May 7 – 9, 2020
March 13, 2020
Dear NAISA members and conference attendees,
NAISA Council and the Toronto Local Host Committee write with heavy hearts to inform you that we are cancelling the NAISA 2020 conference scheduled to take place May 7-9 in Toronto due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. We took many factors into consideration in coming to this difficult decision.
First, public health officials have signaled that social distancing and avoiding large gatherings is key to reducing the spread of the virus. Based on that knowledge, the University of Toronto has requested the cancellation of large meetings and gatherings. There was thus a public health imperative that we had to respond to, as well as a mandate from the institution serving as the conference site.
Further, we had the safety and health of our conference attendees to consider. There were multiple considerations within this aspect of our concerns. We had to consider the possibility that if we gathered, someone might become ill, exposing all attendees (and their families and communities) to potential infection. Importantly, people over 60 are at greater risk, meaning we would potentially be putting elders’ health in jeopardy. Additionally, we acknowledged that many of our conference goers are from communities with reduced access to health care, so an infection (and spread) would place larger communities at risk.
An additional consideration was that many universities around the world have restricted the travel of faculty and students, so many would not have been able to attend even if the conference went forward.
We understand that many of you have already made your travel plans. If you have already registered, your registration fees will be refunded. Please note that INMEX, the company that provides our meeting planning services and which will be making the refunds, is currently inundated with multiple event cancellations. Your patience is greatly appreciated. You can cancel your hotel reservation without penalty at the current time, and up to 30 days before the conference for a full refund.
We are truly sorry for the difficulties this cancellation may cause, and even sorrier that we will not be seeing you in Toronto in May. Our annual gathering provides important intellectual community, as well as the renewal of existing relations and the generation and fostering of new relations. It is much more than an academic conference, and we are all saddened at the lost opportunity to be together as Indigenous Peoples.
Please join NAISA Council in expressing sincere and profound gratitude to the Local Host Committee, who worked tirelessly for three years to prepare this conference. Their thoughtful and deliberate crafting of an event that would invite us all into a good way of being and thinking in relations with lands, more-than-human and human kinship in Tkaronto was tremendously inspiring to all of us on NAISA Council.
We know many of you will have questions. We ask that you please keep in mind the NAISA Council and Local Host Committee work does not end with this announcement, and be patient with us as we seek to respond to inquiries.
We are sending thoughts to those communities already impacted by the virus and wishing them safety and health. May you all remain in good health and we hope to see you again soon.
Chipisala’cho, chinchokma’nihookmano anhili
Message from the Tkaronto 2020 Local Host Committee
We are crushed that the conference we have imagined and planned for three years will not happen in May 2020. When we created the Welcome into Good Relation with Lands, Water, and Each Other in Tkaronto—a document that has guided much of our planning—we emphasized aspects of ethical relationality in practices of consent, gathering in a good way, and showing care. Even though we have been so excited to welcome you to Tkaronto, we know that canceling our conference is a crucial act of care at this time. So many of you are caretakers in your families and communities. We hope that in canceling our conference, you are able to care for yourselves and others, to rest, and to spend time out of the regular pacing of this season.
As the Local Host Committee, we express our appreciation to all the students, sponsors, colleagues, artists, elders, and community members who gave so generously of their creativity, time, and funds to this vision of a NAISA2020. We hope that the work of building relationships across institutions, attending to relationships between Black and Indigenous communities and the contributions of Black-Indigenous scholars, and centering Two-Spirit, Trans, and Queer Indigenous presence will carry forward both here in Tkaronto, and within NAISA.
The past months of planning this conference have been difficult. Our committee continues to be in solidaritywith Wet’suwet’en, with Tyendinaga, and with all Indigenous peoples engaging in direct actions all over the world. It has been devastating to plan this conference as Indigenous peoples are forcibly removed from their homelands. It has been humbling to be doing something so seemingly small as planning an academic conference while so many are in profound struggle. Scholars, activists, artists and community members who are part of our planning team have been busy in the streets and near the tracks between meetings.
Scholars, activists, artists and community members who would have come to the conference have been engaging in direct actions in many places in the world. This includes our Kanaka ‘Oiwi colleagues who are putting their bodies on the line to stop the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope at Mauna Kea. We believe that, ultimately, the TMT will be permanently halted at Mauna Kea, and that divestment by Canadian universities who are part of ACURA from the project is an important step in bringing this about in a good way.
We would like to take this moment in time to extend care towards our expansive kinship networks that include all of you, and our more-than-human relatives. Perhaps these forms of care need to happen in ways that we have not yet envisioned, and we are taking this particular moment as scholars, artists, and relatives to engage in needed practices of community care. We have been architects, curators, and witnesses to each other’s creative process within the past few years and we feel love for our colleagues and relatives at Ryerson University, York University, McMaster University, and OCAD; we will continue to hold space for all of the fierce Indigenous and Black colleagues and settler accomplices that have contributed their brilliance to this work. We thank all of those people who have contributed proposals to NAISA 2020, your ideas and intellectual worldings are so necessary in this moment and beyond. We send our gratitude to all those who organized beautiful pre- and post- conference gatherings.
We had hoped that what we had planned would be unforgettable, and it still might be. Our welcome to you will last long into the future. Until then, we send you our best songs, our most cherished dances, our best medicines, and our best thoughts in this unpredictable time.
Tkaronto 2020 Local Host Committee
The NAISA 2020 conference website at https://www.naisa2020.ca.