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Indigenous Arts Festival in Toronto, Canada

September 12, 2019

Supporting the celebration of Indigenous peoples through arts and education at the 2019 Indigenous Arts Festival

The Indigenous Arts Festival is an annual event held in Fort York, Toronto, Canada, that celebrates Indigenous arts and culture, acknowledges local history, and raises awareness for First Nation rights. Held from June 18–21, 2019, this year’s festival also marked our first involvement with the event—our sponsorship of the Indigenous Walking Tour. 

For seven years, the Indigenous Arts Festival has educated and entertained people of all ages and backgrounds through traditional and contemporary music, dance, theatre, storytelling, literature, crafts, and food created by Indigenous artists. The goal? Attendees should leave with an understanding of the contributions that Indigenous people have made to Canada. The Walking Tour, sponsored by Stantec, explores Indigenous history in Toronto through an urban wilderness tour.

The City of Toronto, and the organizing committee who puts on the festival, reached out to Stantec about a potential partnership. David Sauve agreed that it looked interesting and fit our local community engagement mandate. We’re always looking to cultivate meaningful connections with our communities, and this includes our dedication to working with Indigenous groups. 

Deanna Brown, a principal in our Toronto, Ontario office, attended the festival in June. On behalf of Stantec, she attended the partners breakfast and was able to participate in a smudging ceremony. “This was my first opportunity to participate in a smudging ceremony. I felt quite honoured to have that experience together with everyone in attendance,” Deanna said. Another part of the festival that really stood out to Deanna was the drumming and dance performances. “The drumming rhythm was established by an Indigenous elder and the public followed his lead,” Deanna said. “The sound of 20 people drumming at once was a very intense and powerful to experience. The dance performers who hailed from different Indigenous nations explained the origins and purposes of their dances which made them all the more meaningful to watch. It was lovely to see young people embracing the traditions of their community so wholeheartedly.”

Deanna noted that the festival represents a positive opportunity to learn about and interact with Indigenous cultures from across Canada. “Canada has a troubled history of engagement with Indigenous peoples,” Deanna said. “One aspect of our reconciliation efforts is to ensure that all of us recognize and respect the incredible cultures that existed here long before anyone else. Stantec supporting the Indigenous Arts Festival is a wonderful undertaking.” 

Through community engagement, we are supporting initiatives and collaborating with Indigenous communities, which will only continue to strengthen our connections to local and national organizations.

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