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A Brief History of NAIITS

Our desire is to see men and women journey down the road of a living heart relationship with Jesus in a transformative way – one which does not require the rejection of their Creator-given social and cultural identity, nor the rejection of their own worldview as the foundation for that relationship through the embrace of the dominant Western one.

Traditionally, Native People did not talk about spirituality or faith, nor did they build complex theologies. They simply lived what they believed. It was expected that one would live in such a way as to acknowledge and honour their Creator. Theology was practice!
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Native scholar Taiaiake Alfred asks,

"What is “Indigenizing the academy?” To me, it means that we are working to change universities so that they become places where the values, principles, and modes of organization and behaviour of our people are respected in, and hopefully even integrated into, the larger system of structures and processes that make up the university itself."

From its very creation NAIITS has been asking a similar question, not only within the academic community, but also within the Indigenous and non-Indigenous small “e” evangelical community.

Traditionally, Indigenous People did not talk about spirituality or faith, nor did they build complex theologies. They simply lived what they believed. It was expected that one would live in such a way as to acknowledge and honour their Creator. Theology was practice!

From the day of its formation to the present, NAIITS has been an Indigenous led organization dedicated to introducing change into the education and practice of evangelical Christian mission and theology. NAIITS has pressed forward believing that the Christian community had essentially written them (and their culture) out of the story since the earliest period of colonization.

In many cases, the active listening, which NAIITS board members engaged in within their respective communities, has produced “new and powerful knowledge” which has led to social action in their community contexts. Much of this “new and powerful knowledge” emerges in the academic journals that are published following the NAIITS symposiums.

NAIITS has held 18 symposiums on Indigenous theology and mission in North America, three in Australia and one in New Zealand in the past 20 years. The nineteenth NAIITS symposium in North American is scheduled for and will be co-hosted by Acadia Divinity College  June 2-4, 2022. The annual Symposium in Australia is also held in the month of June and is hosted by the Whitely College and the University of Divinity. The Inaugural New Zealand Symposium was hosted by Ngā Wai Hōhonu, Aotearoa partner to NAIITS.

In North America, there is an established rotation with its partner institutions:

• Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, NS, Canada
• Sioux Falls Seminary, Sioux Falls, SD, USA
• Tyndale University College and Seminary, Toronto, ON, Canada
• Whitley College and the University of Divinity, Melbourne, Australia


The now annual peer reviewed and ATLA-indexed NAIITS journal is produced from the presentations and papers of each symposium, with Volumes 1 through  17 currently available in both paper and digital formats.

“For many of us the journal, and the organization it speaks for, is just another marker—though a particularly significant one—in a series of events and outcomes which have been dreamt about and hoped for and which are at last coming into being.”

NAIITS is unique in that its founding and management has been by Indigenous people. NAIITS board members have been and remain fully connected with local Indigenous communities. Many of its members maintain an active dialogue with global Indigenous peoples, listening to the needs of these communities with regards to Christian mission, ministry and theology. In fact, NAIITS members greatly value their commitments to the international Indigenous community, and prioritize them highly. Prior to NAIITS there were few efforts in advanced theological education; most, though not all, were birthed in the hearts and minds of the non-Indigenous community, delivered in their way.

Accomplishments

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Since its inception in the late 1990s, and organizational birth in the year 2001, NAIITS has become a well-recognized and well-respected group of Indigenous women and men (and non-Indigenous colleagues) dedicated to the advancement of Indigenous people within the wider compass of those who follow the Jesus way.

Some of the accomplishments since its beginnings include the following:

Educational Programs

In June of 2010 NAIITS entered an historic agreement with Portland Seminary (formerly George Fox Seminary) to begin delivery of a Masters degree in Intercultural Studies [MAIS] for Native North American and other Indigenous students. The first cohort of 11 MAIS students launched May 31 of 2011 with the first graduates in the spring of 2014.

In 2013 NAIITS signed a subsequent agreement with Tyndale Seminary to begin delivery of a Masters in Theological Studies – Indigenous [MTS (I)]. The first cohort of three MTS (I) students launched in 2014 with the first graduates in the spring of 2017.

In the fall of 2014, through its Divinity College, NAIITS entered an agreement with Acadia University and began delivery of its Master of Arts in Indigenous Community Development [MA-INCD] with its first cohort of three students. In the spring of 2017, NAIITS' first graduate from this program was a Métis student.

In the summer of 2017, NAIITS launched its Graduate Certificate, Diploma, and Masters in Theology programs in Australia, in partnership with Whitley College and the University of Divinity in Melbourne. IN the spring of 2019, together with our Australia partners, NAIITS launched an international PhD program in a broad range of theologically framed disciplines.

These are the first partnerships of their kind; delivered entirely by an Indigenous organization and its faculty, focused on higher theologically framed education. Our current student enrolment including our Masters and PhD programs in Australia is 41.

Since 2003, through its various program partnerships, with different educational institutions in Canada, the United States, and Australia, NAIITS has graduated nine people with doctoral degrees, two with Masters of Divinity, and more than 25 with Masters of Arts in Intercultural Studies, Theological Studies and Biblical Studies.

Student Placement

NAIITS graduates have been placed in a range of vocational ministry settings, tribal service settings, or in either full-time or adjunct faculty positions in seminaries and universities in Canada, the United States, or Australia.