Online Conference supported by the Department of Humanities, University of Northumbria was held on 29-30 June 2021

Update – Thanks to the kindness of our speakers, we are adding a range of research materials from the conference to the contributor pages.

This conference explored Indigenous connections to the land through storytelling. The term “Indigenous” encompasses a wide range of peoples, diverse culturally, linguistically and geographically. Originating from the Latin root indigena, which means “sprung from the land”, it has been used in international and United Nations contexts to define peoples in relation to their colonisers.

While there are many differences among Indigenous groups, land plays a foundational role in Indigenous belief systems and lifeways:

“First Nations Art – UBC Vancouver” by Librarygroover is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

“all healing comes from the earth. Plants not only have healing powers, but they communicate with us… The spirit of the earth and of the land … is central to our understanding of the world and our well-being as Indigenous peoples…Land is the foundation of everything for [Indigenous peoples], now and into the future.”

(C. Belcourt 2018, 114-116)

Relationships to the land are familial, intimate, intergenerational, spiritual and instructive for Indigenous peoples and it is these relations that Western settler societies sought to destroy as part of their colonial project of territorial conquest and forced assimilation policies. Indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to how colonial empires have compromised their rights to traditional lands, territories and natural resources.

“Aboriginal art” by Rezwan is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This conference will examine how Indigenous stories – told, written, sung or performed – reflect Indigenous connections to the land and how these relations have been affected by the colonial enterprise. “[S]tories are a type of medicine and, like medicine, can be healing or poisonous depending on the dosage or type”, Terry Tayofa (2005), an Indigenous psychologist from the Warm Springs and Taos Pueblo, explains. In particular, this conference will reflect on the following questions: how does Indigenous storytelling contribute to understanding Indigenous identity and the crucial role of land in Indigenous ways of life? How can Indigenous storytelling subvert colonial narratives of the land? How can storytelling contribute to addressing colonial exploitations of the land and its resources? How can storytelling assist Indigenous peoples in restoring their intimate relations to land and its natural gifts?

The conference is free of charge and will take place between the 29th and 30th of June 2021. Registration is available via Eventbrite.

The conference is organised by Dr. Francesca Mussi as part of her Leverhulme ECR Fellowship for the project “Truth-telling/Story-telling: literary and critical perspectives on Canada’s TRC” (2018-2021), with technical assistance from Adam Curry. The conference is also supported by the Department of Humanities, University of Northumbria.

If you wish to Tweet about the conference, please use the following hashtag: #SftM21