The best National Indigenous History Month events in Toronto


June is National Indigenous History Month, but as usual the pandemic is preventing large gatherings, so most celebrations and events are happening online.

The annual spotlight on history and heritage of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people has taken a sobering turn thanks to renewed national conversations around the legacy of residential schools in Canada. The preliminary discovery of 215 children buried in a mass grave at a former residential school site has sparked widespread anger and grief. As a result, many non-Indigenous people are now starting to delve deeper into Canadian history and asking hard questions about what’s happening in the present.

If you’re interested in Indigenous history, or want to check out some great contemporary music, art and film, now is an opportune time – to reflect but also celebrate and feel a sense of hope for the future. Most events are happening in the lead up to National Indigenous Peoples Day is on June 21. Check out the best Indigenous History Month events below.

The City Imagines: Indigenous Toronto

Word On The Street is hosting a virtual conversation to launch the Coach House Books anthology Indigenous Toronto, about the Indigenous history and culture underpinning the city. The talk features contributors Brian Wright-McLeod, Kerry Potts, Mnawaate Gordon-Corbiere and Elder Duke Redbird.

June 17. 7 pm. Free. Register here.

Stories Are Power: Films By Indigenous Creators

TIFF is teaming with recent Hot Docs-award winning filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers to curate a film program with an Indigenous audience in mind. Tailfeathers’s 2019 dramatic feature, co-directed by Kathleen Hepburn, The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open is screening alongside SG̲aawaay Ḵ’uuna (Edge Of The Knife), the first feature film made in the endangered Haida language. Aleksei Vakhrushev’s hybrid animated doc The Book Of The Sea, arthouse mainstay Sky Hopinka’s maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore and the Pacific Island anthology film Vai round out the program.

June 18; free artist talk with Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Adam Piron on June 24.

Wapikoni Film Festival Favourites

If you want to go deeper into Indigenous independent film, the Canadian streamer Highball.TV is hosting a collection of films by Indigenous directors in collaboration with Wapikoni Studio, which travels around to different communities leading workshops for youth. The collection includes recent Inside Out fest winner Pitoc e icinakosian by Gerry-Ottawa and Jos-Onimskiw Ottawa-Dubé.

From Weeds We Grow: Birch Bark Basket Workshop

First Nations artist Lindsey Lickers leads this online workshop that will teach participants how to make birch bark baskets while exploring connections between land and craft. There will also be a virtual walking tour and a digital exhibition featuring works created during the event.

June 19. 1-3 pm.

National Indigenous Peoples Day Feast

The city of Toronto’s month-long programming includes virtual panel discussions and virtual treaty tours. But for foodies, there’s also a culinary program that includes not just online events, but a takeout feast in support of people living at Na-Me-Res Native Men’s Residence. Billy Alexander, the executive chef and culinary advisor for Caldwell First Nation, is doing venison and salmon meals you can pre-order for curbside pick-up at Fort York National Historic Site on June 20. Check out the full list of city events here.

Wigwam Chi-Chemung

Multi-hypenate Indigenous artist and intellectual Elder Duke Redbird’s 40-foot pontoon houseboat returns to the Ontario Place Marina for a third straight year. The boat, which will be docked all summer, is covered in muralist Phil Cote’s artwork. This year’s program, produced with Myseum of Toronto, will include interpretive panels and an interpretive phone line with audio content about the Wigwam and the integral role the waterfront plays in Toronto’s Indigenous history.

June 21-August 27. Free.

APTN Indigenous Day Live 2021

TV network APTN is going big for the 25th Indigenous Day, which coincides with the summer solstice. This year’s broadcast concert pairs Indigenous artists with Canadian music icons for collaborations spanning English, French and Indigenous languages. The lineup includes Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Tom Wilson, iskwē, Neon Dreams, Julian Taylor, Charlotte Cardin, Buffy Sainte-Marie and more.

June 20. 8-11:30 pm on APTN and APTN lumi.

Pride Toronto: Indigenous People’s Day Showcase

Pride’s official Indigenous Day event is a circle discussion led by Elder Blu Waters and featuring Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer leaders from 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations’ Leadership Building Initiative, Kiley May and Shane Lyon. There will also be traditional Anishinaabe singing courtesy of Kiyana Johnston and Anishinaabe dancing from Nenookaasi.

June 21. 6-7 pm. Free.

Project 31: New Futures

If you need some new artwork, BIPOC artists and designers from OCAD University are hosting an online auction featuring 50 lots to raise money for student bursaries. The pieces, by new and established artists, are being sold in a silent auction throughout the month and selected artworks will be sold during a live auction. All funds raised from both the silent and live auctions will support BIPOC students through bursaries as well as programming by faculties. 

To June 30. Live auction on June 24.

 Buddies in Bad Times Queer Pride: 2-Spirit Cabaret

Native Earth Performing Arts and Buddies are hosting an online showcase for queer and 2-Spirit Indigenous performers Hosted by Mx Wolverine, the lineup Nina Boujee, Ronald R. Braman, Sophie Dow, Seán Carson Kinsella, Roger Kuhn, Denise B. McLeod, Raylah, Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone and Weird Alice. Deejay Jams will be on the decks.

June 24. 8 pm. Free.




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