7 ways to learn about Indigenous culture in Toronto
Resources to help you educate youself on the Indigenous communities that make up our country
Published: June 2, 2021
Author: Megan Gallant
Indigenous Peoples across Canada are grappling with news that the remains of 215 First Nations children were found in a mass grave site at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C. last week. Some of the children were as young as three years old. Sadly, this devastating discovery does not come as a shock to many survivors who suggest Canada’s history is darker than most Canadians know. In the wake of this news, it’s important for us to be aware of our history and work towards reconciliation. With this news, along with June 1 marking the onset of Indigenous Peoples Month, we’ve put together a list of resources to help residents of Toronto educate themselves on the culture and history of the Indigenous communities that make up our country.
Indigenous Voices, ROM
As part of their At Home programming, the Royal Ontario Museum’s Indigenous Voices series features live webinars twice a month to share stories and celebrate Indigenous culture. Designed for elementary and high school students and educators, the program highlights distinct ancestral objects and offers activities to engage viewers. The next episode on June 7 is targeted for grades six through nine and will feature guest Pamela Carter reflecting on the role of residential schools. The program is free with registration and past episodes, ranging in topic from cultural dance to storytelling, can be watched anytime online.
The Cedar Basket Gift Shop
The Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT) is a charity organization that works to support the wellbeing of Toronto’s Indigenous community. Their beautiful downtown heritage building offers services and programs based on Indigenous traditions and teachings. Inside is the Cedar Basket Giftshop, which carries a wide selection of First Nations, Metis and Inuit handcrafted products including original art, jewelry, moccasins, beadwork, carvings and more. While the NCCT is not currently open to the public, the Cedar Basket Giftshop continues to be open to support Indigenous artists online.
Indigenous Celebrations, Toronto Public Library
The Indigenous Celebration program running at the Toronto Public Library is a festival of culture featuring webinars on storytelling and literature from First Nations, Metis and Inuit heritage. Upcoming programs include a look into the craft of turning birch bark into art using just your teeth, and a lecture on Indigenous cuisine from acclaimed Indigenous chefs. The library also provides literary education through collections of Indigenous reading, including books that explore important elements of Canadian history, such as the traumas of residential school systems.
Early Days: Indigenous Art, McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Although the McMichael Canadian Art Collection remains closed due to provincial restrictions, you can still experience the culture of Indigenous art by registering for a free virtual tour of the exhibit Early Days: Indigenous Art. Running until the end of June, the interactive tour will introduce you to historic Indigenous art collections ranging from eighteenth century pieces to contemporary Canadian styles. McMichael also provides an e-museum of their permanent collections available for browsing online. Collections include First Nations and Metis as well as Inuit art.
Indigenous Cinema, National Film Board of Canada
The National Film Board of Canada’s collection of Indigenous-made films is available to stream for free on their Indigenous Cinemas page. The platform offers old, new and classic films in a variety of styles including fiction, documentary, animation and educational. Support Indigenous talent by watching the work of top directors or educate yourself through a selection of Indigenous subjects including culture and literature, rights, nature and community.
Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund
The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund is a registered charity located an hour outside of Toronto that works to create a better path for Indigenous Peoples of Canada by educating, connecting and spreading awareness. For Indigenous History Month, the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund is hosting a series of events to celebrate Indigenous diversity. Presented on Facebook and YouTube, the events will feature Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers and artists from various communities across Canada. The Canada show will run June 30 and is available for registration online.
APTN Indigenous Day Live
After a unique 2020 Winter Solstice event, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network’s (APTN) Indigenous Day Live returns on June 20. Earl Wood and Janelle Wookey will host the event to commemorate the 25th National Indigenous Peoples Day. The show is the largest celebration on the day of the Summer Solstice and celebrates First Nations contributions to Canada by showcasing established and new First Nations, Metis and Inuit artists through cultural and musical performances. The APTN Indigenous Day Live has been held annually since 2007 and has been hosted in cities across Canada. The event will be free to stream on APTN Lumi from June 20 until June 22.