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Indigenous artist Don Chretien creates interactive trail markers


By Shelly Khushal

I am honoured to write this article on Indigenous People’s Day. I write this from the traditional lands covered by Treaty 13 and the Williams Treaties (now Richmond Hill). Acknowledging the land is an Indigenous protocol used to express gratitude to those who reside here, and it honours the Indigenous people who have lived and worked on this land historically and presently.

How can you support/celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day?

Learning about Indigenous Peoples, places and experiences is a step forward each Canadian can take on the path to reconciliation.

There are a number of events/celebrations taking place on June 21.

In York Region, the York Region Arts Council will be unveiling the first two installations of The York Region Experience Trail Marker Project, a collaborative interactive art project designed to re-connect people on the land presently known as York Region through art.

The first unveiling will be held at the King Heritage and Cultural Centre, 2920 King Road, King City, at 10 a.m. where Township of King Mayor and project representatives will unveil The Butterfly.

At 11:15, the Mayor of the Town of Aurora will unveil The Bee at Aurora Town Park, 49 Wells Street.

The illustrations are by Indigenous artist Donald Chretien, Nipissing First Nation, the cultural narrative is by Ojibwe Elder Shelley Charles, Georgina Island First Nation and the project was commissioned by York Region Arts Council, with program lead, Monica del Rio Pain, YRAC’s Program Curator.

“Join me and discover the Experience Trail markers across York Region,” said artist Don Chretien. “Focused on the legend of the seedspreaders and the pollinators, the trail markers are life-size, interactive designs that invite you to become part of the work. Capture it with a selfie and become a modern-day pollinator by sharing it with your community online.”

I will be attending the Indigenous People’s Day celebration at Elgin Barrow Arena in Richmond Hill on June 25 with my family. 

All are invited to this free outdoor all-ages event that features:

The Shining Water Singers Drum Group, Live performance from Wildhorse Indigenous rock tribute, dancers, games, prizes, crafts and vendors.

Indigenous People’s Day Outdoor Celebration 

June 25, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm, Elgin Barrow Arena – 43 Church St S, Richmond Hill

This event is free and open to all ages and is presented by Indigenous Action Committee

Brief Historical Framing

Canada has had a tumultuous history with Indigenous Peoples, from broken treaty promises to residential schools to stolen land and more. Examining the truths of Canada’s colonial past is the first step towards truth and reconciliation.

What is National Indigenous Peoples Day?

National Indigenous Peoples Day takes place on the summer solstice, June 21. It is a special occasion to learn more about the rich and diverse cultures, voices, experiences and histories of Indigenous Peoples. In Canada, Indigenous refers to First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. Although these groups share many similarities, they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.

What led to the creation of National Indigenous Peoples Day?

National Aboriginal Day was announced in 1996 by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, through the Proclamation Declaring June 21 of Each Year as National Aboriginal Day. This was the result of consultations and statements of support for such a day made by various Indigenous groups. On June 21, 2017, the Prime Minister issued a statement announcing the intention to rename this day National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Learn more about First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples across Canada including Resources:

Main photo: Artist Don Chretien stands in front of a mural featuring his work outside of Cachet Supper Club in Newmarket. Don designed all of the images for the Experience Trail Marker Project, with the first two installations taking place tomorrow, June 21, in King City and Aurora.

Photo row: Don’s images, from left, The Bee, The Butterfly, The Moth and The Hummingbird.

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