JHI Home
About Us
Research Communities
Fellowships & Calls for Funding
Working Groups
Humanities At UofT
Events and Exhibitions

Locating Compassion in Land Ethics

Locating Compassion in Land Ethics
170 St. George St. JHB 100
Time: Mar 23rd, 7:00 pm End: Mar 25th, 5:00 pm
Interest Categories: Urban, Sociology (FAS), Religion, Study of (FAS), Political Science, Philosophy (UTSC), Philosophy (UTM), Philosophy (FAS), Law, Faculty of , Indigenous, History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), Ethics, Environment, English and Drama (UTM), English (UTSC), English (FAS), Education, Cities and Humanities, Canada, before 400 BCE, Anthropology (UTM), Anthropology (FAS), 2000-
Conference featuring artist Mimi Gellman

The Jackman Humanities Institute Program for the Arts on Location/Dislocation is pleased to present:

Locating Compassion in Land Ethics

A Conference hosted by the Aboriginal Studies Program & the Jackman Humanities Institute Program for the Arts
University of Toronto
23-25 March 2012

Opening Keynote Speaker, Friday 23 March at 6:00 p.m.: Mimi Gellman

Embodied Meanings: Why Land Matters


Closing Keynote Speaker, Sunday 25 March at 5:30 p.m.: Deborah McGregor

Anishinaabe Knowledge and Sustainability

Program below

Conference Abstract:  The late Anishinaabe activist and educator Rodney Bobiwash likens the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), before the arrival of the Europeans, to the bustling coastal cities of the ancient Mediterranean. A key site of “trade and commerce,” cultural exchange and ceremonial praxis, the GTA (then as now) was a key hub at which countless nations gathered—a flourishing centre of Indigenous activity and syncretism—thousands of years before the Old World stumbled into the ‘New.’  Now, as it was then, the GTA continues as the hub at which countless nations gather; indeed, it is has become a catch-basin for the world, but with the legacy of modernity and the postmodern spirit-dance of fragmentation and willful forgetting, this Gathering Place has become a non-place of dislocation and despair: here, life is cheap. Cynicism, rage, murder, exploitation, and environmental destruction permeate quotidian existence.  It seems that despite our hyper-connectedness, without electronic mediation, human-to-human, human-to-non human and human-to-history connections are becoming increasingly untenable, while compassion and the acts it engenders are becoming increasingly rare.

How might a mindful application of localized Original Instructions to the infrastructures that contain and direct the ways in which we do (or must do) life address the ever-increasing dearth of compassion and basic respect for human life in this "Gathering Place?"

To address these issues and consider solutions, this conference will consider the history of this territory (the Gathering Place), the original laws that governed this place, the connections and responsibilities contemporary Torontonians hold to the Indigenous Peoples who stewarded this land long before contact, to other citizens of or strangers within the city, to the species who have been forced (by development and environmental degradation) further and further into the city to seek sustenance, and to the very land itself.

Download CFP: [pdf]

Conference program: [pdf]

Conference flyer [pdf]

Workshops flyer [pdf]

This event is free and open to the public, but workshop space is limited. To register for workshops, please contact Jill Carter at: jill.carter@utoronto.ca.




Friday 23 March 2012

6:00 pm     Conference Opening -- Elder: Cat Criger

6:30 pm     Keynote Address

Embodied Meanings: Why Land Matters (Mimi Gellman)
Reception to Follow

Saturday 24 March

9:00 am       Coffee & Continental Breakfast / Registration

10:00 am     Workshop   
Sweet Connections of Local Environmental Health and Honeybees.  Facilitated by Brian Hamlin
Apiary visit co-facilitated by Professor Sandy Smith (Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto)

About the Workshop: This interactive workshop leads participants through several areas of inquiry including honeybee culture, ancient connections between man and bees, world food and bees, medicines from the bees, current environmental challenges for bees and Brian Hamlin’s local apiary projects. Participants will also be treated to a honey tasting and a visit to a rooftop apiary located on the University of Toronto campus. 

