Illustration of young indigenous girl standing before stylized Toronto skyline

Illustration by Aura

Where to learn about Indigenous cultures in the GTA

From events to volunteering, here’s how to connect with—and learn from—your Inuit, First Nations and Métis neighbours

With all the concrete, condos and commotion in the GTA, it’s easy to become disconnected from the land that we all walk on—and to forget about the people who walked on it first. Indigenous people lived in Tkaronto for millennia before the CN Tower and highrises came to dominate our skyline. Today, more and more First Nations, Métis and Inuit people call the city home. An Indigenous resurgence is underway in the GTA, which means everyone has more access to invaluable knowledge and resources about Indigenous people, culture and history. You just need to know where to look. Here are five places where you can learn about Indigenous people in Toronto and beyond.

1 Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT)

The NCCT’s vision is “to [work] with all of our relations toward a better future,” something the organization has been doing brilliantly since 1962. The agency, which is funded by United Way, creates a safe, empowering community space for Indigenous people in Toronto, while also providing non-Indigenous people with access to Indigenous culture and worldviews. Check out their impressive range of services and programs, from drumming, beading and language workshops to Indigenous cultural competency training to a bus tour that makes stops across the city so participants can learn about the history of the land. If you’re looking to make a connection to Indigenous culture in Toronto, this is an excellent place to start. 16 Spadina Rd., Toronto. 

2 Dodem Kanonhsa’

Part of this midtown Toronto organization’s mission is to foster “greater acceptance, understanding and harmony between members of First Nations and non-Aboriginal people.” Elders and traditional knowledge keepers gather at Dodem Kanonhsa’ to share oral teachings; the organization also facilitates counselling services and traditional Indigenous ceremonies for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. It’s a place where you are actively encouraged to learn. 55 St. Clair Avenue East, Toronto.

3 Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO)

The MNO is a Métis-specific representative body for individuals and communities that are part of the Métis Nation. An office opened in Brampton just last year, which means resources for and knowledge about the Métis people of this land are more accessible than ever. This organization is a great hub for accessing resources, knowledge and community events, especially on social media. The MNO page on Facebook often shares information about upcoming events—think feasts, moccasin-making workshops and conferences or talks. 350 Rutherford Rd. S., Brampton.

4Torontomiutaujugut

An offshoot of Tungasuvvingat Inuit, the well-established Inuit organization based in Ottawa, Torontomiutaujugut offers ample opportunities for cultural education thanks to their language, sewing and carving classes. They’re particularly focused on youth, specifically Indigenous youth in the city of Toronto and the surrounding area. In fact, they say part of their mission is to “inspire the creativity of our young people by providing them with physical and digital spaces to showcase visual and performing arts.” Their website is also packed with digital resources that make it easier to learn about Inuit art and culture. 215 Spadina Ave, Suite 400, Toronto.

5Aboriginal Education Centre

Run by the Toronto District School Board, the Aboriginal Education Centre is a fantastic resource hub for everyone, but it’s particularly great for families, children and students. They help build connections among members of the community, and seek to run and promote events and services that will help Métis, Inuit and First Nations students prosper. There are also opportunities for non-Indigenous people to get involved. They often post about volunteer opportunities on their social media accounts, such as organizing and running dinners or community events, which would be a great chance to learn and build relationships while also helping the organization. 16 Phin Ave., Toronto.

Bonus: Whose Land App

This web-based app provides users with knowledge about the Indigenous people and communities who originally inhabited the land where they live or work. History, information about treaties and proper land acknowledgements are also included.

All people, especially non-Indigenous people, should pursue knowledge that will help them be better allies to the Indigenous people of this land, especially as the government and the education system struggle to recognize and provide access to Indigenous history and culture. But whether you visit one of these spots, try to hit all five or seek knowledge in other ways, it’s important to respect safe spaces for Indigenous people in the GTA. And remember, the most valuable knowledge you and your family will gain is through relationships, which must be built on respect and trust—something that takes time.

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