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Featured Speakers

Keynote Address: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 7 PM
Palais des congrès de Montréal

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is “a gifted writer who brings passion and commitment to her storytelling and who has demonstrated an uncommon ability to manage an impressive range of genres from traditional storytelling to critical analysis, from poetry to the spoken word, from literary and social activism.”

In 2014, Leanne was named the inaugural RBC Charles Taylor Emerging writer by Thomas King, and she was also nominated for a National Magazine Award. In 2012, she won Briarpatch Magazine’s Writing From the Margins prize for short fiction. Leanne has published fiction and poetry in the Walrus, Arc Poetry Magazine, Geist, and Kimiwan. Her first book of short stories and poetry, Islands of Decolonial Love was nominated for a ReLit Award in 2014. Her second book of short stories and poetry, This Accident of Being Lost is being published by the House of Anansi Press in the spring of 2017.

Leanne holds a Ph.D.
from the University of Manitoba and has lectured at universities across Canada. She is currently faculty at the Dechinta Centre for Research & Learning in Denendeh (NWT) and a Visiting Scholar in Indigenous Studies at McGill for the Winter of 2016. The Native American Indigenous Studies Association awarded her the most thought provoking paper of 2014 for “Land As Pedagogy”. Leanne’s books are regularly used in university courses across Canada including Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back, The Gift Is in the Making, Lighting the Eighth Fire (editor), This Is An Honour Song (editor with Kiera Ladner) and The Winter We Danced: Voice from the Past, the Future and the Idle No More Movement (Kino-nda-niimi editorial collective).

Leanne is also a musician combining poetry, storytelling, 
songwriting and performance in collaboration with musicians to create unique spoken songs and soundscapes. She has collaborated with the Evening Hymns, A Tribe Called Red, Cris Derksen, Tara Williamson, and Sean Conway. She is an alum and regular contributor to Jason Collett’s Basement Review having shared the stage with Ron Sexmith, Sarah Harmer, Shad, aRoar, Kevin Drew, Andy Kim, Jennifer Castle, Vag Halen, Lynn Crosbie and Damian Rogers to name a few. Leanne and her current band consisting of Nick Ferrio, Cris Derksen and Ansley Simpson performed two shows with the Indigenous Writing Program at the Banff Centre in the Fall of 2015. Her first album, Islands of Decolonial Love was #3 on RPM.FM’s best of 2013 list. Leanne’s new record, produced by Jonas Bonnetta, is set to be released in 2016.

Leanne is of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg ancestry and a member of Alderville First Nation.


Friday Plenary: Decolonizing Institutions

Julia Chinyere Oparah is an activist scholar, social justice educator, experienced community organizer and mindful leader, who is dedicated to producing critical scholarship in the service of progressive social movements.  Oparah is an African diaspora specialist, whose interests span a number of different social concerns, including activism by women of color, violence against women, women and the prison-industrial complex, restorative justice, queer and transgender liberation, race and adoption, research justice and birth activism. Her work is informed by personal experiences of crossing racial, gendered and national boundaries as a biracial, transracial/ transnational adoptee, survivor of intimate violence and queer parent with ties to Britain, Nigeria and the U.S. Oparah is Associate Provost, and professor and department co-chair of Ethnic Studies at Mills College. She played a leading role in the establishment of Mills’ Queer Studies Program and also led the College’s Gender Expression and Identity initiative, leading Mills College to become the first women's college to adopt an admissions policy that is welcoming to transgender and gender-questioning students. More recently, she has co-created a program in Public Health and Health Equity at the College in partnership with local minority-serving hospitals.

Audra Simpson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. She is the author of Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States (Duke University Press, 2014), winner of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association’s Best First Book in Native American and Indigenous Studies Prize, the Laura Romero Prize from the American Studies Association as well as the Sharon Stephens Prize from the American Ethnological Society (2015). She is co-editor of Theorizing Native Studies (Duke University Press, 2014). She has articles in Cultural Anthropology, American Quarterly, Junctures, Law and Contemporary Problems and Wicazo Sa Review. In 2010 she won Columbia University’s School for General Studies “Excellence in Teaching Award.” She is a Kahnawake Mohawk.

Kim TallBear, author of Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science (2013), is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta. She studies the racial politics of “gene talk” in science and popular culture. She is also interested in the similarities between Western constructions of "nature" and "sexuality,” and how they can be understood differently in indigenous worldviews. She draws on indigenous, feminist, and queer theory in her teaching and research that focus on undermining the nature/culture split and its role in colonialism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and environmental degradation. TallBear blogs at Indigeneity & Technoscience, She is a citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota, and is also descended from the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. 



Saturday Plenary: Performing Resistance

Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press. She is a Lannan Literary Fellow and a Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellow. She was awarded a Bread Loaf Fellowship, the Holmes National Poetry Prize, a Hodder Fellowship, and a PEN/Civitella Ranieri Foundation Residency, as well as being awarded a US Artists Ford Fellowship. Diaz teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts Low Rez MFA program and splits her time between the east coast and Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she works to revitalize the Mojave language.

Natalie Diaz is a current Hodder Fellow at Princeton. She also lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona where she works to revitalize the Mojave language.

Favianna Rodriguez is an interdisciplinary artist, cultural strategist, and organizer based in Oakland, California. Her art and collaborative projects address migration, economic inequality, gender justice, and ecology.  Favianna lectures globally on intersection of art, social justice and cultural equity to catalyze social change, and leads art interventions in communities around the country. Rodriguez collaborates deeply with social movement groups around the country to co-create art that’s resilient, empowering and transformative.  She is the Executive Director of CultureStrike, a national arts organization that engages artists, writers and performers in migrant rights. In 2012, she was featured in a documentary series by Pharrell Williams titled “Migration is Beautiful” which addressed how artists responded to failed immigrant policy in the United States. In 2009, she co-founded, a national online organizing network dedicated to the political empowerment of Latino communities.

Tali Taliwah has rocked the mic across North America, and the globe for 11years with Montreal's acclaimed Hip Hop band Nomadic Massive ( 

Dropping rapid-fire rhymes in English or Caribbean patois, she's had the privilege to headline international music festivals and to open for artists who've influenced her own music including Mos Def, Wyclef Jean, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Public Enemy, Michie Mee, KRS-One, Rakim, Antibalas, Anna Tijoux, and Digable Planets. Be it at the PanAm Games 2016 to the One Mic Festival at the Kennedy Center to the main stage in the valley town of Rudolstat, Germany, Tali focuses on creating a a consciousness-raising, soul and body-moving experience. Building her artistic identity on 4 of the band’s 6 studio recorded albums and mixtapes, Tali Taliwah is dedicating herself to a solo project called “Fiyah in Yuh Belly”. On her unavoidable musical journey, she loads her backpack with a rhyme-book, a Nano and snacks for her toddler. And the stories she shares through rhyme (and when reasoning) are gathered from her work teaching the non-violent origins of Hip Hop culture, from her own history of Caribbean immigrant parents and the complex identity of a Canadian-Caribbean-Montrealer who knows about the hype of the ParticipAction initiative and the havoc of Quebec's politics in 1995. So while carrying the torch of a storytelling tradition onto stages and into studios, with master's tools and microphones; into classrooms and communities; Tali Taliwah wants to expose to educate and rhyme to rouse, so that the top tips over and humbles itself while the bottom sees the booby traps and makes an educated move.