Changing the Narrative at Black Creek Pioneer Village

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

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

With the goal of “restory-ing” the Village to include Indigenous voices and perspectives, the Changing the Narrative committee initiated a multi-year research project that will ultimately result in permanent exhibits and installations at the Village.

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.

About the Research

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.

Initiated in 2017, 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: In the Village

student participates in Walking Together event at Black Creek Pioneer Village
Students participate in Moccasin Identifier project during “Walking Together” event.
a wiigiwaam accompanied by an informational panel at Black Creek Pioneer Village
Wiigiwaam at the Village: A place for reflection.

While the research continues, staff have explored Indigenous ways of learning and gained a deeper understanding of the treaties between the First Nations of southern Ontario and the British Crown through workshops led by Edge of the Bush, the Talking Treaties Collective, and Jumblies Theatre.

This information is woven into our education programs, where we share the stories of Indigenous individuals living in what is now the Toronto region in the 19th century.

Our annual “Walking Together” event for students brings local primary classes to the Village for a series of free workshops led by Indigenous community organizations, artists, and knowledge-keepers.

Led by Indigenous knowledge-keepers, staff constructed a traditional Ojibwe wiigiwaam on the museum’s grounds and have participated in Sacred Fire ceremonies to deepen connections with the land we are on.

The wiigiwaam is available to all visitors to the Village as a place to reflect on the ongoing impact of colonization.

The beautiful and moving artwork of Métis sculptor Tracey-Mae Chambers has a permanent home in the gallery located in the Village’s Visitor Centre.

Through her work, Chambers asks us all to consider the past, contemplate the present, and remain hopeful about the future.

Hope and Healing installation by Metis artist Tracey-Mae Chambers at Black Creek Pioneer Village
Hope & Healing by Tracey-Mae Chambers, 2022.

What’s Next and Other Voices

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

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

Keep checking this space to find out what’s coming next as we work towards Changing the Narrative.