Indigenize or Die #13: “Indigenous, indigenous, Indigenize … finding clarity in framing our future”

Tuesday March 7
Peace Lounge, 7th floor, OISE, U of Toronto
252 Bloor Street W. (at St. George Station)
Doors open 6:30. 7:00 sharp to 9:30
$15 suggested donation but no one turned away for lack of funds.

Picture

Big I, Little i,

Indigenous, indigenous, indigenize…. Huh?

Weren’t we all indigenous at some point? Can’t we all have a reciprocal relationship with the land? Isn’t all this conversation of differences between Indigenous and Settler divisive? 

These are some of the questions have come up in the last year as we have explored the theme of indigenize or die as a statement of fact about our human survival on this planet. Of the many things that have emerged is that there is an important distinction between Indigenous, indigenous and indigenize.  
 Most of humanity has been separated from the land, from each other, from the cultures that have sustained human beings for thousands of years, and from ourselves — in short from our indigeneity. It is a global phenomenon that has culminated in the cancer stage of capitalism so exquisitely portrayed in the Trumpocracy to the south.

The problem is clear, we believe “to Indigenize” is the answer but…what that means and how is less clear to most of us. In our discussions from last month’s session, one insight that emerged was that there is a generalized, small “i” indigenize and a more nuanced, deeper, large “I” Indigenize. 

What do we mean by indigenize/Indigenize? 

How do these meanings affect us personally?

How do we, Indigenous and settler work together in the best way to restore that which has been lost, yet working towards a future that has never been?

This is some of what will frame our next session next Tuesday March 7th at the Peace Lounge at OISE-UT. The evening will be in two parts, a participatory, facilitated, plenary session which will frame the smaller talking circles which will allow each person to deepen their connection to this life-affirming process. 


Report on Indigenize or Die #12: Deepening our Potential in Precarious Times (February 2 2017, 6:30-9:30 in the OISE Peace Lounge)

The call:

You may have been actively participating in our process over the past year, or perhaps are an interested observer. Now in this precarious moment in history we are asking for the wisdom of our community to help guide our process over the next year. 

A year ago, we started the series with the following statement of intent:

The ship of global imperialism and colonization has hit an iceberg. While the majority of the world’s inhabitants suffer the consequences of runaway capitalism and globalized war-making, the very few on the upper decks continue their party with business as usual, blissfully ignoring the realities. 

In this series, “Indigenize or Die,” we deconstruct the myths of the dominant culture, explore a more truthful historical perspective and how that manifests today. Then, through the lens of decolonization and re-indigenization, we explore together possibilities for an ecologically sustainable and socially just way forward. We ask, how can we ensure the survival of complex life on this land in accordance with its legitimate laws and the laws of Nature?  

The intent of the series is to weave an understanding of history and current reality into developing a practical “go forward” plan for this land. 

Looking back, we’re happy with where the series took us last year in pursuing this intent.

Many would say the year has been filled with darkness. But it has also brought out huge expressions of solidarity from across many divides, like the world-wide support for the water protectors at Standing Rock and the millions who walked together in the recent Women’s March. We think that Indigenize or Die and both of these events are fires of hope in a bleak world.    

We have heard Indigenous voices, reconnected to land, and in the last months seen an inspiring potential emerge for a collaboration between settler/allies and indigenous rights holders in Toronto.  

We also have come to recognize there there are significant challenges to becoming authentic settler allies and to the process of reconciliation in Toronto.  

We’ve taken the turning of the year to retreat and reflect. Two main questions emerge for us: 

How can the expression of indigenous rights protect the Earth in Toronto? 

How do those of us immersed in the dominant colonial culture overcome our conditioning to become authentic, effective allies in this process?

And so we are turning to you, the community who have gathered around the series, who have important insights and experience to help guide and inform the process. For our inaugural session of 2017 there will be time for deeper dialogue and sharing to listen deeply to each other in our emerging community, to engage in authentic sharing of our own processes and gain insight into where we need to go in reconciling with the Earth and her Indigenous protectors.

The report:

We began by recalling the request from the Achuar people to the Pachamama Alliance that seeded Unify Toronto. Then we restated the original intention of the “Indigenize or Die” series and recapped the flow of sessions over the course of 2016. We shared the themes and questions that had emerged for us to that point during our turning-of-the-year retreat time:

– How can the expression of indigenous rights protect the Earth in Toronto?
– How do those of us immersed in the dominant colonial culture overcome our conditioning to become authentic, effective allies in this process?

From there, we broke into small circles of 5-6, each with a designated facilitator and a talking piece. The invitation was to share in a personal way about our own process with the “Indigenize or Die” series and what was percolating in each of us, with a view to thus inform how the series unfolds over the coming months.  

Four of the five groups harvested notes and shared a report in the closing plenary:

Report on Indigenize or Die #11: Parkland in Toronto–The Path to Right Relationships

In this session, Clara MacCallum Fraser and Christine Migwans joined us for a dialogue on what it means to restore right relationship with the land in Toronto, and with each other–from both indigenous and non-indigenous perspectives.

Clara and Christine offered some theoretical framing for our conversation, exploring how urban planning policy and practice could be informed by Indigenous consciousness and ways of knowing—and ultimately become a fulfillment of treaty.

