Nowhere is the urban and rural divide felt more strongly than among Indigenous peoples. It is commonly understood that Indigenous peoples are peoples of a particular land and place. Yet for a variety of reasons, an increasing percentage of Indigenous peoples live in urban contexts which may be at a distance from their ancestral lands.
Urbanization presents numerous challenges for Indigenous peoples. The City is a social, economic, and political system developed without the input of Indigenous peoples and all too often an alien and hostile place. Historically, the City is a place of disconnection that often attacks our cultural and spiritual values; a place of discrimination where our people encounter addiction, poverty, violence, unemployment, and frequently struggle with mental health issues.
Yet it is increasingly apparent that the City is no longer just a place where Indigeneity is lost but where Indigeneity can be renewed through proactive engagement. In the heart of the City, our people are finding ways of connecting and organizing community that promote Indigenous life in a new way, making a stand for a future based on the principles of justice and fairness.
At the NAIITS 2022 Symposium at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS, we want to flip the stereotype of the city. Instead of the place where Indigeneity is erased or lost, stereotyped or derided, we want to ask: How are Indigenous peoples proactively engaging the City? How is Indigenous urban life driving innovation? How is it bringing to light new assets to address longstanding colonial problems? How is the City informing Indigenous life on Country, on the Rez or on Marae** in a positive way? What forms of spiritual renewal are to be found that foreshadow the Heavenly City?
In the words of Uncle Ray Minniecon, the challenge “Is not on how well we defend ourselves against the ‘City’, but how we understand the concept of ‘City’ and make it an environment where justice and peace for Indigenous people can be advanced and made to endure.”
How is language, culture, and spirituality passed on when one is separated from one’s land, place and people while living in an interethnic context? How are new identities and ways of life embraced, not at the expense of traditional cultural values and spirituality, but as old ways revitalized for a new context? What new forms of community organization are taking place? What do ministry, spiritual care, ceremonial life, and healing approaches look like in an urban context? How are Indigenous peoples influencing the life of the City itself?
There are many possible theological conversation partners in any discussion of the City. Many are from non-Indigenous voices, including but not limited to Seek the Peace of the City: Reflections on Urban Ministry by Eldin Villafañe, The Soul of the City: Mapping the Spiritual Geography of Eleven Canadian Cities by Len Hjalmarson, and the various ministries and writing of Henri Nouwen.
But what are Indigenous voices saying? How are we speaking about the City?
In this symposium, we would like to home in on the cross-pollination between urban and rural Indigenous life. On the one hand, how is the Rez, the Marae, and being on Country connecting to the City in a better way? How are social media platforms helping widely separated kin to connect and encourage cultural regeneration? How are rural and Rez, Marae and on Country leaders connecting with urban Indigenous communities? How is modern transportation making participation in both possible and how is that “dual citizenship” impacting and transforming community?
On the other hand, we may want to ask, “How is the Indigenous City bringing new ideas and practices to the Rez, Marae or Country? How do connections between Indigenous people from different backgrounds encourage Indigenous identity and collaboration? How are urban ideas of sustainability, food sovereignty, and green energy revitalizing traditional Indigenous values and practices? What new business opportunities and educational innovations have come out of the connection between urban and rural Indigenous people?”
Finally, we must ask, “How can this generation facilitate the teachings of seven generations and other Indigenous concepts of continuity, in the City and on Country?”
For the 2022 symposium, we invite people who desire to present a paper or “panel* on one of the themes identified above to submit an abstract and proposal for consideration. In the abstract, please outline the intention of the paper as well as the method(s) of research and presentation. Please also submit a bio and photo (or bios in the case of a panel) of the presenter(s) for use in promotion of the symposium.
We invite proposals for papers and presentations from scholars, scholar-practitioners, community practitioners, ministers, and other interested peoples that address themselves to the topic of this year’s symposium.
Of particular interest will be how the interplay of a theology that shifts its starting points and practice from a deficit framework to an asset-based one might transform our understanding of the Indigenous urban environment, the practical issues of social context, and relationships with the living creation of which humanity is a part. Papers using any of a broad range of research and presentation methodologies will be considered.
Submissions should address one or more of the following topic areas as noted above.
Papers should strive to demonstrate how traditional Indigenous understandings, cultural perspectives, and historic practices, in conversation with biblical Christianity might strengthen the wider society and mitigate the impact of Indigenous peoples being separated from their traditional land and place in the urban environment.
The purpose of the symposium is to facilitate open dialogue about various aspects of Indigenous biblical and theological contextualization in thought, history, and experience. Symposium planners hope that, in their submissions, participants will bring together academic and practical approaches to the issues being addressed in the symposium.
Submissions must include a brief personal bio, a photo and both an abstract and proposal for the presentation of not more than 300 words in total. The proposal must include a clear statement of your ideas and, if a scholarly presentation, enough of a context to show that you are aware of the basic issues and literature of the field.
Regardless of whether the intent is paper, panel, or practitioner, the proposal is the document on which submissions will be evaluated and selected. Abstracts, bios and photos provided for selected submissions will be used in advertisements and symposium materials. Selected papers will be allotted 40 minutes for presentation and the presenter may be required to pre-record the session due to the virtual format. NAIITS may, at its sole discretion, invite or offer respondents for the papers.
The deadline for submission of proposals for papers is midnight February 1, 2022. Please submit electronically online at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finished papers must be submitted in the above style no later than March 31, 2022 so as to be included in the symposium.
*PLEASE NOTE: Panels will only be accepted if the panellists also submit a paper – either jointly or individually – for publication in the annual NAIITS journal. A simple PowerPoint presentation will not be accepted.
**There are many ways in which rural/urban descriptors are voiced by Indigenous peoples around the globe. Our intention here is neither to restrict or prescribe for any Indigenous people group their understanding of or use of terms that differentiate between urban and traditional land and place-based existence. We invite Indigenous people to insert their own words and descriptors as suits their convention in places where appropriate.