This workshop is free and open to all, but pre-registration is required for this event.
To register, please contact Jill Carter at jill.carter@utoronto.ca

1:15 pm      Lunch
2:30 pm      Recovering the Tribal identity of Toronto: Ancestral Conversations
Presented by: William Woodworth Raweno:kwas, B.Arch., Ph.D. (Mohawk, Six Nations of the Grand River) and Timothy Brian Leduc, Ph.D. (Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University)

A conscious amnesia of the deep cultural roots and history of the Toronto region is a large part of the ambiguous and uncertain identity that continues to inform conversations around our city.  The contemporary descendants of the ancient native ancestors know this well – and if not know they feel the disconnection.  This dissociation from land deeply informs the ways in which colonial settlers and the ongoing succeeding waves of immigrants inhabit the city.
All authentic human settlements are fundamentally tribal in nature – that is have a fully developed communal cultural relation to the land.  We feel this in the great cities which we find so attractive, alive, and inviting.  Think of London, Paris, Rome, Athens, and New York.  The richly expressed cultural histories that arise out of the land of these and many other global cities give form and meaning to places claimed by the entire planet.  To the colonized and globalizing imagination this may seem an outrageous affront to the ways in which they occupy their world as global citizens – however even they continually return to the civic places and lands for cultural nourishment and connection.
     Out of our pure affection and compassion for the place where we live, we are beginning the work of recovering the very distinctive and profound tribal identity of Toronto.  In a context of ever-increasing calls for sustainable ways of living, there is today an immanent cultural imperative to recover the processes of remembering and the practices that the ancestors of this place have already been given. The living descendants of this place will necessarily be at the centre of this recovery.  Principal among the teachings here in Toronto are those of the Haudenausaunee Peacemaker or Daganawedah– living Iroquoian practices that are extant today at Six Nations of the Grand River.
     Together, we are the conscious living descendants of the three great founding cultures of Toronto – namely, the Haudenausaunee/Anishinaabe native nations, the French, and the British – and are attempting to give space for the ancestors of this land to inform our respective architectural and environmental educational practices.  In the compassionate spirit of Thanksgiving and offering, through a conversation, we will describe our individual and mutual work to engage our ancestors

3:45 pm      Break

4:00 pm     Workshop
Reconnecting with Place: Mapping the Interior Landscape
Facilitated by: Mimi Gellman

In this radically accelerated era of instantaneous communication, when ideas and images are proliferated worldwide by the mere touch of an iPhone or a Blackberry screen, and  when we can circumnavigate the world by plane in a mere 42 hours, it is no surprise that the art of mapping, the phenomenology of walking, and its close cousin, wandering, have become captivating subjects for contemporary art-making. The world has suddenly become a small place, a place that we believe we know. The philosopher Jeff Malpas contends that place is integral to the possibility of experience. “The crucial point about the connection between place and experience is not, however, that place is properly something only encountered ‘in’ experience, but rather that place is integral to the very structure and possibility of experience.”
     As Keith Basso wrote in his seminal text, Wisdom Sits in Places, “We are, in a sense, the place worlds we imagine.”  In this workshop we will be addressing and reconnecting to concepts and relationships to place through movement exercises and visual graphic mapping in an attempt to map our way back home.

* Loose clothes are recommended. All other material will be provided.

This workshop is free and open to all, but pre-registration is required for this event.
To register, please contact Jill Carter at jill.carter@utoronto.ca