We’ve recorded the opening conversation between series curator Kevin and Clara and Christine for you: 
SPECIAL GUEST BIOs:

Clara MacCallum Fraser, Shared Path Consultation Initiative and York University
Clara is the co-Executive Director of Shared Path Consultation Initiative, an Indigenous-non-Indigenous organisation that raises awareness around urban planning and Aboriginal and treaty rights through workshops and research. She is currently a second year PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. Her research, entitled “Imagining Planning Futures: urban planning as fulfillment of treaty” focuses on the intersection of urban planning and Aboriginal & Treaty rights, with a particular focus on Anishinaabe Nations in Ontario. In seeking to make reconciliation a part of her life, Clara is learning about treaties and her own responsibilities to those treaties as a settler person, in particular those over Toronto and the eastern shores of Georgian Bay, where she grew up and currently resides. 

Christine Migwans
Christine holds a masters degree in Indigenous Studies from Trent University. She has worked extensively with Indigenous peoples in Canada and Thailand. She is interested in reconciliation through Indigenous education, transforming the moral fabric of the country, and Treaty ethics and philosophy.

Kevin Best, Series Curator
Kevin Best has focused on how to create a just and sustainable society through activism, innovative business and restoring Indigenous society for over four decades. Of mixed heritage, through adoption he self-identifies as Anishinabeg of the Martin Clan. He has worked with Indigenous people throughout Turtle Island, consulted to Greenpeace and pioneered green energy in Ontario. He is currently working on a start-up called Odenaansan (Village or “the little places where my heart is”), an integrated, culturally-based approach to restoring Minobimadzin (the good life) through sustainable food, energy, housing and water in Anishinabe communities. Passionate about decolonization and re-indigenization, he is committed to spreading understanding of these life-giving possibilities. He is Managing Director of Rivercourt Engineering.


Here is how graphic recorder Marianne Lefever of Reshape Innovation captured the evening’s plenary dialogue:
NOTES from the evening (by Paul Overy)

Kevin Best—Setting the Context

  • The Indigenize or Die series was planned a year ago today.
  • It grew from key events in 2015:
    • The Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
    • Coming to terms with the lack of knowledge of Indigenous Peoples by most Canadians
    • The election of the Trudeau government, with its interesting rhetoric
  • Through 2016, the series has unfolded in response to evolving events.
  • We need a gathering place with a council fire in downtown Toronto, to enable meaningful consultation with First Nations.
  • First Nations live from “us-ness”, not individualism.
  • There is a wealth of Indigenous planning knowledge.
  • Patriarchy broke our relation to spirit.
  • Recently:
    • Bad news: The election of Donald Trump, though buying into anger and fear lets Trump win.
    • Good news: Standing Rock, where women stood up for the water, based on a relationship with spirit.

Clara MacCallum Fraser

  • Master’s in Planning at Ryerson University, doing her doctoral studies in Planning at York University.
  • I identify as a settler-Canadian, but am learning to be an ally to First Nations people.
  • From a Planning Law assignment to conduct a site assessment, I learned that no data are available about First Nations reserves for planning purposes.
  • The focus of my research at York is on planning and treaty rights.
  • Historically, there has been:
    • A focus on conflict, not understanding or common ground.
    • A fear of the unknown…this area is not part of planners’ education.
    • Planning policy has changed, but practice has not.
    • The Provincial Policy Statute refers to Aboriginal Peoples, they are not part of the planning process or language.
  • How has treaty-making affected planning processes, institutions and structures?
    • Clara sees Treaty-making as an early form of planning, with roots in Indigenous communities as well as settler countries of origin
  • There is an obligation for planners to consult with indigenous people, as part of the delegated duty-to-consult responsibilities of the crown (procedural aspects delegated to municipalities), but the planners don’t know how or often why.
  • A key question is “How can planning policy be informed by Indigenous principles and be a tool for reconciliation?”

Christine Migwans

  • Conflict arose from the appropriation of land from Indigenous peoples.
  • The Hawaiian Manuani Mayer defines indigeneity as an enduring set of practices.
    • But colonialism destroyed practices on the land.
  • We need practices to be present.
    • They bring radical relationality into the world view.
  • Land is a living being.
    • Invoke nationhood (not nation-state) through connection to the land.
  • Ceremony is embedded and rigorous practice of knowing and listening, leading to insight.
  • Practicing knowledge creates truth in the community.
    • Listen to and perceive the land through practice.
  • First Nations peoples practiced radical relationality with the newcomers.
    • This was embodied through wampum.
  • The Indian Act was radical departure from Indigenous practices, by creating:
    • Extermination laws
    • Reserves
    • Categories
    • Land surrender to a spatial consciousness of the nation state and the permanent absence of Indigenous peoples
    • The colonial sense of time
    • The internalization that you, as an Indigenous person, don’t exist
  • The TRC restores stability after unconsciousness
    • It is a return to treaty-making.
  • Indigenous peoples really need to be seen
    • The truth will rupture the consciousness
    • How we share the land will emerge from mindful practice
    • Practice is a pathway to reconciliation
  • There is a need to disentangle from colonization to recover relationships.
    • It is a consciousness-killer.
    • We have to go beyond a mediated relationship to the land, to return to the truth of relationship to land and consciousness.
  • Treaties created land surrender, but treaties can also be about spirit and relationships.
  • We need to use the tools of occupation to reconcile:
    • University education
    • Focus on indigenous research:
      • Reflexivity—look inward
      • Go beyond the objectivity bias and the notion that we can be objective
      • Researchers have feelings about objective knowing, but are disembodied.
    • How can we avoid appropriation?
      • Practices for grounding
      • Yet Western culture dismisses rituals as primitive; it compartmentalizes them.
  • The disconnect regarding spirituality is key.
    • Ceremony is at the heart of treaties.
    • We need to go beyond feeling good about ourselves.
    • Self-reflection will take generations.
  • Indigenous issues need to be integrated into planning curriculum.
  • We need to focus on emotional ecologies and moral landscapes:
    • Interrogate
    • Foster inner knowing
    • We need the integrity to look
    • Dismantle colonization.
  • The deeper we go into a place, the more embodied and moral we become.
    • We can develop rigorous inner knowing together
    • Invoke our moral imagination.

