous Voices on Land, Life & Art, the book that will be launched Saturday at the conference's Wıı̀lıı̀deh site. Simpson worked on it with Kyla LeSage and Thumlee Drybones-Foliot.

It is a collection of essays, interviews, short stories and poetry written by emerging and established northern Indigenous writers and artists, Simpson said. 

"This book is so precious to me. It's just this amazing collection of northern brilliance," Simpson said.

"Some really amazing heart-felt pieces around land and around life."

The conference starts Wednesday and runs until Saturday.

For more information visit dechinta.ca/naisa2022.

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