National Indigenous History Month 2021

May 31, 2021 | Jamie

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Every June is  National Indigenous History Month. During this month, we celebrate and uplift First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities works and experiences, and raise awareness of these works and experiences to the general Canadian population. 

First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities have very rich cultures and ways of being, and it is only right to learn more about these lands we live on.


Read Indigenous

Every year, TPL collaborates with the Indigenous Advisory Council to share a list of must-read titles for Adults, Teens and Kids. All of these books are by Indigenous authors. I'm sharing some that are on my to-read list. Check out these titles featured in this year's Read Indigenous lists! Please note, when an author is Indigenous I share their Nation right next to their name in brackets.

For Adults

A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt

A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt (Cree)

"Blending memoir and essay, and with a poet's delight in language, A History of My Brief Body is both a grappling with a legacy of trauma and a record of the joy that flourishes in spite of it."

You can check out this title and many more in our Read Indigenous Adult Book List.

For Teens

A Girl Called Echo Volume 4 - Road Allowance Era by Katherena Vermette

A Girl Called Echo, Volume 4: Road Allowance Era by Katherena Vermette (Métis)

"In the fourth volume of A Girl Called Echo, Echo Desjardins resumes her time travel and learns more about Métis history in Canada, including the "road allowance" land set aside by the crown, and the former community known as "Rooster Town" in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She also witnesses the trial of Louis Riel in Regina, Saskatchewan."

You can check out this title and many more on our Read Indigenous Teens book list.

For Children

It's A Mitig! by Bridget George

It's a Mitig! By Bridget George (Ojibway)

"A colourful children’s book written in a rhyming combination of English and Ojibwe. It’s a Mitig! guides young readers through the forest while introducing them to Ojibwe words for nature. From sunup to sundown, encounter an amik playing with sticks and swimming in the river, a prickly gaag hiding in the bushes and a big, bark-covered mitig. Featuring vibrant and playful artwork, an illustrated Ojibwe-to-English glossary and a simple introduction to the double-vowel pronunciation system, plus accompanying online recordings, It’s a Mitig! is one of the first books of its kind. It was created for young children and their families with the heartfelt desire to spark a lifelong interest in learning language."

You can check out this title and many more on our Read Indigenous Children's book list


Reading for Reconciliation

We also have our Reading for Reconciliation Booklist. The list has books on topics like colonialism and Indian Residential School legacy. "The titles are a testament to the power of the human spirit and the resiliency of Indigenous peoples, and our collective journey towards hope, healing, and reconciliation."


Upcoming Live and Online Events

Check out these events coming up at Toronto Public Library in June, being led by Indigenous communities nearby. While you don't have to have a Toronto Public Library card to attend, pre-registration on Crowdcast is required. Attendance is free!

If you can't make it while the event is live and online, don't worry – you can use the registration links below to watch a recorded replay of the event.

Toronto Public Library is committed to accessibility. Please call or email us if you are Deaf or have a disability and would like to request accommodation to participate in any of our online programs. Please let us know as far in advance as possible and we will do our best to meet your request. At least three weeks' notice is preferred. Phone 416-393-7099 or email


Sally Milne – Birch Bark Biting

Update: This program has been cancelled and will be rescheduled to a later date. Link to new date and time will be posted on the Crowdcast link once available. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Using only her teeth, Cree Elder Sally Milne transforms carefully harvested birch bark into distinctive pieces of art. A unique process that inspires respect and curiosity for an ancient, timeless art form. Sally is one of the four most renowned bark biters in the world and with only a small handful of artists practicing this art form, each piece of art is also a rare piece of history. Join Sally as she takes you through the history of birch bark biting, what it is and how and why it's done, while sharing a few of her favourite pieces and experiences along the way.

Register now and receive an email reminder, or tune in on June 3. 


Victor Lytwn and Dean Jacobs

Naagan ge bezhig emkwaan / A Dish with One Spoon Reconsidered

Tuesday, June 8, 2021. 6 pm – 7 pm.

Long before Europeans arrived, the Anishinaabe occupied territory which includes parts of present-day Ontario, Michigan and Ohio. The resources found there are integral to their way of life and identity. The Anishinaabe defended this territory, and its integrity was at the core of the peace they concluded in Montreal in 1701, a key element of which was the Naagan ge bezhig , or Dish with One spoon. Recently, however, the Dish with One Spoon has been popularized as an agreement to protect the environment. Researchers Victor Lytwn and Dean Jacobs provide a history and overview of the Dish with One Spoon from an Anishinaabe perspective, while explaining how its incorporation into "land recognition statements" is damaging to First Nations who seek to protect their territories and resources.

Register now and receive an email reminder, or tune in on June 8.

Chef Joseph Shawana

Have You Met the Three Sisters? Indigenous Food Stories with Chef Joseph Shawana

Thursday June 10, 2021. 7 – 8 pm.

Acclaimed Chef Joseph Shawana is Odawa, part of the Three Fires Confederacy. Born and raised in Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve located on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, north of Toronto. At a young age, he experienced the power of how food brings people together and began his culinary journey with the strict philosophy of utilizing the entirety of an ingredient to bring its full range of flavours to the palette.

Trained in classical French combined with his Aboriginal background, Joseph is committed to furthering the education of culinary arts to all communities. From developing a program to assist Indigenous youths to work in the industry to his role as chair of ICAN, the Indigenous Culinary of Association Nations where he breaks barriers to sharing Indigenous food, cultural experiences from across Canada with the world.

Joseph will share his journey through food, some Indigenous stories around food and the importance of agricultural sustainability and the Three Sisters while making a meal over an open fire from his home in Manitoulin Island – and you're all invited.