Sunday 25 March

9:00 am      Coffee and Continental Breakfast

9:30 am      Panel One: Compassion & Scholarship in Thought and Deed

Centering Displacement: Concealment and Compassion at the University (Jacob Nerenberg and Zexi Wang) This paper explores forms of alienation and dispossession upon which the University of Toronto is built. Thinking of the University as an imperial institution, we trace the way these patterns of violence intersect in downtown Toronto, a site where foundational and ongoing colonial dispossession is multiplied locally and globally – in the form of marginalization of migrants, aggressive resource capital, and manipulative governance. In order to analyze the political possibilities conditioned by this conjuncture, we insist on the need to recognize the way willful forgetting and the closure of possibilities are enacted through discourses of openness and connection. This paradox makes it possible for the critiques issued by marginal voices to be co-opted and enrolled in dominant identity projects centered around the fantasy of Canada as a space of justice and a global force for good. The University’s utopian promise has been partly realized through the work of radical scholars. However, the University is also, and increasingly, a site where fantasies of globalist virtue, cloaked in the language of compassion, work to conceal violence and perpetuate oppression. This appropriation of the discourse of compassion originates in spaces of privilege and serves to maintain them. We distinguish this co-opting discourse from a transformative practice of compassion grounded in awareness of the way imperialism continues to reconfigure and (dis)connect places. We propose that dislocation and alienation – particularly as organizing logics of contemporary settlement – rather than a privileged coherence, be seen as productive grounds for building forms of meaningful compassion and honest solidarity.

Undergraduate Capacity Building and Experiences in Participatory Action Research: Process, Ethics and Methodology in Two Urban Aboriginal Diabetes Research Projects (Jessica Keeshig-Martin, Krystine Abel and Brian Parisee)
The Transformations in Diabetes Project (TiD) and the Urban Aboriginal Diabetes Research Project (UAD,and RP) looked at the life experiences of Aboriginal people living with diabetes in the Greater Toronto Area as well as the health and well-being services available for this population.  Jessica Keeshig-Martin and Krystine Abel were two of four undergraduate students hired onto these two projects in 2010 and in 2011 as Research Assistants. Jessica and Krystine will share their experiences on these projects that gave insight into how urban Aboriginal people are managing this disease and the significance of culturally-specific programs and services.  This presentation focuses itself upon methodology enacted throughout this project and how researchers engaged with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal social and health organizations and the urban Aboriginal population that is living with diabetes. 

11:00 am     Break

11:15 am     In Discussion     Student Round Table.  Moderator: Jennifer Seidel (University of Toronto)

This student round table will be a two hour discussion during which students will have the opportunity to share their experiences in the Aboriginal studies program and to examine these in light of their experiences in other programs/courses they may have taken at the University of Toronto. We will be looking back to the last two years of high school and considering how and in what ways the communication of an Aboriginal worldview through a distinct pedagogical structure (based within world views) can benefit all students at the University of Toronto. As well, we will consider the benefits Aboriginal studies courses might offer at the high school level and the consequences of excluding these from the secondary curriculum.

1:15 pm     Lunch & Learn Workshop Hosted by Jessica Keeshig-Martin, Krystine Abel (Materials and a light lunch are provided)

Anishinaabe Symbol-Based Reflection:  An Indigenous Approach to Wholistic Research Methods

In 2005, Dr. Lynn Lavallee and a group of research participants developed a method called Anishinaabe Symbol Based Reflection.  The inclusive use of Anishinaabe in the title represents the participants desire to recognize and honour the traditional territory through which the research method was created. ASBR is a research process that asks participants to create art and symbols to represent the concept/question of the research project. In this workshop, Krystine Abel and Jessica Keeshig-Martin will facilitate the group based on their experience using ASBR in their recent contributions to the Urban Aboriginal Diabetes Research Project.
In this workshop, they will ask participants to explore the question ‘How do you take care of yourself while conducting research?’  The process of creating a symbol to represent the experience of self-care while undertaking research allows for a wholistic experience, which encompasses the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components sometimes missing from Indigenous research practices. Once participants have completed their works, there will be a sharing circle/dissemination period.

