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Creating Indigenous futures

As National Indigenous History Month continues, we’ve compiled a list of arts organizations that amplify, connect and support the advancement of Indigenous creatives.

Skawennati, IFWTO

Skawennati, IFWTO fashion film program. Image courtesy of IFWTO.

June brings a recognition of the history and heritage of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in what is known as Canada. That said, it’s crucial to recognize the advancements and accomplishments of Indigenous peoples—not just this month but all year round. From visual art, curatorial practice, fashion, film, storytelling and more, Indigenous creativity encompasses a wide breadth. 

By no means a comprehensive or definitive list, the organizations included here are just a few of many mandated to foster contemporary Indigenous creative output in Canadian and global communities. All are proudly led and operated by Indigenous peoples.  

The Trail Nenaboozhoo book cover, Kegedonce Press

Images courtesy of Kegedonce Press. 

Kegedonce Press
Blue Marrow book cover, Kegedonce Press

All images courtesy Kegedonce Press.

Kegedonce Press
The Crooked Good book cover, Kegedonce Press

Images courtesy of Kegedonce Press.

Kegedonce Press
The Krillian Key: Salamander Run book cover, Kegedonce Press

Images courtesy of Kegedonce Press. 

Kegedonce Press
Ghost Lake book cover, Kegedonce Press

Images courtesy of Kegedonce Press.

Kegedonce Press
Angel Wing Splash Pattern book cover, Kegedonce Press

Images courtesy of Kegedonce Press.

Kegedonce Press
You are Enough book cover, Kegedonce Press

Images courtesy of Kegedonce Press.

Kegedonce Press

Kegedonce Press

Founded by Anishinaabe poet, writer and educator Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Kegedonce Press has published books created by a range of Indigenous creatives since 1993. One of only a handful of dedicated Indigenous publishers in Canada, Kegedonce Press is based in Owen Sound and Neyaashiinigmiing, Ontario, on the traditional territory of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation. Some of the most widely known and awarded contemporary Indigenous writers have published with Kegedonce Press, including Joanne Arnott, Cherie Dimaline and Marilyn Dumont, among several others. In fall 2020, Louise Bernice Halfe—Sky Dancer, Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureateasked Kegedonce Press to put two of her classic and critically acclaimed poetry collections back into print:Sky Dancer’s Blue Marrow from 2020 and The Crooked Good from 2021.

Coinciding with this year’s celebrations of both National Indigenous History and Pride Month, Kegedonce Press partnered with Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop to offer a sale on Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ Indigenous titles. Several Kegedonce titles uplift Two-Spirit content, including those by Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler, Sharron Proulx-Turner, Smokii Sumac, and Tunchai Redvers. In fall 2021, Kegedonce will release an illustrated children’s book by Sharon King, a poetry collection by Daniel Lockhart and a memoir by Sixties Scoop survivor Christine Miskonoodinkwe Smith.

Indigenous Curatorial council

Image courtesy of The ICCA.

Indigenous Curatorial Collective/Collectif des commissaires autochtones

Founded in 2005, The Indigenous Curatorial Collective/Collectif des commissaires autochtones (ICCA) is an Indigenous-run and led non-profit organization that aims to support and connect fellow Indigenous curators, artists, writers, academics, and professionals through various methods of gathering. Led by Executive Director Camille Georgeson-Usher, the ICCA engages in critical discourses, increases professional opportunities for its members, develops programming, and most importantly works to build reciprocal relationships with Indigenous curators, artists, communities and external institutions. The ICCA is invested in initiatives that influence a more equitable, accessible and inclusive arts sector for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour working in the arts.

Until the end of June, the ICCA is accepting submissions for artwork and moderators to be featured in their Annual Gathering Solidarity Across Space/Solidarité à travers l’espace, scheduled for November. A series of events including panel discussions and workshops will be presented around the theme of solidarity, which is rooted in the theme of care explored in 2020. This gathering will give space to Black, Afro-Indigenous and Indigenous curators, artists, art workers and educators who reflect and centre their work on knowledge and actions of solidarity.

Delicate Tissue Collection by Curtis Oland. IFWTO

Delicate Tissue Collection by Curtis Oland. Image courtesy of IFWTO.

Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto
Anti-Pipleline Society Kwe by Celeste Pedri-Spade. IFWTO

Anti-Pipleline Society Kwe by Celeste Pedri-Spade, photographed by Linda Roy. Image courtesy of IFWTO.

Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto
Mobilize Waskawewin. IFWTO.

Mobilize Waskawewin. Image courtesy of IFWTO.

Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto
Margaret Jacobs. IFWTO

Margaret Jacobs, photo by Taylor Robinson with Maija Erickson as model. Image courtesy of IFWTO.

Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto
Hand of Solomon, IFWTO

Hand of Solomon, IFWTO fashion film program. Image courtesy of IFWTO.

Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto
Evan Ducharme, IFWTO

Evan Ducharme, IFWTO fashion film program. Image courtesy of IFWTO.

Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto

Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto (IFWTO)

Held every two years, IFWTO is a four-day arts-and-culture festival that presents Indigenous-made fashion, crafts and textiles. With Sage Paul (urban Denesuliné, member of English River First Nation and an awarded designer in her own right) as the festival’s founding Executive and Artistic Director, and co-founded with a team of women, IFWTO amplifies the multiplicity within global Indigenous cultural expression. Future-thinking while still rooted in traditional craftsmanship, IFWTO connects audiences with contemporary Indigenous artists and designers through the lens of fashion.

