Firsthand Experience: CINSA 2020

Professor David Newhouse presents at the Canadian Indigenous/Native Studies Association (CINSA) Conference 2020, hosted at Trent University. Photo via

I attended the Canadian Indigenous/Native Studies Association (CINSA) 2020 Conference this past Thursday and Friday. This conference was hosted by Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network and Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies at Trent University. The theme was centred around urbanism and Indigenous cultures.

One of the most important things I learned was from David Newhouse, Onondaga from the Six Nations, was that the majority of Indigenous people’ live in cities. There were several sessions, and I went to a session on education called “Approach to Amplifying Indigenous voices and Developing Learning resources.” I learned about different techniques that can be used to introduce and teach students about Indigenous knowledge and culture, and how this can be applied to learning math. In addition, I learned that this learning is interdisciplinary. An example given was with a video of maple syrup making that would be shown to kids where ratios would be learned as well as measuring trees, which went beyond the lesson plan. The National Centre for Collaboration in Indigenous Education has multiple resources available. These resources are from First Nation’s points of view based on location including videos. The lesson plans were also based on questions students asked. The education was anti-colonial, as it is collaborative and challenges the idea of studying in silence. When it came time to ask questions, I asked about University students who I have experienced tend not to ask questions. I learned that the design of the classroom space is important and that furniture can be rearranged to better fit this. In addition, the university was designed differently with fireplaces and a culture of asking teachers questions as well as wearing robes.

While enjoying lunch I learned about the book Song of the Earth by Ross Hoffman, about the life of Alfred Joseph. Alfred Joseph was one of the Hereditary Chiefs in Wet’suwet’en who played a large role in the Delgamuukw-Gisday trial which is a landmark trial in Canadian history regarding title rights. The story of Alfred Joseph’s life was inspiring, as there was a personal connection. Thanks to an anonymous donor, dinner ended up being free which was appreciated. Before then, I attended a session called “Anishinaabekwe Stories of Ancestors, Land and Growing Old” which talked about aging as being celebrated and the decolonization of aging. Aging in western societies is seen as binary but this is not the case in Anishinaabe culture. This session also talked about the importance of storytelling as medicine. At dinner, Shirley Williams blessed the food in four directions and did a thanks-giving address which gave thanks to all beings including water, air, and stars. David Newhouse shared that the colour of the Enwayaang building is ochre #33 yellow and the First Peoples House of Learning is the same size as the library, because there are two sources of knowledge at Trent University.

On Friday the keynote speaker Drew Hayden Taylor who writes for the Globe and Mail spoke about the evolution of Indigenous theatre and storytelling. How he grew up with stories, in addition to how science fiction is part of Indigenous stories. I look forward to attending a future Indigenous conference.