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University to host indigenous conference

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The University of Waikato is gearing up to host NAISA, the world’s largest Indigenous Studies conference.

The conference will be co-hosted with the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, which is the largest and most important Indigenous Studies Association in the world.

In doing so, the University joins some of the most prominent Universities in the world who have also hosted NAISA such as the University of British Columbia and UCLA who hosted in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

It’s just a month out, and 1200 people have registered, with numbers expected to reach 1500 attendees.

The Dean of The Faculty of Maori and Indigenous Studies, Professor Brendan Hokowhitu, is looking forward to witnessing the expansion of NAISA as it will be the first time the conference will be held outside the US, Canada and Hawaii and. He says NAISA is quite a young association, only being incorporated a decade ago in 2009, although the first meeting was in 2007 in Oklahoma. Its original intent was to give Native American academics an avenue for expression as they were struggling to be given a voice in conferences led by other academic disciplines. However, the global importance of an association dedicated to Indigenous Studies soon became apparent as NAISA quickly grew to a 1,000 strong membership. The conference appears to on track to be the biggest ever Indigenous Studies conference in the world.

Professor Hokowhitu says the conference will cover issues that are of utmost importance to indigenous scholars and their communities, including land, water and food sovereignty, language, identity and education. He says Indigenous Studies is a unique discipline because it engages with issues that are directly relevant to the communities that indigenous scholars remain accountable to. For many of these communities, unfortunately the issues are still defined by basic rights such as the right to be indigenous, the right to have access to indigenous knowledges and languages, the right to indigenous health practices, and the right to act as protectors of indigenous lands, whilst also dealing with the most pressing and urgent socio-economic issues such as inequitable living standards, housing, racial and sexual violence, and high incarceration rates.

Professor Hokowhitu says international conference attendees will get a great insight into what is unique about New Zealand; the predominance of indigenous language, history and culture, the prominence of indigenous politics to the political landscape, and the proliferation of indigenous contemporary art and culture throughout Aotearoa’s popular culture.

NAISA 2019 will be held from Wednesday June 26 to Saturday June 29.

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