November 2020 saw a completely virtual edition of the festival with fashion film programs, a marketplace of 40 artists that nearly sold out in the first day, and a panel series based on Indigenous education and entrepreneurship. Among the over 50 artists and designers included were Evan Ducharme, Caroline Monnet, Mobilize Waskawewin, Curtis Oland, Lesley Hampton and Celeste Pedri-Spade.  Also in 2020, IFTWO created a capsule collection with the Canadian retailer Simons. A milestone for the festival and for progressive representations of Indigenous fashion and craft, the collection features the work of eight Indigenous designers and artists. The next IFWTO is highly anticipated for early June 2022.

imagineNATIVE 1

Images courtesy of imagineNATIVE.

imagineNATIVE
imagineNATIVE 2

Images courtesy of imagineNATIVE.

imagineNATIVE
imagineNATIVE 3

Images courtesy of imagineNATIVE.

imagineNATIVE
imagineNATIVE 4

Image courtesy of imagineNATIVE. Photo by Ian Maracle.

imagineNATIVE
imagineNATIVE 5

Image courtesy of imagineNATIVE. 

imagineNATIVE
Atanarjuat The Fast Runner

Still from the 2001 film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. Image courtesy of imagineNATIVE.

Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner

imagineNATIVE  

For the past 20 years and counting, imagineNATIVE has been the world's largest presenter of Indigenous screen content. The organization is recognized locally, nationally and internationally for excellence and innovation in programming and as the global centre for Indigenous media arts. imagineNATIVE is a registered charity committed to creating a greater understanding of Indigenous peoples and cultures through the presentation of contemporary Indigenous-made media art including film, video, audio and digital media. Although the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival happens yearly, the organization remains active with an assorted offering of year-round programming and initiatives. The reach extends well beyond Toronto and into remote communities across Canada with the imagineNATIVE tour which presents Indigenous-made film screenings and programs.

Throughout June, imagineNATIVE has hosted their Feature Friday film series, masterclasses, artist profiles and a very special message from Grandmother Pauline Shirt. To close out the month, audiences can still catch a screening of the 1998 Chris Eyre film, Smoke Signals, this Friday, June 25, as well as a panel discussion about Afrofuturism and Indigenous Futurisms. The next imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is set for October 2021.

After the Fire by Matthew MacKenzie (2019),  NEPA

After the Fire by Matthew MacKenzie (2019), A Punctuate! Theatre & Alberta Performing Arts Co-Production in Association with Native Earth & Theatre Centre, pc Dahlia Katz, photo features performers Sheldon Elter. Image courtesy of NEPA.

Native Earth Performing Arts
bug by Yolanda Bonnell (2020), NEPA

bug by Yolanda Bonnell (2020), manidoons collective co-presented with Theatre Passe Muraille and Native Earth, pc Dahlia Katz, photo features Yolanda Bonnell. Image courtesy of NEPA.

 

Native Earth Performing Arts
Gathering Light by Michelle Olson, NEPA

Gathering Light by Michelle Olson, A Raven Spirit Dance Production (2019), pc Kaytee Dalton, photo features performers Tin Gamboa, Jeanette Kotowich, Hailey McCloskey, and Salome Nieto. Image courtesy of NEPA.

Native Earth Performing Arts
Isitwendam by Meegwun Fairbrother, NEPA

Isitwendam by Meegwun Fairbrother, A Bound to Create Production (2019), pc Joe Bucci, photo features Meegwun Fairbrother. Image courtesy of NEPA. 

Native Earth Performing Arts
This Is How We Got Here by Keith Barker (2020), NEPA

This Is How We Got Here by Keith Barker (2020), pc Christie Wong, photo features Michaela Washburn and Kristopher Bowman. Image courtesy of NEPA. 

Native Earth Performing Arts

Native Earth Performing Arts (NEPA)

Native Earth Performing Arts (NEPA) is Canada’s oldest professional Indigenous theatre company, currently in its 38th year. NEPA is dedicated to creating, developing and producing professional artistic expressions of the Indigenous experience in Canada. Their annual festival, Weesageechak Begins to Dance, supports emerging, mid-career and established Indigenous performance artists as they develop new work with a series of public presentations and workshops. The 33rd edition of Weesageechak Begins to Dance was hosted virtually in late 2020

This Thursday, June 24, for the fifth year in partnership with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, NEPA is set to present 2-Spirit Cabaret, a celebration of the strength, beauty, and talent of Queer and Two-Spirit Indigenous people. After a series of workshops with guest artists and mentors, nine artists will take the digital stage as the cabaret makes its Buddies Queer Pride Festival debut. This free online event is hosted by Mx Wolverine, with performances by Nina Boujee, Ronald R. Braman, Sophie Dow, Rebecca Hope, Seán Carson Kinsella, Roger Kuhn, Denise B. Mcleod, Raylah, Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone, and Weird Alice, plus a set by Deejay Jams. Reserve your spot here.

Searching for more Indigenous-led arts organizations? 7th Generation Image Makers offers programming and mentorship for Indigenous youth as they develop their artistic practice. Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts (ANDPVA) provides financial support for those impacted by the pandemic. NWIA (Native Women in the Arts) is hosting a virtual concert series beginning June 25.

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