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Dechinta to ‘showcase the North’ as host of NAISA conference


The NWT’s Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning will be one of eight conference hosts for the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, or NAISA, between March and June.

Kelsey Wrightson, Dechinta’s executive director, said everyone involved is “very, very excited” to host the conference and “showcase all the incredible brilliance of Indigenous communities across the North.”

In a news release, Dechinta said NAISA brings together more than 1,000 educators, students, Elders, and Indigenous studies professionals. Dechinta will host a series of virtual and in-person events on the theme of sustaining Indigenous liveliness, which will include activities like hide tanning, medicine harvesting, and the making of dryfish.

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The virtual component will be accessible through an online portal on Dechinta’s website from May 15 to June 15. 

Wrightson hopes the combination of live and pre-recorded panels will “bring some attention to the scholarship that comes out of the North.”

Two in-person gatherings are planned, in Whitehorse on May 25-27 and Yellowknife on June 23-25.

“We’re going to bring together youth and Elders,” said Wrightson. “We’re really going to try and flip some of those traditional power dynamics between an academic institution and community knowledge-holders. We’re going to spend some time on the land.

“We’re doing an open call for community members, for people who are interested in hosting workshops – if people want to do a fish-scale art workshop, if they want to do a beading workshop. We are really using this as an opportunity to showcase that Indigenous knowledge is held in a whole bunch of different places, and a whole bunch of different practices.

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Dechinta Faculty, Leanne Simpson lectures in the bush classroom during Dechinta’s fall 2020 program in Chief Drygeese Territory. Morgan Tsetta/Dechinta
John Crapeau teaches students how to harvest dechį dzeè (spruce gum) during Dechinta’s fall 2020 program in Chief Drygeese Territory. Morgan Tsetta/Dechinta

“It’s an opportunity to really support and celebrate the work that’s being done across the North, as well as hopefully provide an opportunity for academics to give back to the northern communities that they’ve been working with.”

Wrightson encouraged anyone with an interest in contributing to the conference to reach out. 

“We’re hoping that by bringing NAISA to the North, it will create strong relationships, really strong, lasting connections between academics and communities and specific community members,” she said.  

“We hope that will foster another generation of really strong collaboration driven by what community needs are and what community research needs are.”

For contact information or to submit a proposal, visit the NAISA North page on Dechinta’s website. Applications are due by February 14.

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