Lay summary
The aims of the conference were as follows:•to affirm the international reputation of Switzerland as a center of excellence in the field of Native Studies research, •to promote, to the international scholarly community, Swiss expertise in this field and •to engage students from Switzerland and elsewhere in this convergence of international expertise in Native Studies. The University of Geneva was fortunate to host the inaugural conference of the Native Studies Research Network (NSRN), in the spring of 2007. The primary purpose of the conference was to provide an occasion for networking by international scholars of Native Studies in the UK, continental Europe and North America. The topic of language was chosen both for the urgency of this issue in a period of indigenous language loss (Romansche in Switzerland, Aboriginal languages in Australia, and elsewhere) and to provide a broad basis for productive interdiscipinary discussion and exchange.The focus of this conference was interdisciplinary; delegates from the fields of literature, history, anthropology, art history, museum studies, linguistics, and cultural studies participated. The emphasis was upon the sharing of perspectives on the issue of language in a native or indigenous context, rather than a single methodological perspective. Scholars working on native issues in diverse geographical locations -- the United States and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, as well as Switzerland -- participated in this important intellectual event. The move to bring together scholars of American Indian / Native American / Canadian First Nations / Aboriginal / Indigenous Studies in a single network complements the efforts currently being made by a US-based steering committee of indigenous scholars to explore the possible creation of an academic association for scholars who work in Native Studies. A series of three conferences are planned in the US, in 2007, 2008, and 2009, to begin the practical work of network-building and collaboration that will facilitate the creation of a more formal association. It is hoped that this conference in Geneva will bring together a European network of scholars available for collaboration with any future international association for Native Studies scholars. It is crucial that Swiss scholars and European academics be involved in this major international development in Native Studies. The inaugural Geneva conference is a key event in the effort to ensure that European scholars are fully involved in any future international Native Studies initiatives.The hosting of a group of prominent Native Studies specialists in Geneva posed an exciting and important opportunity. In 2004, the Swiss National Science Foundation sponsored an international colloquium at the University of Geneva, entitled "Gerald Vizenor and Native American Literature." This very successful conference helped to reaffirm the status of Switzerland as a center of excellence in Native Studies, following the retirement of Professor Hartwig Isernhagen, an internationally distinguished scholar of Native Literatures, from the University of Basel. Professor Isernhagen was one of the principal speakers at the 2007 conference, a meeting that contributed to the consolidation of the Swiss reputation for excellence in this field.