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7th Annual New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts
Reaching Back + Reaching Out
Carleton University, March 1, 2008

New Sun Rising

by Allan J. Ryan

On Saturday March 1, more than one hundred and fifty people braved the snow to attend the 7th Annual New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts at Carleton University.  As in previous years, the capacity crowd was richly rewarded. 

Since 2002 the New Sun Conference - sometimes characterized as a Acultural festival with an academic edge@ - has celebrated the achievements of contemporary Aboriginal artists across a wide variety of expressive genres.

The conference regularly attracts an impressive cross-section of the Ottawa community: students and faculty, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, educators and health professionals, government employees and interested members of the general public. 

Opening this year=s conference on the theme, “Reaching Back + Reaching Out,” was Tracey Deer, a young film maker from Kahnawake whose documentary treatments of urban Aboriginal youth have earned her a devoted following. Her new film, Club Native, is currently traveling the film festival circuit.

Deer was followed by Clealls (John Medicine Horse Kelly) and Elaine Keillor, two Carleton faculty members, who traced the development of two encyclopaedic websites, and They were joined by Beverly Souliere, a member of the award winning Ottawa singing group, Women of Wabano, and a contributor to the latter website.

Closing off the morning session was Taqralik Partridge, a writer and spoken word performance artist originally from northern Quebec, who is establishing a reputation for her smart and sassy lyric poems on urban Inuit life. Her first CD is currently in production.

A distinguishing aspect of the New Sun Conference is a luncheon of Native foods, which this year featured venison and buffalo ragout, and arctic char with lobster bisque, in addition to  tantalizing vegetable dishes.

Capping off the luncheon was a riveting performance by noted Six Nations dancer/choreographer, Santee Smith, who performed excerpts from her work, Kaha:wi.

Well-known actor/choreographer Michael Greyeyes opened the afternoon session with a screening and discussion of the film, Triptych, an exploration of residential school fallout, which he wrote, choreographed and performed in. 

Santee Smith delivered the final presentation of the day, highlighting the challenges and rewards of her work as a dancer and artistic director. 

Both Michael Greyeyes and Santee Smith will return to the national capitol on June 10 to participate in the Canada Dance Festival at the National Arts Centre.


Allan J. Ryan resides with his family on Fentiman Avenue in Old Ottawa South. An Associate Professor in Canadian Studies and Art History at Carleton University, he has held the position of New Sun Chair in Aboriginal Art and Culture since 2001, and organized the New Sun Conference since its inception. The next conference is scheduled for February 28, 2009. You can contact him at 



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 .