Today, Mayor John Tory proclaimed June as National Indigenous Peoples Month and announced programming for the Indigenous Arts Festival and other City of Toronto events for National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21). 

The Indigenous Arts Festival will take place on Saturday, June 18 and Sunday, June 19 at Fort York National Historic Site; 250 Fort York Blvd. The festival is a free, community-focused event in celebration of traditional and contemporary Indigenous music and dance, along with artisan and culinary experiences of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples living across Turtle Island and Indigenous communities around the world. 

The festival is presented by the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Na-Me-Res, Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin (They Feed the People), and the City of Toronto. According to the City, the program is made possible in part by the Government of Canada and sponsorships from Bell and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and media partner ELMNT FM. 

“The City of Toronto acknowledges National Indigenous Peoples Month as a time to learn, reflect, and celebrate the diversity of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples across Tkaronto and all of Turtle Island," says Mayor Tory. "Residents are encouraged to take this time to learn more about Indigenous histories, communities and the contributions Indigenous peoples have made, their vibrant and distinct culture, and their beautiful languages.”

The vibrant Indigenous Arts Festival program lineup includes a Grand Entry and annual Na-Me-Res traditional Pow Wow with drummers and dancers (noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 18 only); live music performances on the ELMNT FM stage, including 2022 JUNO Award nominees Beny Esguerra and New Tradition Music, and Manitou Mkwa Singers; an Indigenous Artisans Market featuring a variety of Indigenous artisans curated by Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin (They Feed the People) in collaboration with Barb Nahwegahbow from Blue Dawn Consulting Inc; and an Indigenous Food Market with a curated selection of Indigenous and Indigenous-fusion foods that will challenge the idea of festival foods (Sunday, June 19 only). 

An exciting selection of food vendors will be available on both days of the Indigenous Arts Festival, offering a wide range of nutritious and delicious options with connections to Indigenous foodways, food sovereignty and Elder and community wellness, says the City. 

But the celebrations don’t stop when the festival wraps. Beginning Wednesday, July 13, the Indigenous Food Market will continue weekly on Wednesdays at Fort York National Historic Site with music, talks and performances. Furthermore, there will be art installations on extended display.

People can also experience the poignant new video installation DISH DANCES by Ange Loft and Jumblies Theatre & Arts as part of Toronto Biennial of Art. DISH DANCES combines music, song, and movement to expand ideas about the governance and sustainability of the land. Queering Place Earth Art Installation is a project of SKETCH Working Arts that engages 2SQTBIPOC artists in residence to plant and tend a medicine wheel garden that connects to planter installations in the four directions, with city-wide partners to nurture healing gathering spaces for 2SLGBTQ+ young people. Created by Ogimaa Mikana Project (Susan Blight and Hayden King), Weweni Bizindan (Listen Carefully) is a large-scale public art installation that contributes to discussions of the animate nature of our language and the world around us. Weweni Bizindan was commissioned by The Bentway Conservancy and hosted by Fort York National Historic Site.

Additional National Indigenous Peoples Day events and commemorations include the City’s annual Sunrise Ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday, June 21 at 5:30am and the illuminating in red of the Toronto Sign on the evening of June 21. Furthermore, there will be two Indigenous-focused films available through the Toronto History Museums’ Awakenings program: A Portrait in Red, filmed at Todmorden Mills, and Acknowledgment, filmed at Fort York. Both films are part of the project We Were Always Here, and are available to be viewed on the Toronto History Museums' webpage

“The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation are proud to work with our partners at Toronto History Museums and the City of Toronto, and we look forward to sharing Indigenous Arts and Culture with residents and visitors," said Gimaa (Chief) R. Stacey Laforme, Mississauga of the Credit First Nation. "The arts are not only beautiful and entertaining, but they are the ultimate in communication and provide a unique learning opportunity for all.”

And if there's ever a time to learn, it's right now (actually, it was hundreds of years ago). And these learnings should continue beyond National Indigenous Peoples Month.

“National Indigenous Peoples Month is a good time to learn more about diverse Indigenous cultures and traditions,” says Selina Young, Director, Indigenous Affairs Office. “I look forward to this opportunity for everyone to celebrate the rich artistic heritage and current contemporary expressions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. I encourage people to take time to educate themselves and experience cultural events like the IAF and Na-Me-Res Pow Wow, throughout this month and beyond.”

Urban Living