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Indigenous Roots and Routes, along the Humber River

Indigenous Roots and Routes, along the Humber River
North end, Old Mill subway station
Time: Oct 28th, 1:00 pm End: Oct 28th, 4:00 pm
Interest Categories: Visual Studies (UTM), Urban, Religion, Study of (FAS), Indigenous, Human Geography (UTSC), Geography & Planning (FAS), Food Studies, Drama, Theatre, Performance Studies (FAS), Canada, Arts, Culture and Media (UTSC), Art (FAS), Architecture, Landscape, Design, 2000-
First Story Toronto walking tour with Jill Carter and Jon Johnson

The Jackman Humanities Institute Working Group on Toronto's Urban Imaginaries is pleased to present:

detail of Resurge: First Timeline Philip Cote, 2017Detail from Resurge: First Timeline (2017) murals by Philip Cote, photograph courtesy of Jon Johnson.

Indigenous Roots and Routes, along the Humber River

First Story Toronto walking tour with Jill Carter and Jon Johnson


  • Resurge: First Timeline murals, cosmology and mapping of place as Anishinaabe knowledge by Philip Cote (with Kwest, Nelly Torossian, and Jarus)
  • Land activation event, mapping personal cosmologies, with Jill Carter

This event is now fully booked and registration is closed.

This tour along the Humber River takes place at the disappeared boundary of an old-growth suburb, Etobicoke. At this site, Indigenous Roots and Routes places brackets around concerns over amalgamations, gentrification, and so-called urban centres or peripheries. Our attention is turned instead towards topologies arising from contemporary practices of Indigenous urban storytelling, which recall the enduring presence of migration and trade routes dependent upon ecological relations between people, plants, animals and land. We may even see salmon swim upriver.

First Story Toronto tours can be likened to recent contemporary art projects that take the form of group tours or sited walks: Dylan Miner’s, To the Landless – Visiting with Lucy and Emma (2017); Camille Turner and Cheryl L’Hirondelle’s Freedom Tour (2017) and Sister Co-Resister’s Walking Salon (2017); or Susan Blight and Hayden King’s Ogimaa Mikana Project (2015-2016), in which signage catches the eye as people move along streets and sidewalks as part of their daily life. By addressing contemporary and historical conditions of mobility and land-based relations, these tours-as-events perform what Tuscarora artist and scholar, Jolene Rickard has described, as an act of “reversal of an Indigenous condition of displacement.”[1]

Ongoing since 1995, First Story Toronto tours are inter-generational, inter-tribal, and community-based, operating out of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. As performative events, shaped by the protocols governing oral storytelling traditions, First Story Toronto tours repeatedly inscribe the GTA within the traditional territories of the Anishinaabeg peoples and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. This is one of the ways that the cultural knowledge and traditions of Indigenous nations continue to influence the shape of the city today. Participating in one of these tours means acknowledging over 13,000 years of Indigenous presence, which predate settler arrival and then are intimately bound up with the development of urban spaces, and ideals of cosmopolitan life.

This tour takes place as one of the meetings for the Jackman Humanities Institute Working Group, Toronto’s Urban Imaginaries; which reflects upon local art histories as they inflect present day experiences of the GTA.

Saturday, October 28, 1pm
Meeting at the North End of the Old Mill Subway Station
Be prepared for a 3h gentle hike


Jill Carter (Anishinaabe/Ashkenazi) is an avid theatre practitioner who has worked as a performer, director, dramaturg, and instructor for almost two decades. She is a graduate of the Graduate Centre for Study of Drama at the University of Toronto, where she completed her Ph.D. Her dissertation is focussed upon the Spiderwoman Process of Storyweaving, its development within Spiderwoman Theater and its evolution in the works of Monique Mojica and Murielle Borst. Currently, she teaches in the Aboriginal Studies Department and the Transitional Year Programme at the University of Toronto. To complement her scholarly work and artistic praxis, Jill currently serves on the Editorial Board of Alt. Theatre: Cultural Diversity and the Stage, the Executive Board of the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance (IPAA), the Executive Board of the Canadian Association for Theatre Research (CATR), and the Committee of First Story Toronto at Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. She still performs when she can, studies clown and bouffant, eats fire for fun, and enjoys guiding Indigenous history tours in the GTA.

Philip Cote is Shawnee, Lakota, Potawatomi and Ojibway from Moose Deer Point First Nation. He is a graduate of The Ontario College of Art and Design and has been at the forefront of a group of artists who are exploring new ways to imbue sculpture, painting and other installation art with traditional spiritual perspectives. Philip has been exhibited and commissioned for various galleries, festivals and residencies across Canada and the United States. His recent work includes the 5680 square foot “All My Relations” mural displayed at Allen Gardens until 2015. Philip co-managed and participated in designing one of the five murals. He also recently had a story published in Copper Thunderbird The Art of Norval Morrisseau 2012. Philip is currently a board member on the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective. Philip’s great-grandfather is the great-grandson of Tecumseh, and he has been exploring and researching the importance of the Shawnee leader’s life and spirit.

Jon Johnson is a critical interdisciplinary researcher that works within Toronto’s Indigenous community. His research focuses on Indigenous Knowledge and land-based storytelling traditions in Toronto, with an emphasis on the connections among culture, storytelling, the land, and health. He has published on topics related to Indigenous environmental history, Indigenous land-based storytelling traditions, the relationship between colonialism, food cultures, and Indigenous health, and disability rights. Current research into the representation of land-based Indigenous Knowledge and storytelling through popular educational initiatives such as public tours and smartphone applications is grounded in an ongoing involvement with and participation in Toronto’s Indigenous community. Johnson is an organizing member of First Story Toronto, a program at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto devoted to researching and sharing Toronto’s Indigenous heritage through a variety of popular educational initiatives. As a part of this work, Johnson leads walking and bus tours of the Indigenous heritage of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). His essay, “Great Indian Bus Tour”: Mapping Toronto’s Urban First Nations Oral Tradition’ is included in The Nature of Empires and the Empires of Nature: Indigenous Peoples and the Great Lakes Environment (Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier Press, 2013).

[1] Jolene Rickard, Leveraging Indigenous Artistic Pulse Points. Power Plant International Lecture Series. 12 May, 2017.

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