Watershed, lit., fig.

1.a. The line separating the waters flowing into different rivers or river basins; a narrow elevated tract of ground between two drainage areas; a water-parting. 1.b. figurative. A turning point (in history, affairs, a person's life, etc.); a crucial time or occurrence.

3. North American. The gathering ground of a river system; a catchment area or drainage basin.

- Oxford English Dictionary

“Watersheds, lit., fig.,” is the theme of the 2020 Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada (ALECC) biennial conference, an interdisciplinary conference of environmental humanities and literary scholars, creative writers, artists, and environmental activists who will discuss watersheds in a literal and figurative sense. As watersheds refer to crucial periods or turning points, as well as to drainage basins for water and the land situated immediately between rivers, “Watersheds, lit., fig.” provides a compelling opportunity to discuss physical watersheds in terms of the crucial period we are living through, marked by climate, extinction, and migration emergencies, new political formations, and shifting forms of writing, media, mediation, and data.

The conference will showcase research, scholarly, artistic, and community-engaged work by over 80 presenters from across the country and internationally, approximately 25 per cent of whom are creative writers and artists. The conference will take place on and around the University of Saskatchewan campus on Treaty 6 territory and the Métis homeland from June 17-20, 2020. Inspired by prairie river valleys, and in particular our host site in the Meewasin Valley in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, the conference program features thoughtful responses to movements between the literal and figurative, the personal and historical, and to critical times and turning points in watershed and other ecologies, Indigenous thought and practice, ecopoetics, new materialisms, fictional and nonfictional narrative, life writing, film, ecomedia studies, environmental histories, cultural geography, environmental philosophy, cultural studies, and related areas of environmental studies.

The conference program features public readings with local and Indigenous authors, community engagement sessions, keynote addresses by eminent writers, student-driven creative writing events, and panels with esteemed and emerging scholars in the field of environmental humanities. To complement the conference’s provision of numerous public humanities forums for Saskatoon-area audiences, it has also arranged opportunities for conference attendees to participate in locally organized community events, namely, the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Writers’ Circle’s Word Splash: A Celebration of Métis and First Nations Writing event taking place at the Saskatoon River Landing Amphitheatre on June 18, 2020, as well guided excursions to Wanuskewin Heritage Park and the Meewasin River Trail for participating attendees. In addition to these events, the conference is bringing River Relations: A Beholder’s Share of the Columbia River, a SSHRC-funded art installation, to the Snelgrove Gallery, the art gallery of the University of Saskatchewan. The exhibit will be available for viewing by conference attendees and the general public from June 18-25, 2020. One of the artists involved in the River Relations project, Dr. Rita Wong (Associate Professor, Emily Carr University of Art and Design), will deliver one of the meeting’s keynote addresses and participate in a reading event featuring local and Indigenous authors (including Candace Savage and Louise Halfe). Trevor Herriot, the acclaimed Saskatchewan nature writer, memoirist, and conservationist, will feature in a second writers’ panel, in dialogue with watershed scientists. Both of these events will be open and free to the public.

The planning committee has secured funding, sponsorship, and in-kind contributions from a number of sources, including ALECC, the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, the Departments of English and Art & Art History and the office of the Vice-Dean-Indigenous at the University of Saskatchewan, the Snelgrove Gallery, and the Department of English at Lakehead University.

Call for Papers

The literal and figurative move across one another in environmental humanities scholarship, creative writing, and the environmental arts. Watersheds are significant moments in history and cultural life—crucial “turning points” like the Red River Rebellion (1869), the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer  1987), the logging blockades at Clayoquot Sound and Temagami (1980-94), the R v. Marshall Supreme Court decision that upheld Mi’kmaq fishing rights secured in the 1760-61 Maliseet–British treaties (1999), and Maria Campbell’s publication of her Métis memoir Halfbreed (1973). Personal “watershed moments” figure prominently in activist life histories, LGBTQ+ coming out stories, lyric poetry, and nature writing.

Watersheds are also geographical areas where waters, minerals, histories, animals, plants, fish, and other communities move and “gather ground” quite literally. Rivers carve valleys. Rivers gather sediment. Rivers flood. Tile drainage and irrigation systems gather ground for agricultural crops by moving water out and in, settling fertile properties and unsettling Indigenous histories. Tailing ponds are built to slow the travel of toxic metals through watersheds while the mined resources enter global commodity flows. Dams capture national imaginations with visions of prosperity and power while refashioning watersheds into new hydraulic systems. Forests, deforestation, and urban developments, too, shape water currents and fish futures. These material histories and possibilities gain expression and traction through figurative language and other signifying forms, such as maps and prospectuses and land registries and ceremony and legislation and story. Yet their material agency is not reducible to discourse or language effects. The “gathering grounds” of ecological, material, and historical knowledge matter in crafting personal and collective responses and interventions in this “critical time” of climate, biodiversity, and political crisis.