This workshop is free and open to all, but pre-registration is required for this event. Please specify any dietary restrictions when you register.
To register, please contact Jill Carter at jill.carter@utoronto.ca 

3:30 pm      Panel Two     Not So Random Acts:  A Dramaturgy of Compassion

Participating in the Local (Susan Aaron)
The local, as I find it and enter into its creation, is often a function of those who are privileged to reshape its forests, create habitats for and with the ‘other than human’ and grow sustainable modes of living as re-creating. An Indigenous cosmology may contain inherent grounding for sustainable actions yet I, as academically trained, act for a new current and locally based creativity responsible to society. For me, the “localized original instructions” become a quest not to re-create what was there because the earthly basis is much dissipated. The culture is no longer evident as the guiding one. Yet, academics must be responsible for focusing healthy physical actions inclusive of and supported by multiple and common social impetus. What would such an impetus look like to be open to existent and new culture? Academics and their counterparts outside of academia might enter into an accessible yet expedient visioning and culture shaping. I refer to art, nature based projects, modes of knowing and academic methodologies, which might be feminist, embodied, qualitative, or design based. These are made answerable to a new local. The practitioner is implicated as a creative participant in the local. The site of the public becomes a refocusing circumstance.  The fact of a locale being a city is less important than the potentials of its environs and inhabitants. This process establishes unique principles and demands local relevance of theories as new discursive structures for the focus on a locality.

Staging Transcultural Encounters (Jimena Ortuzar)
Panamanian artist Humberto Vélez, whose public art performances explore the possibilities of collaborative acts with diverse groups of people, brings together dancers of the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nations community with a group of Toronto (parkour) urban runners for a multi-faceted project culminating in a public ceremony at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Looking at the interactions that Vélez’s collaborative action propitiates can generate new perspectives on how cultural identity recreates itself through embodied performance practice. I explore this question starting from Diana Taylor’s recognition that interactions in the here and now affect the ways in which knowledge and memory are transmitted and incorporated.
     Taking into account that practices of contemporary Native dance and parkour operate within different ideological and discursive frames, I examine how an interaction that interweaves different modes of cultural agency and social belonging manifests itself as a public performance. While Indigenous communities express their collective memory through the performing of ceremonial dance, employing the body as a site through which history is embodied and enacted, parkour pushes the limits of the body’s movement and speed to navigate the urban terrain and reinterpret the built environment. I explore the far-reaching potential of staging such a performance at the centre of Toronto’s visual culture and suggest that the generative possibilities of bringing these practices together rests on their particular relationship to the land in their performances of space, history and loss.

5:15 pm      Break

5:30 pm      Keynote Address (Deborah McGregor)

Anishinaabe Knowledge and Sustainability

Indigenous Peoples hold ancient and highly developed ideas of sustainability which have significant applicability in understanding current environmental challenges faced in our communities.  This presentation will explore concepts of environment and sustainability from an Anishinaabe perspective.
     As an Anishinabe woman, I will present my view that not only do Aboriginal peoples have knowledge around environmental science, but that such knowledge is also gendered.  An example of this will be discussed in relation to Anishinabe responsibilities around water in Ontario.  Anishinaabe worldviews, philosophies, principles and values will also be described as they form the foundation for Anishinaabe environmental science.  Environmental science from an Anishinaabe knowledge perspective focuses on the ethical conduct required to ensure appropriate relationships with all of Creation.  Proper relationships and conduct are required of all beings to ensure sustainability, not just for people, but for all of Creation. 

Participant Biographies

Krystine Abel
is an undergraduate student on the St. George campus in her second year  majoring in Social and Cultural Anthropology with a focus on Indigenous Health. She has  participated in two community Aboriginal diabetes health research projects, and had the  opportunity in her first year to participate in an International Course Module exploring  globalization and Indigenous health issues in Belize.

Susan Aaron holds Masters degrees in Drama and Education from the University of Toronto. Her interests are in research in academia and life as a creative cultural process. She has carried out her interests in arts based research and cultural analysis of mediums and global constructions that are beholding to individual dynamics. Her focus rests with rebuilding and strengthening the local as person and space. Most recently, she has been organizing a lecture series on women, environment and art and unique worldviews of environments at the Centre for Women in Education at the University of Toronto.

