Changing the Narrative at Black Creek Pioneer Village

Changing the narrative - many voices - many perspectives - many peoples

It is time to change the narrative at Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Recognizing that for too long the site had focused on settlers of European descent, in 2017 the Village began working to change the narrative by collaborating with Indigenous scholars, artists, elders, and community members.

Inuk artist Barry Best
Inuk artist Barry Best.

To “restory” the Village, we are also partnering with other equity-deserving artists, scholars, and communities to ensure that their stories – from their perspectives and in their words – are shared with visitors to the Village.


About the Research

In an effort to bring Indigenous voices and perspectives to the Village, the Changing the Narrative Indigenous research committee initiated a multi-year project in 2017.

Changing the Narrative: Reconnecting Settler and Indigenous Histories at Black Creek Pioneer Village is a multi-phase collaborative project between Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) at Black Creek Pioneer Village, York University, Jumblies Theatre, and five southern Ontario First Nations.

Black Creek Pioneer Village Changing the Narrative initiative includes events like Talking Treaties presented by Jumblies Theatre
“Talking Treaties” with Jumblies Theatre at the Village.

The project aims to develop historically accurate and artful permanent installations at the Village that acknowledge the deep connection between the establishment of Euro-Canadian “pioneer” settlements and the loss of lands and livelihoods by local Indigenous communities, while also highlighting more positive interconnections through trade, technological adaptation, and intermarriage.

In these ways, Black Creek Pioneer Village will support the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada‘s calls to action by telling a fuller, more inclusive, and more accurate story of settlement in 19th century Ontario.

Changing the Narrative through Art

Art connects us to other people and opens our eyes to different ways of looking at the world around us and the history of the land we call home.

Spirit Figures by Sun Raven Arts
Spirit Figures by Sun Raven Arts.

This year at the Village, Indigenous artists share their perspectives on Toronto’s colonial past, remind us of the original caretakers of the land, and ask us to remain hopeful about the future.

  • Spirit Figures: Search for sculptured spirit figures, created by Sun Raven Arts and located throughout the Village. Can you see them hidden but watching? Through 2024.
  • Hope & Healing: Consider those whose voices have been historically displaced from spaces like The Village, while viewing an installation of yarn flowers in the Village’s School House, created by Métis artist Tracey-Mae Chambers. June 1 to October 6.
  • Spirit Wind: Explore the the Inuit narrative, The Soul That Let Itself Be Born Again in All the Animals Of The Earth, through Inuk artist Barry Best’s series of eight woodcarving installations. September to December.
  • The Vision Quest Project Giidwin: Witness the construction of a canoe while engaging in discussions about various birch bark canoe styles, including voyageur, ricing, and hunting. Stay tuned for build dates!

Changing the Narrative through Events

Events bring us together to discover new ideas and explore different perspectives.

students participate in Walking Together event at Black Creek Pioneer Village
Students engaging in Moccasin Identifier project during Walking Together.

  • First Saturdays: Through Their Eyes: Visit with Indigenous and other equity-deserving artists on the first Saturday of every month, as they demonstrate their art while asking us to consider the history of Toronto through their eyes. May to December.
  • Talking Treaties: Be part of multi-arts workshops and learn about Toronto’s treaty history with Jumblies Theatre. Create miniature versions of important sites, animate them with visual arts and movement, then put it all together for an event in September. May to September.
  • Walking Together: An annual event for students that brings local primary classes to the Village for a series of free workshops led by Indigenous community organizations, artists, and knowledge-keepers. June.
  • Relaxed Days: Relaxed Days provide spaces and activities welcoming to all visitors, including those on the autism spectrum, those with sensory or communication disorders, and everyone seeking a more relaxed visit. Created in partnership with Grandview Kids, Surrey Place, and SAAAC Autism Centre. Summer and Fall.

Changing the Narrative through Exhibits & Installations

Exhibits and installations challenge us to reconsider our past and contemplate how we create a better future.

a wiigiwaam accompanied by an informational panel at Black Creek Pioneer Village
Wiigiwaam at the Village: A place for reflection

  • Changing the Narrative: Explore the Changing the Narrative project in the Village’s newest exhibit. Guided by Changing the Narrative Research Committee.
  • Wiigiwaam: Contemplate the impact of colonization while seated in a traditional Ojibwe wiigiwaam constructed by Village staff led by Indigenous knowledge-keepers and Elders.
  • Pride & the Past: Consider the history of the Queer community in 19th century Toronto through a reimagined pigeon-hole desk. How was this history hidden in plain sight? Beginning in June.

What’s Next

We are working hard to Change the Narrative. But we’re not stopping here.

Our school programs are undergoing a review by Indigenous education consultants to ensure that the stories we tell and the way that historical information is shared reflects the perspectives of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabeg peoples who have lived on the land now known as Toronto for centuries.

As the initial research phase of the Changing the Narrative project comes to a close, work is beginning on a permanent exhibit and series of installations. Created collaboratively with five First Nations, these installations will weave Indigenous voices and perspectives throughout the Village.

Hope and Healing installation by Metis artist Tracey-Mae Chambers at Black Creek Pioneer Village
Hope & Healing by Tracey-Mae Chambers, 2023.

We are working with historians of Toronto’s Black community to learn more about the region’s Black citizens in the 1800s and are hoping to include this information in our interpretation soon.

We are also beginning the Jewish History Project, which will result in a new Village exhibit focused on memory, artifacts, and the Jewish experience in Toronto.

Be sure to visit the Gift Shop on your next visit to The Village, where you’ll find items created by equity-deserving artisans.

Keep checking this space to see what is coming next to Change the Narrative at the Village.