Inspired by prairie river valleys, and in particular our host site in the Meewasin Valley in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, the 2020 ALECC conference invites thoughtful responses to movements between the literal and figurative and the personal and historical and/or to critical times and turning points in watershed and other ecologies, Indigenous thought and practice, ecopoetics, new materialisms, fictional and nonfictional narrative, life writing, film, ecomedia studies, environmental histories, cultural geography, environmental philosophy, cultural studies, and related areas of environmental studies. Submissions are welcome on the proposed theme and other areas of interest from artists, creative writers, and scholars in the environmental arts and humanities, broadly defined, and on any historical period and any geographical area.

Submission Information
Proposals must be submitted by October 15, 2019, to conference@alecc.ca.

To propose an individual paper, creative or other work, including a reading (20 minutes), please submit an anonymous (no name included) proposal that includes a title and a 250- to 500-word abstract, noting whether it is a creative or an academic paper. In a separate document (but the same email submission), please send name, proposal title, your preference for a scholarly, creative or mixed session, any requests for audio-visual equipment, current contact information, and a one-page curriculum vitae (used for funding applications).

To propose a pre-formed scholarly panel or creative session (three to four presenters for a 90- minute session), please submit an anonymous proposal that includes a session title; a 200-word session abstract, including whether it is a creative, academic or mixed panel; and a 250- to 500- word anonymous abstract for each paper/presentation. In a separate file, please send the names for each presenter and the session organizer, the session title, any requests for audiovisual equipment, and contact information and a one-page curriculum vitae for each presenter.

To propose some other kind of format or presentation (e.g., workshops, roundtables, exhibits, performances), please contact the organizing committee in advance of the October 15th deadline to discuss proposal submission requirements.

Submissions in English, French, or First Nations languages will be accepted. Proposals should indicate clearly the nature of the session and all requests for audio-visual equipment and any other specific needs (e.g., space, moveable chairs, outdoor location, etc.). We ask that panel organizers attempt to include a diversity of participants.

Email submissions should include the word SUBMISSION, the abstract type (panel, paper, other), and your (or the panel proposer’s) name in the email subject line: SUBMISSION paper Gayatri Spivak, for example, or SUBMISSION panel Jon Gordon. We will acknowledge all submissions.

For more information about the Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada / Association pour la littérature, l'environnement et la culture au Canada, please visit our website at https://alecc.ca/. All presenters must be paid members of the organization or an affiliate by the date of the conference.

General queries for the organizing committee may be sent to conference@alecc.ca.

ALECC 2020 Organizing Committee:

  • Joanne Leow, University of Saskatchewan
  • Sheri Benning, University of Saskatchewan
  • Jenna Hunnef, University of Saskatchewan
  • Cheryl Lousley, Lakehead University Orillia
  • Richard Pickard, University of Victoria
  • Kaitlin Blanchard, McMaster University
  • Molly Wallace, Queen’s University
  • Glenn Willmott, Queen’s University
  • Brett Buchanan, Laurentian University



Wednesday, June 17

Afternoon   Wanuskewin excursion
6-6:45 pm Conference Opening / Listening to Indigenous Hosts
7-8 pm Sweet Water: Poems for the Watershed readings and book launch
8-9 pm MFA student-hosted Open-mic

Thursday, June 18

All day River Relations art exhibition at Gordon Snelgrove Gallery
8:30 am – 10 am Prairie Plenary: Trevor Herriot reading and talk
10 -10:30 am Coffee Break
10:30 am – 12 pm Concurrent conference panels 1
12 noon – 1 pm Lunch Break
1 - 2:30 pm Concurrent conference panels 2
2:30 – 3 pm Coffee Break
3 – 4:30 pm Concurrent conference panels 3
7 pm
Word Splash: A Celebration of Métis and First Nations Writing A Saskatchewan Aboriginal Writers’ Circle Inc. (SAWCI) event @ Saskatoon River Landing Amphitheatre

Friday, June 19

All day River Relations art exhibition at Gordon Snelgrove Gallery
8:30 am – 10 am Concurrent conference panels 4
10 -10:30 am Coffee Break
10:30 am – 12 pm Poetics Plenary: Rita Wong reading and talk
12 noon – 1 pm Lunch Break
1 - 2:30 pm Concurrent conference panels 5
2:30 – 3 pm Coffee Break
3 – 4:30 pm Concurrent conference panels 6
5:30- 6:45 pm Conference Reception and Official Opening of River Relations art exhibition @ Gordon Snelgrove Gallery
7 pm – 9 pm
Writers in Conversation (Candace Savage, Louise Halfe and Rita Wong) ALECC Book Prize winner to be announced.

