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October 24 – 26, 2008

National Gathering and Think Tank, Manitoulin Island

Representatives of Aboriginal Theatre, Training, Dance and Individual artists from across Canada met on Manitoulin Island at the Debajehmujig Creation Centre to further the discussion and development of a national Aboriginal arts network. Opening the gathering with a demonstration of how our traditional teachings can be utilized to guide us, Artistic Director Joe Osawabine and Pipe Carrier David Osawabine set the respectful tone and foundation for a successful dialogue and relationship building experience. The group was also addressed by IPAA Board Chair Yvette Nolan, who provided both a capsule history of IPAA, as well as a summary of the organization’s accomplishments over the last year.

The centre itself rejuvenated many people who have long been exhausted in struggle – a tangible example that occasionally, some things are still possible. Conversations acknowledged what has been, but also became about what else could be.

Break-out sessions allowed smaller groups to focus on the specific development needs of theatre, training organizations, dance, and individual artists. A broad range of voices – new voices and familiar voices – were heard during the gathering, and a commitment to maintain contact to advance the objects of the organization was made by everyone in attendance.

It was clear how important national gatherings are for our dispersed sector, and that more dialogue and more contact will be required to move forward.

At the meeting a new model was proposed by Artistic Producer Ron Berti. He proposed developing IPAA as a tool as opposed to a service organization, explaining that the tool needs to be picked up and used in order to be meaningful, as opposed to a service organization which implies that some sort of service would be provided. This resonated with a lot of members at the conference as we came to the realization that as a national community, we are much too diverse in location, in practice, in discipline, for one organization to serve the entire country.

The gathering also served as a way for Debajehmujig to share its vision of the Creation Centre becoming a place of convergence for our sector.

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