Register now and receive an email reminder, or watch live on Crowdcast on June 10.

Haudenosaunee Wampum Belts and the Significance of the Dish with One Spoon

Wednesday June 16, 2021, 6pm – 7pm.

Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region have been using wampum long before settlers arrived in North America, employing it for both ceremonial and political purpose. More recently, some of these pre-contact wampum agreements such as the Dish with One Spoon between the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee have ?re-emerged? in land acknowledgements now spoken around the GTA. What is the original intent and philosophical meaning behind the Dish with One Spoon and what is its function today? How can these ancient agreements influence our thinking about the environment, climate change, and the possibility of resolving land claims in our lifetime?

Register on Crowdcast and receive an email reminder, or tune in on June 16. This program will be available on Crowdcast until Wednesday, June 30, 2021.


Mishomis-Grandfather puppet

Storytelling and Rhymes with special guest Mishomis-Grandfather puppet

Monday June 21, 2021. 11 – 11:30am.

Rhymes, songs and stories retold and adjusted to capture the attention and imagination of preschool children.

Discover how Turtle Island came to be, how the dog became man's best friend and how Crow was once like a rainbow and a Solstice story. Participate in rhymes such as Five Little Chipmunks and Five Greasy Scone dogs and learn an echo song.

This live program is suitable for children birth to 5 years, with a parent or caregiver present during the program.

Register now and receive an email reminder, or tune in on June 21! This program will be available to watch again until the end of the day on July 5, 2021.



Pride Month Filmmaker Talks: Thirza Cuthand

Wednesday June 23, 2021. 7 – 8 pm.

Toronto Public Library and Trinity Square Video present Thirza Cuthand: In Conversation as part of Toronto Public Library's Pride Month Filmmaker Talks, produced in partnership with Trinity Square Video for Pride Month 2021.

Thirza Jean Cuthand is a First Nations filmmaker whose experimental narrative videos and films have focused on sexuality, madness, Queer identity and love, and Indigeneity. Her work has screened in festivals internationally, including the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, Mix Brasil Festival of Sexual Diversity in Sao Paolo, ImagineNATIVE in Toronto, Frameline in San Francisco, Outfest in Los Angeles, and Oberhausen International Short Film Festival. Her work has also exhibited at galleries including the Mendel in Saskatoon, The National Gallery in Ottawa, and The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

A non-binary Butch boy who uses She/Her pronouns, Thirza is of Plains Cree and Scots descent, a member of Little Pine First Nation, and currently resides in Toronto, Canada.

Thirza sits down with Toronto Public Library to discuss her work and upcoming projects, the challenges and achievements she has faced during her career as an Indigiqueer filmmaker, and will also answer audience questions in a Q&A session.

This event is part of our Pride Month celebrations for June 2021. For events, reading lists, videos and more, check out TPL's Pride Celebrations webpage.

Register now to receive an email reminder, or tune in on June 23.


4 guests for Indigenous Toronto talk

Indigenous Toronto: Stories that Carry this Place

Thursday, June 24, 2021. 12 – 1pm.

Beneath many major North American cities rests a deep foundation of Indigenous history that has been colonized, paved over, and, too often, silenced. Few of its current inhabitants know that Toronto has seen twelve thousand years of uninterrupted Indigenous presence and nationhood in this region, along with a vibrant culture and history that thrives to this day.

In this special panel discussion, TPL gathers contributors to the newly released Indigenous Toronto: Stories that Carry this Place. Chef Johl Whiteduck, visual artist Philip Cote, author/playwright Drew Hayden Taylor and creative director/arts presenter Denise Bolduc discuss the cultural continuity and settler colonialism that have come to define Toronto as a significant cultural hub.

About this event's guests:

Register now to receive an email reminder, or tune in on June 24.


TPL Reading challenge 2021 blog banner

Reading Challenge Online Book Discussion

Thursday June 24, 2021. 4 – 5 pm.

Join us for a Reading Challenge-themed discussion all about books! Our hosts Nalini and Despina will be discussing books for "a book by an Indigenous woman or Two-Spirit Indigenous person." Two special guests will be coming to the event! Follow along and share your input.

This event will have live captions.

Register now to receive an email reminder, or tune in on June 24 at 5pm.


What else can I do?

While the the Tkaronto Music Festival happened on May 21 – 23 2021, you can watch their recorded livestream now and listen to some incredible music by Indigenous artists from around the world.

You can virtually attend some of the Indigenous History Month 2021 events by the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund.

You can also attend TASSC's Tkaronto Summit, which has two free and virtual events on June 16. The event is all ages and open to everyone. You can pre-register to attend the live events.

You can also attend the City of Toronto's month-long celebrations for National Indigenous History Month! Digital programs offered by the City of Toronto start on June 9. Some events, like virtual treaty tours, require registering in advance.

The City of Toronto will have a virtual sunrise ceremony on June 21, 2021.

You can also watch the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network's Indigenous Day Live, which will be livestreamed on June 20 from 8pm – 11:30 pm Eastern Time, and streamed again on June 21.

You can also check out the National Film Board of Canada's Indigenous Cinema website, where they have over 200 Indigenous-made films.


Editing history:

June 1, 2021: edited to include events shared by the City of Toronto for National Indigenous History Month.

June 2, 2021: edited to update information about Sally Milne's Birch Bark Biting event.

June 10, 2021: edited to include TASSC's Tkaronto Virtual Summit.

June 17, 2021: edited to add in ending air date for an online program. Added information about the National Film Board of Canada's Indigenous Cinema website.