Saturday, June 20

8:30 am – 10 am ALECC AGM
10 -10:30 am Coffee Break
10:30 am – 12 pm Concurrent conference panels 7
12 noon – 1 pm Lunch Break
1 - 2:30 pm Concurrent conference panels 8
2:30 – 3 pm Coffee Break
3 – 4:30 pm Concurrent conference panels 9
5 – 7 pm
Meewasin Valley guided river walk excursion
Conference ends.


Keynote Speakers

Rita Wong

An acclaimed poet and associate professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Rita Wong investigates the relationships between contemporary poetics, social justice, ecology, and decolonization. For some time now, she has been researching the poetics of water. A recipient of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop Emerging Writer Award, Wong is the author of monkeypuzzle (Press Gang, 1998), forage (Nightwood, 2007, short-listed for the 2008 Asian American Literary Award for Poetry, winner of Canada Reads Poetry 2011), sybil unrest (Line Books, 2008, with Larissa Lai), and undercurrent (Nightwood 2015). Wong co-authored the map-length poem beholden: a poem as long as the river, with Fred Wah for Talonbooks in 2018. In 2016 she co-edited Downstream: Reimagining Water, a collection of work on the theme of water, with Dorothy Christian for the Environmental Humanities series with WLU Press. Wong is part of River Relations: A Beholder’s Share of the Columbia River visual arts exhibit, which will be on display at the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery, University of Saskatchewan, from June 18-25, 2020, during the ALECC conference.

Trevor Herriot

Trevor Herriot is a prairie naturalist, activist, and writer living on the northern edge of the Great Plains in Regina, Saskatchewan. His first book, River in a Dry Land: a Prairie Passage (2000), received several national awards and a nomination for the Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction. Grass, Sky, Song: Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds (2009) was a Globe & Mail Top 100 book, was listed by Quill and Quire on its 2009 list of 15 books that matter, and shortlisted for the Writer’s Trust Non-Fiction Prize, the Governor General’s Award for Non-fiction, and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing (non-fiction). His other books include Jacob’s Wound: a Search for the Spirit of Wildness (2004), The Road is How: A Prairie Pilgrimage through Nature, Desire, and Soul (2014), and Towards a Prairie Atonement (2016), which connects history and ecology in prairie landscapes with a story about the forced removal of a community of 250 Metis people in the late 1930s. His latest book, Islands of Grass, with photographer Branimir Gjetvaj, was published in 2017. His writing has also appeared in the Globe & Mail and Canadian Geographic, as well as several anthologies. He has written two radio documentaries for CBC Ideas and is a regular guest on CBC Radio Saskatchewan’s Blue Sky. He posts regularly on his grassland blog, Grass Notes.

Louise Halfe

Louise Bernice Halfe was born in Two Hills, Alberta, and was raised on the Saddle Lake Reserve. Her Cree name is Sky Dancer. Her most recent work, Burning in this Midnight Dream (2016), won three Saskatchewan Book Awards, as well as the Raymond Souster Award for Poetry. Her three previous collections of poetry include Bear Bones & Feathers, Blue Marrow and The Crooked Good. Halfe served as Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate from 2005 to 2006. Her poems have won National Magazine Awards and her work on the article and visual essay “In Attawapiskat: Real life on the Rez” received an honorary mention for The Walrus Magazine. Louise has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Regina and received an Honorary Degree of Letters (Ph. D) from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2012. She currently works with Elders in an organization called Opikinawasowin (“raising our children”). She lives outside of Saskatoon with her husband.

Candace Savage

Candace Savage was born in the Peace River Country of northern Alberta and educated at the University of Alberta. She is the award-winning author of more than two dozen books including A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape (2012), which won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, and Prairie: A Natural History, winner of the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award. A new children’s book, Hello, Crow!, illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne, was published in fall 2019. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Candace Savage was inducted into the Honor Roll of the Rachel Carson Institute, Chatham College, in Pittsburgh in 1994. In addition to her work as a writer, she is member of both the Saskatoon Fiddle Orchestra and Le Choeur des plaines and also chairs Wild about Saskatoon’s NatureCity Festival.  She lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.


Afternoon tour of Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Bus departs from campus 12.30 pm, Wednesday, 17 June. Tour fee $25. Lunch not included. Food available at the recommended onsite restaurant.

