“Waawaatesi” is the Ojibwe word for Firefly.
A Collaborative Interactive Art Project
Welcome to the YR Experience Trail Marker in Aurora in the Aurora Town Park.
Town of Aurora Land Acknowledgment
We would like to start by acknowledging that the land on which we live and work is the traditional and treaty territory of the Anishinaabe, and many other Nations, whose presence here continues to this day. As a Municipality, Aurora has shared responsibility for the stewardship of this land.
We further acknowledge that Aurora is part of the treaty lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, recognized through Treaty #13 as well as the Williams Treaties of 1923.
A shared understanding of how the rich cultural heritage that has existed for centuries and of how our collective past brought us to where we are today, will help us walk together into a better future.
Indigenous worldview of the firefly
Waawaatesi– Lights up the summer evenings in the long grass, among the giizhikatig (cedar tree). Ojibwe teachings acknowledges the special relationship of this pollinator with the sacred medicine of wiingushk (sweetgrass).
Re-Connect through Art
We invite you to engage in photos and sharing on social media your experiences on the Experience Trail! Use the hashtag: #ExperienceYR
@experienceyorkregion @yorkregionarts @donchretien
More About the Project
This artwork was commissioned by the York Region Arts Council and produced in collaboration with Donald Chretien, Nipissing First Nation and Cultural narrative by Ojibwe Elder Shelley Charles, Georgina Island First Nation
Mr. Chretien’s series encompasses his Ojibwe learnings celebrating the seed spreaders and pollinators of Mother Earth. This art piece is designed to invite the observer to be part of the art, be part of the story and to re-connect through photos, art and storytelling.
Mr. Chretien, is a nationally recognized Indigenous fine artist who resided in Newmarket for 30 years and created many connections to York Region through his art. He is working on a new project with the York Region Arts Council and experienceyorkregion.com’s Experience Trail program that will invite folks in York Region to explore, discover and engage in his art and share it through “digital mediums”.
Monica del Rio Pain, Program Curator at the York Region Arts Council (YRAC), is thrilled to commission Mr. Chretien’s series that encompasses his Ojibwe learnings of the Medicine Wheel and celebrates the seed spreaders and pollinators of Mother Earth. The circular shaped art pieces are designed to provide people the opportunity to be part of the art, be part of the story and to re-connect with York Region through photos, art and storytelling.
“The Experience Trail is all about re-connecting people through York Region’s diverse attractions,” Ms. Pain said. “We want to create an experience that celebrates all there is to do across the region and encourage art as a way to share and connect these experiences with each other in a safe way.
To discover the other locations for the YR Experience Trail Markers click here.
More about the Collaborators
Indigenous Artist, Nipissing First Nation A.O.C.A
Don was raised in North Bay, Ontario, near Nipissing First Nation. He later resided in York Region, Newmarket for almost 30 years. A graduate from the Ontario College of Art and Design, Chretien worked as a commercial artist and designer for many national and international accounts but found his own pathway in the visual arts when he met and was mentored by Elder, Writer and Scholar, Basil Johnson. From his teacher, Don learned to become a visual storyteller and to respectfully translate Johnson’s centuries old tales through his paintings and prints.
In 2009 he was selected to be part of the Aboriginal Art Acquisition Program for the 2010 Olympic Games where he was commissioned to create a massive 80-foot installation piece for the Vancouver Olympics titled ‘Mother, Friend, Small Bird’ which is on permanent display in Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum and part of the Vancouver Art Registry.
In 2011 Grey Roots Museum exhibit: “The Good People: Know Our Stories, Know Us” where he designed a series of colorful symbols, or doodems. The Good People is a recipient of a 2010 Ontario Museum Association Award of Excellence and a 2011 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Museums, Honourable Mention in the History Alive! category. Now part of the Heritage Interpretation Department at Grey Roots Museum.
He also created 10 totems along the Tom Taylor Trail in Newmarket were commissioned in 2014. Many of his work is exhibited on several sites across Turtle Island
In June of 2018 Don took part in the Ontario Government’s reconciliation project and sculpted a tree, which has toured around the province.
Since 2018, Don has been teaching art courses at the McMichael Gallery and been part of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection VOICES program and he has travelled to schools for close to 10 years in York Regional School Board, but also a couple fly-ins in Northern Ontario, Deer Lake and Poplar Hills.
To learn more about Don, click here for his longer timeline and bio or visit his website.
Shelley Charles – MandakweShelley is Ojibway Anishinaabe from Georgina Island First Nation on Lake Simcoe. She is a graduate of Horticulture Science and Masters of Indigenous Philosophy from 7th Generation Institute in Fort Frances, Ontario and the World Indigenous Higher Education Consortium, (WINHEC). As Elder, Advisor and 1st Dean of Indigenous Education & Engagement at Humber College, Shelley led and developed the Indigenous Resource Centres at Humber College, Indigenous Knowledge and gaining the Award of Excellence in Indigenous Knowledges, Colleges and Institutes Canada, 2015. Shelley’s first teacher was her grandmother who taught her how to harvest food and plants as medicine and has used this knowledge in the restoration of Indigenous plants; designing medicine gardens (McMichael/Humber Arboretum//Clearwater) and teachings on the land. Working with Elders & knowledge Keepers she has developed contemporary land acknowledgements within cultural markers on the land; restoring the use of Indigenous place names along the Humber river waterways. Recently, Shelley was Project Lead for Indigenous Women in Agriculture with the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and was promoted to Cultural Advisor and Instructor for the School of Aviation, First Nations Technical Institute, (FNTI) in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Shelley works with corporations and Indigenous consultants across Canada as an Advisor and in community engagement teaching Indigenous worldview, culture and language from an Ojibwe Anishinaabe perspective.
The Experience Trail Marker Project
The YR Experience Trail Marker project is a collaborative interactive art project designed to re-connect people on the land presently known as York Region through art, illustrations by Indigenous artist Donald Chretien, Nipissing First Nation, cultural narrative by Ojibwe Elder Shelley Charles, Georgina Island First Nation and commissioned by York Region Arts Council, with program lead, Monica del Rio Pain, YRAC’s Program Curator.
Credit for Artwork:
This artwork was commissioned by the York Region Arts Council and produced in collaboration with Donald Chretien, Nipissing First Nation and Cultural narrative by Ojibwe Elder Shelley Charles, Georgina Island First Nation”
Support for the Experience Trail:
The Experience Trail Marker project has been made possible with support from FEDDEV Ontario, the Ontario Arts Council, and Central Counties Tourism.
The York Region Arts Council is the only York Region-wide non-profit charitable arts service organization focused on capacity building, creative place-making and community engagement in support of artists, arts organizations and creative entrepreneurs. In order to realize the potential of our services, we work in partnership with the Regional Municipality of York, each of the Regions nine municipalities (Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Aurora, King Township, Newmarket, Whitchurch-Stouffville, East Gwillimbury and Georgina) as well as other community organizations and businesses.
Learn more about the Fabricator/Installation – Fast Signs Markham Location
Learn more about Truth and Reconciliation – National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
Learn more about Native Land – Indigenous Interactive Map
Learn about more Indigenous tourism experiences.