Jill Carter (Anishinaabe-Ashkenazi) received her doctorate in Drama from the University of Toronto in 2010. In 2011, she was awarded the Graduate Centre for Study of Drama’s Alumnae Dissertation Award for outstanding dissertation in drama, theatre and performance studies for 2010-2011. Currently, she teaches in the Aboriginal Studies Program and the Transitional Year Programme at the University of Toronto. An avid performer, director and acting instructor, Carter recently curated Medicine Walk: Breath Tracks, the premiere installation of the Aboriginal Studies Program for ScotiaBank Nuit Blanche 2011 and co-directed the touring production of Monique Mojica’s Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way.
     As Organizer of this conference, Jill would like to extend her heartfelt gratitude to Professor Deborah McGregor and Jennifer Murrin of the Aboriginal Studies Program, Dr. Kim Yates of the Jackman Humanities Institute, the speakers and workshop facilitators here this weekend, the student volunteers and all of you who have come here this weekend to join the discussion. Chi Miig’wetch!

Cat Criger is an Aboriginal Elder, Traditional Teacher and Mentor from the First Nations People. He is Cayuga (Guyohkohnyoh), Turtle Clan from the Six Nations Haudenosaunee or People of the Longhouse. Cat has been working as a Traditional Teacher and Healer for more than 16 years in the Native and multi-cultural community in Canada, the USA, England and Wales. He was taught in the old way, working for many years with the guidance of an Anishinaabe Elder (Zaawawagaabo) and other First Nations Elders, and was taught to do traditional ceremonies, teachings, circles, one to one work and to help all people to 'walk in a good way' though life.
     He feels privileged to be able to pass on the aboriginal concepts of philosophy, well being, respect and living in balance with all of creation. Sharing these values and teachings helps individuals to deal with life direction, stress, relationships, and personal journeys and to understand why we are 'here'. Presently he holds the position of Traditional Elder for UTM, Traditional Teacher at First Nations House U of T, standing Elder for the Council for Aboriginal Initiatives for the U of T., a member of the Elders council for Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, one of the elders for Miizwe Biik Aboriginal Training and Employment, Elder with the Peel Aboriginal Network as well as a part of the Native Canadian Centre Toronto's cultural outreach program. Cat also does guest lecturing in multiple faculties in the U of T, Mount Sinai Hospital, George Brown College, Toronto/Peel District school boards and takes care of the First Nations House traditional medicine garden at Hart House.

Mimi Gellman is an Anishinaabe-Ashkenzi/Métis (Ojibway/Jewish Métis) conceptual artist, educator and a doctoral candidate in the Cultural Studies program at Queen's University. A practicing, multi-disciplinary visual artist and curator, Gellman has an impressive list of accomplishments. From her architectural glass installations in sacred spaces, to her public arts commissions for the Rogers Centre and the Toronto Transit Commission, her work explores the role of cultural memory and the places where the spirit privileges matter. Her conceptual work has been exhibited in many exhibitions, among them a solo show at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, and group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Modern Art in Passau, Germany. A former sessional instructor in design methodologies and ethics at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Gellman has delivered papers, lectures and graduate workshops at numerous Canadian universities. Her current Ph.D. research on the metaphysics of Indigenous mapping investigates the relationship between Aboriginal cartographies, Indigenous aesthetics and senses of place.

Brian Hamlin: “I began my journey learning about honeybees over 35 years ago.  It has been a gift in many ways that has continued to enhance my awareness of the seasons, local vegetation and the natural world around us. Eight years ago my beekeeping passion brought me new adventures and challenges by establishing an apiary on Georgina Island First Nations and several locations in Toronto the Beeautiful.   Now is my time to share with others the gifts that I have received from honeybees.”

Jessica Keeshig-Martin (Biidaabno kwe) is graduating this year with a double major Honours B.A. in Aboriginal Studies and Sociology at the University of Toronto. She considers herself to be an Urban Aboriginal having spent a majority of her life living in the cities of Toronto and Ottawa, and yet she remains close to the community and land of her ancestors in Neyashiinigming (Cape Croker).  Researching Aboriginal health and education is important to Jessica and has been the inspiration for her work in the area of diabetes research over the last two years. Jessica says that the projects "Transformations in Diabetes" and the "Urban Aboriginal Diabetes Research Project" have been immensely fulfilling for her because it has enabled her to gain invaluable experiences from working within the Urban Aboriginal community of Traditional Healers and Elders, Scholars, Activists, Community Members and Agencies.  The research processes of these projects have also been enlightening for Jessica and she is happy to share these experiences with others. 

