Our desire is to see men and women journey down the road of a living heart relationship with Jesus in a transformative way – one which does not require the rejection of their Creator-given social and cultural identity.

Traditionally, Native People did not talk about spirituality or faith, nor did they build complex theologies. They simply lived what they believed. It was expected that one would live in such a way as to acknowledge and honour their Creator. Theology was practice!
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Many years ago now, in 1999, the controversial issue of contextualization of theology by and for Native North Americans prompted a small group of Native evangelicals to explore ways to address the issue. The church had struggled to make sense of the issue – a problem to which many had been both witting and unwitting contributors. Finding little in print that addressed the theological and biblical issues at hand, this small band determined to gather a group of people together to explore and write on the issue of contextualization — of culture and faith.

NAIITS was born in response to the inability of the Christian evangelical church to include Indigenous peoples in a manner that affirmed who their Creator has shaped them to be. NAIITS personnel believe Indigenous followers of Jesus have something to contribute to the wider community of faith in terms of theology, most particularly to the Indigenous community.

For many of the participants in the NAIITS ‘community,’ questions of culture and faith have been circulating for twenty to twenty-five years. Questions surrounding contextualization and the redemption of Indigenous peoples' culture in theology and ministry are questions they have been asking through many seasons of their lives. And so, most of the questions that have driven the work of NAIITS flow directly from a ‘community’ that has much invested in the answers.

NAIITS emergence is directly tied to the many years of labor invested by its board members in the Indigenous community of faith. From the day of its formation to the present, NAIITS has become an Indigenous peoples led organization dedicated to introducing change into the education and practice of theology. They pressed forward believing that the Christian community had essentially written them (and their culture) out of the story of the church centuries ago during colonization. They did so believing that the post-colonial Christian church had continued to ignore their irrelevance to Indigenous peoples and culture. Desirous of introducing change, they emphasized the inclusion of an Indigenous worldview, especially as it relates to training future Indigenous peoples.
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And so it was that, on a frosty December day in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2001, NAIITS hosted its first Symposium. The conference was convened as a means of responding to three documents in circulation at the time, descrying the use of culture in the exercise of Christian faith. During this symposium, NAIITS supported its position on the necessity for contextualized theological education in the Indigenous community, as well as its affirmation of the potential of “redemption” of cultures through Jesus. The first volume of the NAIITS journal was published as a result.

Since the initial symposium, NAIITS has held annual symposiums in partnership with institutions like the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, 2003; Crestmont College, Crestmont, CA, 2004; Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY, 2006; Sioux Falls Seminary, Sioux Falls, SD, 2007, Trinity Western University in June 2009 and the seventh, June 10-12, 2010 was co-hosted with George Fox university in Newberg, OR. Our Journal is published each year from the proceedings of the symposium, often including solicited papers as well.

As noted, a majority of the NAIITS board members are connected with local Indigenous communities and are in dialogue with global Indigenous groups where they are actively listening to the needs of these communities with regard to ministry and theology. In fact, NAIITS members greatly value their commitments to the Indigenous community, and prioritize them highly.

In many cases, the active listening NAIITS board members engage in has produced “new and powerful knowledge” which can “lead to social action.” Much of this “new and powerful knowledge” emerges in the academic journals that are published following the NAIITS symposiums.

Concerning the publication of its journal, Terry LeBlanc remembers NAIITS’ history long before the first symposium and journal in 2001. “For many of us the journal, and the organization it speaks for, is just another marker—though a particularly significant one—in a series of events and outcomes which have been dreamt about and hoped for and which are at last coming into being.”

Indigenous scholar Taiaiake Alfred asks,

“What is Indigenizing the academy? To me, it means that we are working to change universities so that they become places where the values, principles, and modes of organization and behavior of our people are respected in, and hopefully even integrated into, the larger system of structures and processes that make up the university itself.”

From its very creation NAIITS has been asking a similar question, not only within the academic community, but also within the Indigenous and non-Indigenous community of faith.