Clara MacCallum Fraser

 
Kevin Best

  • We need to relearn our national narrative.
  • We are all innocent and guilty, going back to the time of the Druids.
  • We live in a time of the restoration of the Divine Feminine
  • We need spirit and connection to find our way forward.

 
Key Phrases From The Large Group reflection facilitated by David Burman

  • Emotional ecologies
  • Moral imagination and landscapes
  • Treaty-making is an on-going process
  • Going inside to go forward
  • Displacement
  • Recovering relationship
  • First Nations lands are gray space in mapping—no information—unknown
  • Indigenous peoples as rigorous—they can transform time and space
  • Fictions justify the land grab
  • Invitation to stand in the truth
  • Planting placentas—the child will be called back
  • Embed Indigenous consciousness in planning—NKG approach
  • Reconciliation—bearing witness to the land
  • Treaties are rigorous and ethical based on infinite space and consciousness
    • But colonial treaties restrict space and consciousness
  • Treaty-making is the best way to build relationships
  • Seek to free the land from title
  • Embodied treaty is the spirit and intent
    • Agency and self-determination
The questions we posed to the small groups who convened in circle process:
And their notes:

Picture

Notes from the small-Group Discussions

  • Indigenous protocol is that all voices have the same value and that the truth is emerging.

Group Reports (further to the discussion questions)

  • Processes to decolonize and find new ways to relate to:
    • The land
    • Each other
    • Ourselves
  • Roots, stories, questions
    • Storytelling
    • Ceremony
    • Finding faith in tangible things

Values embedded in language to reclaim wisdom
Suppression of wise women and people of the land to establish capitalism
Permaculture and relationships

Fire circles
Create unity
Acknowledge many displaced peoples in this country
Embodied ritual
Recognize the caretakers of the land
Quiet space in parks
Practice reciprocity with the land

Ritual is a human need
Settler vs. Indigenous practices
Radical listening—go more deeply to consult
Create a space stewarded by First Nations people
Listen to the land and the people

Fire pits can be found across the city
Policies can impede or support
Treaty-making as a way of being

  • Solemnity and integrity

Emotional ecology of place


Indigenize or Die #11: Parkland in Toronto—the path to right relationship

From occupation to connection 

November 30 2016 6:30-9:30

We all yearn for a connection to the land. Our hearts crave a restored relationship with all of creation. Indigenous peoples and knowledge systems have ideas and practices to transform the nature of place.

Through this series, we have been exploring ways to re-indigenize Toronto. Currently our focus in on the parks and public realm.

In this session, Clara MacCallum Fraser and Christine Migwans join us for a dialogue on what it means to restore right relationship with the land in Toronto, and with each other–from both indigenous and non-indigenous perspectives.

Clara and Christine will offer some theoretical framing for our conversation, exploring how urban planning policy and practice could be informed by Indigenous consciousness and ways of knowing—and ultimately become a fulfillment of treaty.

BACKGROUND:
Indigenize or Die has embarked on a journey of understanding what it means to re-indigenize Toronto’s parks and public realm, and how to support that.

In our October session (see the report below), the City of Toronto and their consulting team gave a presentation on the TOCore Parks and Public Realm Plan they are developing, and received feedback from indigenous and other participants. A stark contrast between indigenous and settler worldviews was revealed. The need for the land itself to be a participant in the planning process emerged as an overarching theme. Indigenous participants also spoke of their need and right to be in relationship with the land. One part of reconciliation is to restore the damage done to the land itself, they stated, while re-creating opportunities for indigenous “customary practices” on the land.

We have invited Clara MacCallum Fraser and Christine Migwans to help deepen and broaden last month’s dialogue by looking at how indigenous consciousness and local treaty history can inform land use planning today. 

Through her doctoral research, “Imagining Planning Futures: urban planning as fulfillment of treaty,” Clara intends to enable planners to engage in genuine and transformative relationship-building with Indigenous communities, and to support indigenous consultation staff in their efforts to impact local planning processes. She will share the journey she has undertaken to understand what it means to be in right relationship as a planner.

Christine will underpin the dialogue with an indigenous perspective on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things and how that relates to treaty making and to land planning. Treaties include the consciousness of the land, the seen and the unseen. To re-indigenize fundamentally means an intention to restore these relationships and ways of being. 

SPECIAL GUESTS:

Clara MacCallum Fraser, Shared Path Consultation Initiative and York University
Clara is the co-Executive Director of Shared Path Consultation Initiative, an Indigenous-non-Indigenous organisation that raises awareness around urban planning and Aboriginal and treaty rights through workshops and research. She is currently a second year PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. Her research, entitled “Imagining Planning Futures: urban planning as fulfillment of treaty” focuses on the intersection of urban planning and Aboriginal & Treaty rights, with a particular focus on Anishinaabe Nations in Ontario. In seeking to make reconciliation a part of her life, Clara is learning about treaties and her own responsibilities to those treaties as a settler person, in particular those over Toronto and the eastern shores of Georgian Bay, where she grew up and currently resides. 

Christine Migwans
Christine holds a masters degree in Indigenous Studies from Trent University. She has worked extensively with Indigenous peoples in Canada and Thailand. She is interested in reconciliation through Indigenous education, transforming the moral fabric of the country, and Treaty ethics and philosophy.

Kevin Best, Series Curator
Kevin Best has focused on how to create a just and sustainable society through activism, innovative business and restoring Indigenous society for over four decades. Of mixed heritage, through adoption he self-identifies as Anishinabeg of the Martin Clan. He has worked with Indigenous people throughout Turtle Island, consulted to Greenpeace and pioneered green energy in Ontario. He is currently working on a start-up called Odenaansan (Village or “the little places where my heart is”), an integrated, culturally-based approach to restoring Minobimadzin (the good life) through sustainable food, energy, housing and water in Anishinabe communities. Passionate about decolonization and re-indigenization, he is committed to spreading understanding of these life-giving possibilities. He is Managing Director of Rivercourt Engineering.

ABOUT THE “INDIGENIZE OR DIE” SERIES
The ship of global imperialism and colonization has hit an iceberg. While the majority of the world’s inhabitants suffer the consequences of runaway capitalism and globalized war-making, the very few on the upper decks continue their party with business as usual, blissfully ignoring the realities. 

In this series, “Indigenize or Die,” we deconstruct the myths of the dominant culture, explore a more truthful historical perspective and how that manifests today. Then, through the lens of decolonization and re-indigenization, we explore together possibilities for an ecologically sustainable and socially-just way forward. We ask, how can we ensure the survival of complex life on this land in accordance with its legitimate laws and the laws of Nature?  

The intent of the series is to weave an understanding of history and current reality into developing a practical “go forward” plan for this land. We will be joined by other Indigenous people from both here and elsewhere around Mother Earth throughout the year. ​Curated by Kevin Best. See unifytoronto.ca to know more.

Report on Indigenize or Die #10: Re-Indigenizing Public Spaces in Toronto

​Healing the Land, Healing our Selves

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 6:30-9:30 in the OISE Peace Lounge at the University of Toronto

In a nutshell:

Indigenize or Die has embarked on a journey of understanding what it means to re-indigenize Toronto’s parks and public realm and how to support that.

About eighty-five people attended our October session–indigenous people, settlers, newcomers. The City of Toronto and their consulting team gave a presentation on the TOCore Parks and Public Realm Plan they are developing, and received feedback from indigenous and other participants.

A stark contrast between indigenous and settler worldviews was revealed. The need for the land itself to be a participant in the planning process emerged as an overarching theme. Indigenous participants also spoke of their need and right to be in relationship with the land. One part of reconciliation is to restore the damage done to the land itself, they stated, while re-creating opportunities for indigenous “customary practices” on the land.

Some memorable quotes:

The land is a resource but it is also a relative.

​We have to ask ourselves what kind of relationship between land and human we want to restore. Currently our relationship with the land is very different than it was 500 years ago (also water, other beings). What extent do we want to restore that kinship between human, land, water. When we have the answer we can design the details. 

​Look to see if there is natural life that already exists and whether we should be working towards reestablishing/helping this life. 

It’s about understanding what we were before a city and if this can inform this plan.

We’re excited by the notion of the re-naturalization of the Don, excited about access to ravines for everyone. 

Return the soil, as the basis of life, to what was here, so that the species (including what was underground like mushrooms) can be healed.

The full report:

​The City of Toronto is developing a 40-year plan Parks and Public Realm Plan for the city core to improve the quality and connectivity of public spaces. The plan, to quote the City, presents a chance to “generate a bold and compelling vision for the parks system and public realm network that puts public life and place-making […] at the forefront of long-term planning.” 
 
Public engagement is at the root of the plan’s development, and the planners have expressed a desire to include an indigenous lens in that plan. Early City consultation with some indigenous people and agencies pointed to the possibility of a much greater focus on reindigenization.

The City of Toronto’s Parks and Public Realm Plan

​Kristina Reinders, who is leading the Plan’s development for the City of Toronto, was with us, along with members of the consulting team the city has retained. They presented this slideshow about the Plan. 

Visions and proposals for re-indigenizing Toronto’s parks and public realm 

Following a Q & A period, Indigenous participants presented a number of visions and proposals for how to re-indigenize Toronto’s parks and public realm:
 
INDIGENOUS USE OF THE LAND: We need fire circles around the city, places of ceremony and healing for people and for the land itself.

  • The plan should recognize and restore ways the land was used before settlers arrived as well as the way first nations continue to use the land: for ceremony and customary use, such as gathering family and council around fires in Toronto’s public spaces. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) both refer to the importance of first nations using land for ceremony and customary use. 
  • Set aside significant pieces of urban land and give them the status of a kind of indigenous “embassy”, i.e., they would not be Canadian municipal, provincial or federal territory.  Nor would they be anything like a “reserve” governed by Indian Affairs, nor the “property” of Indigenous people in any Canadian sense of the word. The land in question would have indigenous status in the sense of it not being possible to own it or define it as property in any way. Simply put, this land would be “owned” by God, if any kind of owner had to be identified – or exist unto itself as a sacred manifestation that, if anything, “owns” us as humans.  

    What could take place there would have to be determined in relation to re-emergent indigenous cultural frameworks, and some rules would obviously need to apply from the outset given our urban context, e.g., any structures would likely need to be impermanent (i.e., temporary lodges only, made from saplings).  

    Beyond that it’s hard to say, but certainly from the beginning they would be places of ceremony and healing (with corresponding rules like no booze or drugs), both for people and the land itself, and for learning and the restoration of balance to the extent possible, considered through community and culture-based indigenous principles and practices, and ultimately grounded in natural and sacred or universal laws as articulated by Indigenous people in this region (primarily the Anishinaabek and Haudenosaunee).  

  • Make indigenous history in Toronto visible. For example, at the Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden indigenous people telling stories have inspired and informed projects relating to arts, culture and plants.

  • Organize the ecological restoration of parks in the city, and ensure opportunities for native youth to participate in that.

  • Enable and encourage food production—in Toronto’s parks and public realm but also in people’s yards and on their balconies.

  • Another step that could help recognize indigenous uses of land could be to map the trails used by indigenous communities; restoring these trails could be a long-term goal.

  • Daylight Toronto’s rivers. Seven rivers run through the city, and these were the lifeline for indigenous people.

SPACES AND COLLECTIVE PROCESSES: Spaces around the city for indigenous society, institutions and structures to be restored will enable meaningful consultation with indigenous voices.

  • There’s a need for a new way of consulting with indigenous voices — a “2.0” version of the City’s Aboriginal Affairs Committee that can express a collective indigenous voice in consultations. The plan needs to be based on an understanding of how indigenous people lived on this land, and that will only work when indigenous people are at the table to talk about that. Indigenous people are readily available and can be part of the public planning process.

    It is incumbent on the colonial structures, if get are sincere, to provide the resources to create the spaces to allow indigenous society, institutions and structures to be restored because only then can meaningful consultation with First Nations occur. It is currently almost impossible to consult with indigenous people, as the colonizer era was so effective in destroying indigenous society, institutions and structures. Marie Wilson reported that the number one thing she heard as a Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner was, “They stole my identity.” 

​Patricia Kambitsch of PlayThink captured the visions and proposals and the Q&A session here:
Participants were then asked to talk in small groups about how they could, individually and collectively, support these visions and proposals to come to life. In fact, their discussions resulted in many cases in more feedback and ideas for the TOCore Plan.

Patricia Kambitsch (PlayThink.com) has captured their key ideas here:

Invitation to Indigenize or Die #10: Re-Indigenizing Public Spaces in Toronto

Healing the Land, Healing our Selves

Wednesday, October 26
Doors open 6:30. Come for networking!
7:00 (sharp) to 9:30

Peace Lounge, OISE, 7th floor
252 Bloor St. W (at St. George Station)
It’s time for change–for Toronto, for our species. This is an emblematic opportunity, with an imperative to step up. 

A huge opportunity has emerged to act on the understanding and insights we have gained through the “Indigenize or Die” series, and help reindigenize public spaces in Toronto on a whole new scale. Come and contribute your inspiration and ideas for how we can impact a TOcore Parks and Public Realm Plan being developed by the City.

We are inviting all Torontonians, members of the indigenous community, settlers and newcomers. Kristina Reinders, who is leading the Plan’s development for the City of Toronto, will join us, along with members of the consulting team the city has retained. Members of NKG, Helping the Earth) will also participate. Let’s explore how we can collaboratively ensure that Toronto’s public parks and realm are indigenized, in accord with indigenous law and our international commitments.

BACKGROUND:

The CIty of Toronto is developing a 40-year plan Parks and Public Realm Plan for the city core to improve the quality and connectivity of public spaces. The plan, to quote the City, presents a chance to “generate a bold and compelling vision for the parks system and public realm network that puts public life and place-making […] at the forefront of long-term planning.” 

Public engagement is at the root of the plan’s development, and the planners have expressed a desire to include an indigenous lens in that plan. Early City consultation with some indigenous people and agencies pointed to the possibility of a much greater focus on reindigenization.
We want to seize the opportunity to mobilize inhabitants of Toronto—settlers, in allyship with indigenous people—to ensure the reindigenizing of Toronto’s public spaces.  

Some potent possibilities have already emerged from the “Indigenize or Die” experience of the power of being on the land and around the fire. Members brought some of those inspirations to a September focus group held by the City, sharing this advice:

INDIGENOUS USE OF THE LAND

  • The plan should recognize and restore ways the land was used before settlers arrived as well as the way first nations continue to use the land. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) both refer to the importance of first nations using land for ceremony and customary use, such as gathering family and council around fires. 
  • Another step that could help recognize indigenous uses of land could be mapping the trails used by indigenous communities; restoring these trails could be a long-term goal.

COLLECTIVE PROCESSES

  • There’s a need for a new way of consulting with indigenous voices — a “2.0” version of the City’s Aboriginal Affairs Committee that can express a collective indigenous voice in consultations. Leadership in indigenous culture is about expressing the collective will of a policy that has been arrived at by consensus; legitimate policies are built on collective processes. 
  • In light of the damage that was done to Indigenous society, its institutions, and structures by colonization, in terms of real reconciliation it is incumbent upon settler culture to provide resources and create the space to allow Indigenous people to restore their institutions and social structures. It is only then that real, meaningful engagement and consultation with their nations can occur.

Join this month’s “Indigenize or Die” dialogue to hear more about this opportunity and help generate ideas and strategies for reindigenizing Toronto’s public realm. 
 
SPECIAL GUESTS:

Kristina Reinders, Senior Urban Designer, City of Toronto

Kristina is a Senior Urban Designer with the City of Toronto and a passionate advocate for quality public realm and forward-thinking policies that promote livability and make urban life rewarding and enjoyable for all.

She currently leads the TOcore Parks and Public Realm study with responsibility for overseeing the development of a plan for downtown parks and public realm, a Public Space Public Life study, and new urban design and park policies that support successful implementation of quality public spaces. TOcore is one of the most complex planning studies ever done in Toronto and is directly aimed at improving Toronto’s quality of life for the rapidly growing downtown population.

Kristina also co-leads Toronto’s Complete Street Guidelines, which supports the re-balance of streets from vehicular-focused infrastructure, into safe and connected public “places” that accommodate multi-modal movement.

Members of the consulting team for the TOcore Parks & Public Realm Plan.  

The Plan is being co-led by the City of Toronto’s City Planning and Parks, Forestry, and Recreation Divisions. 
 The City has retained a consulting team composed of: 
– Public Work a local urban design and landscape architecture studio focused the intelligent evolution of the contemporary city;
– GEHL studios, an international urban research and design consulting firm;
– Sam Schwartz Engineering, a leading traffic and transportation planning and engineering firm, and;
– Swerhun Facilitation, a local firm specializing in designing, running, and documenting complex engagement processes.
The team has been invited.

Naadmaagit Ki Group (NKG) Helping the Earth
NKG works to restore indigenous responsibilities to the land and water in Toronto.  NKG is working with urban indigenous people to reclaim the area in and around the Humber (Tanaouate) River, restore indigenous responsibilities to the land and water, and support indigenous cultural learning on the land in the city.

“Indigenize or Die” has been honoured and excited, over the past seven months, to build a collaborative relationship with these front-line warriors who are on the ground, doing the re-indigenizing work about which we have been dialoging. 

Kevin Best, Series Curator

Kevin Best has focused on how to create a just and sustainable society through activism, innovative business and restoring Indigenous society for over four decades. Of mixed heritage, through adoption he self-identifies as Anishinabeg of the Martin Clan. He has worked with Indigenous people throughout Turtle Island, consulted to Greenpeace and pioneered green energy in Ontario. He is currently working on a start-up called Odenaansan (Village or “the little places where my heart is”), an integrated, culturally-based approach to restoring Minobimadzin (the good life) through sustainable food, energy, housing and water in Anishinabe communities. Passionate about decolonization and re-indigenization, he is committed to spreading understanding of these life-giving possibilities. He is Managing Director of Rivercourt Engineering.

ABOUT THE “INDIGENIZE OR DIE” SERIES
The ship of global imperialism and colonization has hit an iceberg. While the majority of the world’s inhabitants suffer the consequences of runaway capitalism and globalized war-making, the very few on the upper decks continue their party with business as usual, blissfully ignoring the realities. 

In this series, “Indigenize or Die,” we deconstruct the myths of the dominant culture, explore a more truthful historical perspective and how that manifests today. Then, through the lens of decolonization and re-indigenization, we explore together possibilities for an ecologically sustainable and socially-just way forward. We ask, how can we ensure the survival of complex life on this land in accordance with its legitimate laws and the laws of Nature?  

The intent of the series is to weave an understanding of history and current reality into developing a practical “go forward” plan for this land. We will be joined by other Indigenous people from both here and elsewhere around Mother Earth throughout the year. ​Curated by Kevin Best.

Check out news coverage of the event on Metronews! 
* Note a couple of inaccuracies in the article: Indigenize or Die is attended predominantly by non native people seeking to understand how Re Indigenizing Toronto will improve everybody’s lives in toronto.
Indigenize or Die was meeting at OISE from January to May and only met down near the Humber for the summer meeting, working and learning with NKG and Black African Farmers.

Indigenize or Die # 9: Equinox–The Change of Seasons

Wednesday September 21 (Jane and Eglinton)

This month our gathering will take place a few hours before the Equinox. This day, on which daylight and dark are roughly equal, marks the beginning of fall. We move into a phase of introspection as we prepare for winter.  