Timothy B. Leduc Before graduating with a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies, Timothy completed a Masters in Social Work from the University of Toronto and worked for a number of years in northern indigenous communities. His doctoral research built upon these experiences by bringing Inuit ecological and cultural views of today’s northern warming into intercultural dialogue with Western interdisciplinary climate research and politics. The resulting book Climate, Culture, Change: Inuit and Western Dialogues with a Warming North has been short-listed for the 2012 Canada Prize in the Social Sciences. He is currently an Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies at York University and is contemplating the cultural dimensions of historic climate and ecological changes in the southern Ontario land where he has lived most his life.

Deborah McGregor is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Aboriginal Studies at the University of Toronto.  She is Anishnaabe from Whitefish River First Nation, Birch Island, Ontario.  For over two decades she has been an educator at both the university and community levels and have been involved in curriculum development, research and teaching.  Her research focus is on Indigenous knowledge in relation to the environment. More specifically, she has focused Traditional Knowledge (TK) and its application in various contexts including environmental management, forestry, sustainable development and water governance. Primary themes found throughout her work include determining how to improve relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal parties; and how to ensure the appropriate consideration of Aboriginal peoples’ knowledge, values and rights in environmental and resource management in Canada.

Jacob Nerenberg is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology. His research explores how powerful gazes mediate projects of collective identification in Papua (Indonesia). Jacob seeks to develop methodologies attentive to both the violence of observation and the creativity of entanglement. He is interested in how imperialism manipulates – and is contested through – trajectories of displacement and narratives of rootedness.

Jimena Ortuzar is a doctoral student at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies and the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto. She received her M.A. from the Tisch School of the Arts/NYU where she earned the Leigh George Odom Memorial Award for Distinguished Masters Student. Her thesis work on the urban practice of parkour was published in TDR/The Drama Review. She has collaborated in various theatre, performance and video art projects in Toronto and New York City and her short film Pinochet’s Trial has been shown at film festivals in Toronto, San Francisco and Brussels, Belgium. Her professional experience includes work in labour relations and human rights for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Brian Parisee is Ojibwe and a member of Brunswick House First Nation.  He is currently pursuing a double major in international relations and political science at the University of Toronto and is actively involved in the Native Students Association.  His interests include Indigenous law, health and governance.

Jennifer Seidel: “I am a fourth year Aboriginal studies specialist and history major at the University of Toronto. My area of interest in Aboriginal studies is the incorporation of  traditional knowledge into our education system. After my undergrad, I plan to go to law school with a focus on Aboriginal affairs."

William Woodworth Raweno:kwas “he dips the words” is Executive Director of the Beacon to the Ancestors Foundation working with Waterfront Toronto to establish a First Nations Grove on Lake Ontario.  He is descended on Mother’s side from Mohawk, Bear Clan, Six Nations of the Grand River [where he is a Band Member] and from British & American relations on his Father’s side. His doctoral studies were at the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco [Ph.D., Traditional Knowledge 2001]. He studied architecture at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor [B.Arch., 1970].  He has an architectural practice in Toronto and teaches aboriginal culture and architecture at the University of Waterloo, School of Architecture at Cambridge.

Zexi Wang is finishing her undergraduate degree, consisting of a double major in Anthropology and Peace and Conflict Studies, with a minor in English. She is interested how marginality and displacement are often co-produced, and the affective dimensions of liberal and progressive politics. Zexi was a Jackman Humanities Institute undergraduate fellow in 2009-2010.

About JHI | Contact JHI | UofT | Follow us on Twitter twitter icon

Copyright © 2011-2014 University of Toronto. Jackman Humanities Institute. All Rights Reserved.
Tel: (416) 978-7415 Fax: (416) 946-7434, 170 St. George Street, Tenth Floor, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5R 2M8