Celebrate Indigenous Art, Culture and Entertainment at the Aboriginal Pavillion – Historic Fort York

TORONTO – The Aboriginal Pavilion is the lone “official” Indigenous music and arts festival taking place during the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.

Festival organizers announced the full line-up of musicians and multi-disciplinary artists who will transform Fort York Historic Site’s Garrison Common grounds into one of the summer’s hottest free admission festival destinations.

This historically significant gathering of the indigenous community’s finest artistic talents also coincides with the first time in the history of the Pan Am games that there is a Host First Nation – Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations.

The Aboriginal Pavilion brings together Indigenous musicians and artists from across the Americas in a historic collaboration that celebrates the vitality of Indigenous communities by showcasing works by innovative Canadian and American artists over a 17 day period; from July 10th-26th.

The Pavilion aims to share the art, music, culture and traditions of Aboriginal peoples with up to 10,000 festival attendees, while showcasing the diversity within the community, which will help to promote greater appreciation and understanding among all peoples.

The Pavilion will also occupy one of the largest footprints of any arts festival in Toronto held during the Pan Am Games. The Pavilion’s Opening Night extravaganza kicks off on July 16th from 7-9pm.

Here are some of the highlights for this month’s Aboriginal Pavilion:

lightning cloud - Music
Indigenous Hip-Hop duo Lightning Cloud.


The Pavilion kicks off with the much anticipated Cree Cabaret on July 14th featuring the iconic playwright, novelist, and pianist/songwriter Tomson Highway alongside captivating vocalist and performer Patricia Cano. The “live” music concert portion of the festival which kicks off on July 17th features an energetic mix of music styles, from traditional, rock, hip hop and blues to electronic, pop, classical and folk. A virtual who’s who of over 40+ Indigenous music talents from across North America including A Tribe Called Red, Crystal Shawanda, Quetzal Guerrero, Don Ross, Leela Gilday, LightningCloud, Digging Roots, Susan Aglukark, Derek Miller, Cris Derksen, Bitterly Divine, George Leach and Reyes Poetry and Sacramento Knoxx among many others will be performing during the evening on the Main Stage running from July 17-26th.


Renowned Comedy Troupe the 1491s.

A much anticipated and uniquely curated comedy night will take place on July 19th from 6-8 pm featuring renowned sketch comedy group 1491s, Candy Palmater, the “half-breed humor” of Dustin Hollings, and Ryan McMahon – who is guaranteed to leave audiences in stitches while turning stereotypes on their head.


Dance, theatre and extensive family programming will be featured on the daytime Small Stage and includes Hoop Dancing with former two-time World Champion Hoop Dancer Lisa Odjig, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s seamless fusion of Indigenous and contemporary dance in Medicine Bear, Chad Solomon’s interactive puppet show, Eddy Robinson’s drum-fuelled music and storytelling, Michelle Thrush’s one-woman Find Your Own Inner Elder show, Cheri Maracle’s musical theatre piece Paddle Song, and Red Sky’s distinct contemporary world Indigenous dance, theatre and music performance Mistatim among others.

Medicine Bear
Kaha:wi Dance Theatre will perform Medicine Bear at the Aboriginal Pavillion.


In the spirit of the Pan Am games, the Sports Zone will feature notable Indigenous athletes performing demonstrations and facilitating a whole host of family-friendly workshops. From lacrosse demos with the Six Nations Lacrosse Team, Aboriginal Sport & Wellness Council of Ontario’s ball hockey, volleyball, boxing and golf workshops, demonstrations of Urban Poling – one of Canada’s fastest growing fitness activities – all the way to NWT Youth Traditional Games Demos, festival attendees will feel like they are a part of the Games action.


Jay Bell Redbird
Art by Jay Bell Redbird will be on display at Historic Fort York.

“Gazing Back, Looking Forward”, curated by Rhéanne Chartrand, is a photographic and mixed media exhibit that features the works of more than 10 established and emerging Indigenous artists including Jordan Bennett, Keesic Douglas, Terrance Houle, Nadya Kwandibens, Meryl McMaster, Jeff Thomas, Anthony “Thosh” Collins, Lindsay Delaronde, Jason Jenkins, Jason Lujan, Rene Meshake, Brandan Wilson, and Will Wilson among others. By challenging conventional notions of what it means to be Indigenous, these artists question the validity of tropes and codifiers of Indian-ness pervasive in the public stereotype of the singular, monolithic and one-dimensional image of the “Hollywood Indian.” The exhibition will also feature a single channel film installation presenting a collection of short films created by four Indigenous artists produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Gazing Back, Looking Forward will be on display throughout the duration of the Pavilion in the Orientation Theatre of Fort York National Historic Site’s Visitor’s Centre.

naomi smith - Visual Art
Iroquois Beadwork by Naomi Smith will be highlighted as part of the celebrations.


Festival attendees will be treated to some of the finest displays of traditional and contemporary crafts, unique visual art, jewelry, fashion apparel, beadwork and wearable art. Come peruse and purchase one-of-a-kind cultural items from Jay Bell Redbird, Barb Nahwegahbow, Vision Artworks own Tracey Anthony, Naomi Smith, PROUD TO BE’s Earl Lambert, and William Monague among others.


The talented Aboriginal chefs of Morningstar Hospitality alongside a wide range of food vendors will be on hand throughout the festival to offer up some tasty cultural culinary treats for visitors in the Pavilion’s Food Marketplace.

The Aboriginal Pavilion runs from July 10th – 12th at the Native Canadian Centre; 16 Spadina Avenue in downtown Toronto and then becomes an open air outdoor arts festival from July 13-26th at the Fort York Historic Site’s Garrison Common grounds; 250 Fort York Blvd.

All events are FREE admission. For the full Aboriginal Pavilion schedule and event listings please visit: alppavilion.ca and follow @alp_pavilion on Twitter.

The Aboriginal Pavilion acknowledges the financial support of the Dreamcatchers Charitable Foundation, K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation, Government of Canada – Department of Canadian Heritage, Government of Ontario, the City of Toronto – Community Funding, and Urban Poling.

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