In this “Indigenize or Die” session, we will celebrate Equinox ceremonially in a fire circle, and engage in dialogue together with the indigenous women of Naadmaagit Ki Group (NKG, Helping the Earth) on what it means to re-indigenize. This will be our last session under the open sky at the Emmett Garden this year. 

Since Doug Anderson helped lead “Indigenize or Die” in our April session we have gradually deepened and broadened our relationship with the NKG community along the Humber River. Some of us have helped on the land. There has been sharing of food and conversation. 

For this session we have invited the women of the NKG community to help mark the turn of the seasons and also to share with us about what reindigenizing with this land means to them. Together we will seek to deepen our understanding of the cycles and what this season means, pray for the earth and the people, and connect to Earth, Sky and all of creation.

We hope to deepen our relationships with the women from NKG, listen to their experience as they have begun to reconnect to the land, and as the Indigenize or Die community (most of whom aren’t indigenous to this land), consider what it means to re-indigenize, de-colonize, and re-connect with our Mother.

4:00-6:30 pm (if you can): work session in the garden/by the Humber river: digging, conversing, planting, joking, listening, learning with NKG
6:30-7:30 potluck picnic 
7:30-9:30 pm: Fire Circle ceremony and dialogue

$15 suggested donation to cover travel and other expenses of our guest hosts.
Students/unwaged PWYC. 
No one turned away for lack of funds.

LOCATION: 101 Emmett Avenue (near Jane and Eglinton).
Accessible by TTC via buses from Jane Station, Eglinton Station and York University. Check the TTC Trip Planner or Google Maps for directions. Emmett Avenue runs North off of Eglinton, West of Jane. 
There’s a big sign at Eglinton and Emmett saying West Park Health Centre. Turn N on Emmett and go down the hill. Stop at the first parking lot on your left, There is a children’s playground across the street on the right. The communal garden is behind a fence just South of the playground, and North of the public washrooms. 

Note that the parking lot closes at 9 pm. 

Please bring:
– A water bottle
– your own plate, cup and utensils 

– a potluck picnic dish to share 
– lawn chair and/or blanket if possible 

Wear long pants and shoes with socks if you’re coming to help out, as there’s some poison ivy and worse…

Indigenize or Die #8: Chop Wood, Carry Water

Wednesday August 31 4:00-9:30 p.m. (Jane & Eglinton) 

“Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” So goes the Zen saying.

As we travel further down the path of re-indigenizing Toronto, we continue to deepen our relationship with Naadmaagit Ki Group (NKG, Helpers of the Earth) and the land along the shores of the Humber river.

Like any relationship, this takes time and work.

We now are happy to announce an opportunity to deepen that relationship with the land and this community three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4:00-8:00 pm. Details in the post below.

At our regular monthly Indigenize or Die, we will once again have a potluck dinner, fire circle, and more learning from our new friends at the Emmett Communal garden. We will continue to explore supporting the work of NKG and its future expansion into Eastern Toronto. 

Come out and help when you can get there (we’ll start about 4, but even if people come at 6 that will help) until 7 or 7:30, then we’ll share a meal.  

4:00-7:00 pm: digging, conversing, planting, joking, listening, learning, getting to know each other.
7:30-9:30 pm: Potluck Picnic and Circle

$15 suggested donation. 
Students/unwaged PWYC. 
No one turned away for lack of funds.

For location, please register on Eventbrite.

Wear long pants and shoes with socks, as there’s some poison ivy and worse…  
Please bring:
– A water bottle
– your own plate, cup and utensils 
– a potluck picnic dish to share 
– lawn chair and/or blanket if possible 

NKG AND THE EMMETT COMMUNAL GARDEN:

Naadmaagit Ki Group (NKG) works to restore indigenous responsibilities to the land and water in Toronto. NKG is working with urban indigenous people planting medicines, mound gardening, fighting invasive species, and supporting indigenous cultural learning on the land in the city.

The Emmett Avenue Communal Garden is a cooperative venture involving NKG, the Black Farmers Collective, the Afrocentric School collective, Social Planning Toronto, City of Toronto Parks and Recreation, and communal garden volunteers. Grown communally rather than in individual plots, the garden is used for sustainable food production and distributed to low income families as a contribution to food justice. NKG have been reclaiming the area in an around the Humber (Tanaouate) River, including in this Garden, and restoring indigenous responsibilities to the land and water. They are growing Three Sisters mounds (corn, beans and squash), a sophisticated and sustainable system that will provide long-term fertility and a healthy diet, in a generational project that will see families taking up responsibility for the mounds for Seven Generations. 

“Indigenize or Die” is honoured and excited to be building a collaborative relationship with these front-line warriors who are on the ground, doing the re-indigenizing work about which we have been dialoguing. 

“Indigenize or Die” is pleased to announce…regular work sessions along the Humber

Restoring indigenous relationship with the land in the city 

As we travel further down the path of re-indigenizing Toronto, we continue to deepen our relationship with Naadmaagit Ki Group (NKG, Helpers of the Earth) and the land along the shores of the Humber river.

Like any relationship, this takes time and work.

We now are happy to announce an opportunity to deepen that relationship with the land and this community three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4:00-8:00 pm. 

