Oct 30: Indigenous Sovereignty Symposium

Come join us for a full day of plenaries, workshops and ceremony

9:00am-5:30pm, Lamoureux Hall 1st floor, University of Ottawa (www.uottawa.ca/maps – LMX building)

9:00am – Registration and refreshments
9:30am – Opening ceremony and welcome
10:00am – plenary: Climate Justice – An Indigenous Perspective
(with Ben Powless, Bob Lovelace, and Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas)
11:45am – concurrent sessions:
* Indigenous Peoples Space: A space for Indigenous community members to
gather and talk (facilitated by Bob Lovelace and Ben Powless)
* Working as an Ally (facilitated by Corvin Russell and Pei-Ju Wang)
1:00pm – Lunch
1:45pm – concurrent sessions:
* Reclaiming Indigenous Youth Self-Determination
(Krysta Williams of Native Youth Sexual Health Network)
* An Oral History of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (Tony Wawatie)
3:15pm – plenary: Defending the Land
(with Clement Chartier, Russell Diabo, and Tony Wawatie)
5:00pm – Closing ceremony


The Indigenous Sovereignty Symposium is the main focus of this year’s Indigenous Sovereignty Week. In it, we will focus on the experiences and histories of a number of Indigenous communities, and look to create a better understanding of the situation across Canada for Indigenous Peoples. Additionally, two special sessions will focus on practical actions that we can undertake. Other sessions focus on Indigenous culture, decolonization and sexuality for young people and the history of Barrierre Lake.

Climate Justice, An Indigenous Perspective (plenary): Indigenous communities are on the frontlines of climate impacts. However, they’re also at the forefront of proposing unique and progressive visions to deal with the causes of climate change. This session will feature a number of Indigenous activists who are focused on advancing the Indigenous perspective on climate change and climate justice.[with Ben Powless, Bob Lovelace, and Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas]

Defending the Land (plenary): Across the land called Canada, many Native communities have been forced to act recently to protect their traditional lands and resources. From mining, oil and gas, to forestry and housing developments, this session focuses on the experience of many communities in asserting their sovereignty. There will also be a presentation on the direction the government is taking towards privatizing Native communities, and recent initiatives to respond to the government. [with Russell Diabo, Clement Chartier, and Tony Wawatie]

Indigenous Peoples Space (session): We will be creating a space for Indigenous community members to have a facilitated discussion about the role of (urban) Indigenous Peoples in re-asserting our voices and visions with regards to Indigenous sovereignty and other issues. We will explore the history of Indigenous social change in Ottawa and relationships to the rest of society. Note: Out of respect, we are asking that only Indigenous community members attend this session. [with Bob Lovelace and Ben Powless]

Working As An Ally (session): “But what can I do?” is one of the most-often heard questions when discussing Indigenous issues. This session will focus on how we can engage in relationships with Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous communities that are respectful and useful. We hope that everyone will come with an open mind and be ready to answer some challenging questions about our own roles as allies with Indigenous communities. This session is open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants alike. [with Corvin Russell and Pei-Ju Wang]

Reclaiming Indigenous Youth Self-Determination (session): This workshop will discuss the relation between sovereignty, self-determination and indigenous sexualities in a youth context. Reclaiming indigenous sexualities, in all of their diversity, is a key element of decolonization in a world that continues to recolonize Indigenous people. [with Krysta Williams]

The Oral History of Mitchikanibikok Inik (The Algonquins of Barriere Lake) (session):  The Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) have lived on their traditional territory for thousands of years, teachings, knowledge and respect are passed down from generation to generation.  The Barriere Lake community is among the few Indigenous communities across Turtle Island who still speak their own language, maintain their custom and carry out their traditional way of life.  The traditional territory of Mitchikanibikok Inik is located north of Ottawa in north-western Quebec. In 1991, Barriere Lake signed a sustainable resource co-management agreement over 10.000 sq km of their land with Quebec and Canada after years of resistance to protect the wild life from over exploitation and the forest from clear-cutting.  This Trilateral agreement asserts Barriere Lake’s sovereignty, Aboriginal Title to their land and uphold their commitment to co-exist with the English and French documented in the 3-figure Wampum belt dated back to around 1760.  However, to this date, neither Canada nor Quebec has honoured the agreement.  The struggle to defend Barriere Lake’s sovereignty continues- The latest attempt of the Canadian government is to forcibly assimilate Barriere Lake’s customary governance system using an archaic and rarely invoked piece of Indian Act legislation – Section 74.  Tony Wawatie, a community spokesperson from the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake, will be here to share the oral history of his people, their treaty relationship with Canada and their strength to protect their land and culture in the midst of Canada’s assimilation policy.


Ben Powless is a Mohawk citizen and recent graduate from Carleton University in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies. He currently works with the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Defenders of the Land Network with Indigenous communities across Canada and the Americas on issues related to Indigenous sovereignty, environmental justice and climate change. He has travelled to communities across Turtle Island and other parts of the world to work with Indigenous communities.

Robert (Bob) Lovelace is an adjunct Professor at Queen’s University in the Department of Global Development Studies.  In 2008, Robert spent 3 ½ months as a political prisoner for his part in defending the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation homeland from uranium exploration and mining. Robert was released on appeal after a groundbreaking decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal found that Aboriginal law is an essential part of Canadian law. He has traveled in Ecuador and Bolivia, speaking with indigenous peoples about the rights of mother earth. Robert is a retired Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation. He lives in the Algonquin highlands at Eel Lake in the traditional Ardoch territory where he continues to offer traditional teaching and ceremony. He was also a founding member of the Defenders of the Land network.

Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas is currently National Coordinator of the Bolivia Action Solidarity Network (www.grupoapoyo.org), President of the Group of Support for the Peoples of the Americas (GAPA), advisor to the Federation of Peasant Workers Tupaj Katari and the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of the Qullasuyo (CONAMAQ), member of the Council of Andean First Nations (CANO, www.pusinsuyu.com). and prior advisor to the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of El Ecuador (CONAIE – www.conaie.org). Marcelo is currently a Professor for the Program of Aboriginal Studies, University of Ottawa and previously a researcher for the North-South Institute’s “Indigenous Perspectives” project.

Corvin Russell is an activist and writer living in Toronto. The major focus of his work the last several years has been Indigenous solidarity. He is one of the organizers of Defenders of the Land.  Corvin is also one of the founders and organizers of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

Krysta Williams is the Lead Youth Advocate for the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and is an Indigenous Feminist and Turtle clan from Moravian of the Thames First Nation. She is a traditional singer and drummer, learning songs and teachings from the many amazing women in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. She has a degree in Psychology and Spanish and Latin American Studies from the University of Waterloo. She is currently a member of the Canadians for Choice Toronto Action Committee. She is passionate about food justice, Indigenous self-determination and healing our relationship with the land.

Russell Diabo is a member of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, Quebec, and also works as an Advisor to the Algonquins of Barrier Lake. He was a founding member of the Defenders of the Land Network, also bringing his experience as editor of the First Nations Strategic Bulletin.


Indigenous Sovereignty Week is organized by: Defenders of the Land; Indigenous Environmental Network; Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa (IPSMO); Bolivia Action Solidarity Network; MiningWatch; Project of Heart; Public Service Alliance of Canada

Sponsored by: Canadian Union of Public Employees; Public Service Alliance of Canada; Canadian Union of Postal Workers; OPIRG/GRIPO-Ottawa; PSAC NCR Aboriginal Action Circle; PSAC National Women’s Department; CUPE Local 4600 (at Carleton University); Carleton University Graduate Students Association; PROMdemonium Fund; Canada Council for the Arts