Wanuskewin Heritage Park is a National Historic Site, a Northern Plains Indigenous interpretive site with over 6000 years of history. Indigenous peoples of the Northern Plains came to the Opimihaw Creek area year-after-year, following the bison and range animals who provided sustenance and gathering plants of the prairies. Virtually every Pre-Contact cultural group recognized across the Great Plains visited this location. The result is a remarkable complete and intact record of cultural development in the region over that time span. Some archaeological dig sites date back thousands of years making them older than the Egyptian pyramids; these sites provide clues to the daily existence of the early peoples. Tipi rings, stones cairns, pottery fragments, plant seeds, projectile points, egg shell fragments and animal bones all give evidence of active thriving societies. While some sites teach us about life thousands of years ago other sites like the ancient Medicine Wheel still remain shrouded in mystery.

We will be doing the Opimihaw Walk (2 hours 2-4pm): A full interpretive program that fully showcases the Opimihaw Valley in depth and the stories the site holds.


Coming Soon!

Getting here

Getting to Saskatoon


If you’re flying to Saskatoon from another country, arrange connecting flights to Saskatoon from larger airports, such as Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary.

Saskatoon Airport


VIA Rail Canada can connect you from many Canadian cities to Saskatoon.

VIA Rail


Ride sharing and taxi services

There are a variety of taxi company options in Saskatoon. The ride-sharing service Uber is also available in the city.

Saskatoon Transit

Saskatoon Transit is Saskatoon’s public bus transportation service provider. For information about university routes, schedules and fares, visit saskatoontransit.ca.

Bus route maps are available online or at the front doors of Upper Place Riel, facing the transit hub.

You can store your bike on the racks attached to the the front of all Saskatoon Transit busses.

University Routes

Download the Transit app

View the Transit app manual


On-Campus Dormitories Option

Dormitory registration and booking

Registrations 30 days before the event will pay a $15.00 Early Bird Fee. Any registrations after the 30 days will be required to pay a $30.00 Regular Fee. Dormitory registrations are not accepted less than 48 hours prior to the event and must be completed online by following the link and selecting the conference.

Residence Features

Voyager Place Dorms:

Features: Single dorms, public washrooms, fans available on a first-come, first-serve basis, secure door access, breakfast included, located in the heart of campus.

Rates: $61.79/night/guest for single dorms. Rates subject to GST & PST.

College Quarter Apartments:

Features: 4 bedroom apartments (shared with other conference attendees), 2 washrooms per apartment, air-conditioned, secure door access, located a 10-minute walk from campus. Includes a kitchen with a fridge and stove, guests are asked to bring their own cookware.

Rates: $63.00/night/guest. Rate subject to GST.

Check-In & Office Hours

Check-in is at 128 Saskatchewan Hall, 91 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5E8. Check-in time is from 3:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M. unless other arrangements have been made with the Residence Services Office ahead of time by contacting conference.services@usask.ca. Check-out time is 11:00 AM. Please note, check-outs after 11:00 AM are subject to a late check-out fee. 

Check-ins are not accepted after hours, as such we ask all guests to plan their travel arrangements to arrive during office hours.

Office Hours

Monday - Thursday
  • 8:30AM – 9:00PM
  • Closed between 3:30 PM and 4:30 PM on Tuesday.
  • 8:30AM - 10:00PM
Saturday - Sunday
  • 9:00AM - 12:00PM
  • 2:00PM - 9:00PM
Statutory Holidays
  • 2:00PM - 9:00PM

Conference Hotel Option

Attendees can book guestrooms by calling the following phone numbers:


Click on the Book Now button and you'll be taken directly to the special group rate provided by the hotel exclusively for guests who require accommodation for the event dates.   

Group Name
ALECC Conference 
Wed. June 17th, 2020
Sun. June 21st, 2020

Note: Anything outside of those dates please contact the hotel directly

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Saskatoon East - University (YXEES)
1838 College Drive, Bldg. #2, Saskatoon, SK    S1N 2Z8
Room Type(s)
  • (30) Two Queen Rooms at $139.00/night
  • (10) King Suites with Dbl Sleeper Sofa at $149.00/night
Cut off Date
Fri. May 15th, 2020
Group Code


  • University Conference Fund, University of Saskatchewan
  • Vice Dean, Research, Scholarly and Artistic Work Support Fund, College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan
  • Vice Dean, Indigenous, College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan
  • Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild
  • Gordon Snelgrove Gallery, University of Saskatchewan
  • Department of English, Lakehead University
  • Department of English, University of Saskatchewan
  • Department of Art and Art History, University of Saskatchewan
  • Planning and Communications, College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan