Explore Indigenous fashion, visual arts, film, media and culture in Toronto this summer into fall.

Festival season is here, and so are Indigenous-led arts and cultural events, giving visitors and locals the opportunity to witness the brilliance of First Nations, Métis and Inuit artistry. From festivals to theatre stages, art installations to gallery exhibits (and even a pow wow), these seven can’t-miss events will keep you busy through fall!

1. Canada’s Largest Indigenous Youth Performance at Meridien Hall

This annual talent showcase celebrates Indigenous youth from across Canada who have participated in Outside Looking In’s transformative community arts programs. 

Canada’s Largest Indigenous Youth Performance (May 13, 2023) is a one-night event that features Indigenous and non-Indigenous music, dance and multimedia performances. Past performers have included DJ Shub and hip-hop trap artists Snotty Nose Rez Kids. 

2. Paprika Theatre Festival at Native Earth Performing Arts

Check out the next wave of stage talent at this year’s Paprika Theatre Festival (May 16–22, 2023), a unique performing arts festival promoting the work of young and emerging artists. 

This youth-led festival focuses on new work by Indigenous playwrights, performers, directors, producers, designers and other creators. Visit the festival website for programming updates and details. 

3. Nîpîy’s Songwalks at Toronto Botanical Gardens

A joint performance by Juno-nominated Cree cellist and composer Cris Derksen and the Amadeus Choir, Nîpîy’s Songwalks (May 27, 2023) is an immersive outdoor musical performance and the world premiere of Derkson’s new work about Indigenous water sovereignty and the inequalities of access to clean water in Canada.

Choir members will be scattered throughout the exquisite grounds of the Toronto Botanical Gardens while concertgoers stroll through, experiencing pockets of song. The Songwalk will culminate with the full choir and band performing Derksen’s new work on the outdoor stage (or indoors at Jubilee United Church in the event of rain).

Elders dressed in traditional clothing at the Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York in Toronto
Arrive early to see 100+ drummers and dancers share their skills for the Grand Entry

4. Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York

Spend a summer weekend with friends and family at the Indigenous Arts Festival (June 17 and 18, 2023). This two-day festival is hosted at Fort York National Historic Site’s Garrison Common and is home to the annual Na-Me-Res Pow Wow, Indigenous Food Market and thrilling stage performances. 

Make sure to arrive at the pow wow before noon on the Saturday to witness the Grand Entry, where over 100 drummers and dancers will share their skills. Stick around for the day to gather with others, connect with vendors and enjoy food options, including traditional fare like tacos or corn soup with bannock.

5. ᑐᓴᕐᓂᑐᑦ TUSARNITUT! Music Born of the Cold at the ROM

Named for “sounds that please the ear,” ᑐᓴᕐᓂᑐᑦ TUSARNITUT! Music Born of the Cold  (now through September 24, 2023) invites Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) visitors to experience the breadth and diversity of Inuit creative expression, including the visual arts and musical genres of throat singing and drumming. 

Live musical performances will introduce visitors to contemporary artists who are reimagining these traditions for present-day fans. Visit the Royal Ontario Museum website for programming updates.

6. Musical artists at The Ex

Everyone loves the Canadian National Exhibition (aka CNE or The Ex, August 18–September 4, 2023) for its ride midway, over-the-top carnival foods and live concerts. The Ex is also beloved as an accessible and fun music venue, with multiple stages showcasing up-and-coming talent and well-known artists alike. 

In previous years, live shows have included Indigenous artists like Buffy St. Marie and the Halluci Nation (previously known as A Tribe Called Red). Check online for updates as 2023 performers are announced. 

7. imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival 

Autumn’s imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival (October 17-29, 2023) is the world’s biggest Indigenous screen content festival, now in its 24th year. This year’s festival lineup showcases video, audio, digital and interactive media that celebrate the works of contemporary Indigenous artists who are showcasing narrative sovereignty within the film and media arts industry. 

Visit the festival website for programming updates in the months to come.

Since time immemorial, Indigenous communities have recognized and honoured the importance of art for connection, community and joy. For arts and culture lovers, these events offer a unique opportunity to engage in celebrations of Indigenous artistry—this summer and beyond.