Where: Emmett Avenue Communal Garden, 101 Emmett Avenue (details below)

When: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 4:00-8:00 pm

Details: We’ll meet at the Emmett Garden at around 4 and stay there until 5 or 5:30 working in the garden and having an early light supper, then going to the river.  Someone will stick around at the garden for people who come a bit later.

NKG will provide some food for a light supper, but since they never know how many will show, it’s always good if you can bring something for yourself or to share. Bring a water bottle and wear long pants with close toed shoes and socks.

LOCATION: 101 Emmett Avenue (near Jane and Eglinton).
Accessible by TTC via buses from Jane Station, Eglinton Station and York University. Check the TTC Trip Planner or Google Maps for directions. Emmett Avenue runs North off of Eglinton, West of Jane. There’s a big sign at Eglinton and Emmett saying West Park Health Centre. Turn N on Emmett and go down the hill. Stop at the first parking lot on your left, There is a children’s playground across the street on the right. The communal garden is behind a fence just South of the playground, and North of the public washrooms. We will gather in front of it by some picnic tables. 
Note that the parking lot closes at 9 pm.

MORE INFO ON NKG AND THE EMMETT COMMUNAL GARDEN:
Naadmaagit Ki Group (NKG) works to restore indigenous responsibilities to the land and water in Toronto.  NKG is working with urban indigenous people planting medicines, mound gardening, fighting invasive species, and supporting indigenous cultural learning on the land in the city.

The Emmett Avenue Communal Garden is a cooperative venture involving NKG, the Black Farmers Collective, the Afrocentric School collective, Social Planning Toronto, City of Toronto Parks and Recreation, and communal garden volunteers. Grown communally rather than in individual plots, the garden is used for sustainable food production and distributed to low income families as a contribution to food justice. NKG have been reclaiming the area in an around the Humber (Tanaouate) River, including in this Garden, restoring indigenous responsibilities to the land and water, and supporting indigenous cultural learning on the land in the city. They are growing Three Sisters mounds (corn, beans and squash), a sophisticated and sustainable system that will provide long-term fertility and a healthy diet, in a generational project that will see families taking up responsibility for the mounds for Seven Generations. 

“Indigenize or Die” is honoured and excited to be building a collaborative relationship with these front-line warriors who are on the ground, doing the re-indigenizing work about which we have been dialoging. 

Indigenize or Die #7: Deepening our Experience–Reinforcing our Relationship with Land and People 

Picture

Last month we had the pleasure and honour of being welcomed by Naadmaagit Ki Group (NKG), Helpers of the Earth, as our co-hosts, to A Celebration of Seeds Planted. Together we honoured and celebrated the efforts of NKG and many others at Emmett Avenue Communal Garden* who are doing the very important re-indigenizing work of reclaiming our food sovereignty. 

For those who weren’t there, we had a marvelous tour of some of the re-indigenized orphan lands, with the plant medicines and food plants arranged according to the teachings of the elders. We learned how families from the Indigenous community are adopting lands and working in relationship to maintain their adopted area for the generations to come. We also learned about the sophisticated technology traditional of the mounds for the three sisters companion planting that predate permaculture by thousands of years.

We also shared some delicious food provided by the participants, and we danced, sang and told stories around the fire. Special thanks to Kevin and Doug who organized, to the Indigenous community members who tended the lands, and to Moyo and his son for the beautiful African music.

This month, we will continue the experiential path we have embarked upon. On July 27th we will have the opportunity to work alongside the NKG group to experience and learn together in our evolving connection with all creation. We’ll have a chance to get to know each other and the place, tell a few jokes, listen to the land, make ourselves useful. There’s lots to see and learn together.

Come out and help when you can get there (we’ll start about 4, but even if people come at 6 that will help) until 7 or 7:30, then we’ll share a meal.  

Wear long pants and shoes with socks, as there’s some poison ivy and worse…  

Wednesday July 27, 101 Emmett Ave (directions below)

4-7 pm: digging, conversing, planting, joking, listening, getting to know each other.
7:30-9:30 pm: Potluck Picnic and Circle
$15 suggested donation to cover travel and other expenses of our guest hosts.
Students/unwaged PWYC. No one turned away for lack of funds.

Please bring:
– your own plate, cup and utensils 
– a potluck picnic dish to share
– lawn chair and/or blanket if possible

*The Emmett Avenue Communal Garden is a cooperative venture involving NKG, the Black Farmers Collective, the Afrocentric School collective, Social Planning Toronto, City of Toronto Parks and Recreation, and communal garden volunteers. Grown communally rather than in individual plots, the garden is used for sustainable food production and distributed to low income families as a contribution to food justice. NKG have been reclaiming the area in an around the Humber (Tanaouate) River, including in this Garden, restoring indigenous responsibilities to the land and water, and supporting indigenous cultural learning on the land in the city. They are growing Three Sisters mounds (corn, beans and squash), a sophisticated and sustainable system that will provide long-term fertility and a healthy diet, in a generational project that will see families taking up responsibility for the mounds for Seven Generations. 

“Indigenize or Die” is honoured and excited to be building a collaborative relationship with these front-line warriors who are on the ground, doing the re-indigenizing work about which we have been dialoguing.