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Celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal music, art and culture at this one-of-a-kind Indigenous festival in downtown Toronto

Toronto, ON (June 17, 2015) – The Aboriginal Pavilion, supported by the 14 member ALP (Aboriginal Leadership Partners), is the lone “official” Indigenous music and arts festival taking place during the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Festival organizers are excited to announce 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. The staging of the Pavilion marks the first time in the history of the games that there has been such a large and strong Aboriginal music, comedy, dance and multi-disciplinary arts presence during the world renowned sporting event. This historically significant gathering of the 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 (Mississauga’s 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 (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 (7-9pm).

Here are some Aboriginal Pavilion festival highlights:


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 (please note: This is an RSVP event). The “live” music concert portionof 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 (check website schedule for detailed performance times).


A much anticipated and uniquely curated comedy night on July 19th (6-8 pm) featuring renowned sketch comedy group 1491s (as seen on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), Candy Palmater (from award-winning APTN’s The Candy Show), the “half-breed humor” of Dustin Hollings (of the Banned Council), and Ryan McMahon – the first Native comedian to ever tape a one hour mainstream stand-up comedy special “Ryan McMahon – UnReserved” for CBC TV – will 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 (the first woman to ever win this title), 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.


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, (ASWCO) 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.


“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.


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 (Tracey Anthony), Naomi Smith, PROUD TO BE (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) 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: and follow @alp_pavilion

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.

For more information:

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About The Author

MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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