Discover Indigenous Experiences in Toronto

Explore and learn about Indigenous culture, history, and art with this two-day itinerary.

Toronto is a diverse and dynamic city and Indigenous cultures are ones that we recognize and value. Learn more about Indigenous events and culture in the city with these top experiences. Use the map to help you plan your own itinerary or follow our curated guide below.

Download the First Story app 

Start your adventure by downloading the First Story app (available on Google Play and the App Store). Developed at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, the app has an interactive map featuring original stories, photographs, archival documents, and audio and video clips that illuminate the evolving Indigenous history of the Toronto area.

Day 1

Visit the Royal Ontario Museum

The four magnificent totem poles that tower above the stairways at the Royal Ontario Museum are a stunning greeting as you make your way to the Daphne Cockwell Gallery, dedicated to First Peoples, with over 1,000 works of art and cultural heritage. The continuing legacy of Canada’s First Peoples comes alive in this multi-layered gallery that explores the complex relationship between past traditions and present life. (Free admission.)

Sample Indigenous fusion dishes

For lunch, sample Indigenous-inspired dishes at the Pow Wow Cafe. Created by chef Shawn Adler, who is of Anishinaabe and Jewish descent, chef offers a cheeky menu of “Indian tacos,” peanut butter and banana frybread, and homemade cedar soda. 

Tour the Art Gallery of Ontario

From there, it’s an easy walk to the Art Gallery of Ontario for a tour of the many works from the First Peoples of North America, as well as global Indigenous Art from Africa, Australia, and the Torres Strait Islands. A highlight is contemporary Inuit art, with an emphasis on work produced in Canada since 1948. 

Try traditional bannock for dinner 

Since 2012, Tea-N-Bannock has been serving dishes that reflect culture both past and present.  For guests looking to experience true Indigenous flavours, choose from wild rice, Arctic char, Navajo tacos, Bison burgers, and, of course, traditional bannock.

Day 2

See larger-than-life Inukshuk sculptures 

Not too far from the downtown core, you’ll find the Toronto Inukshuk Park, home to one of the world’s largest Inukshuk sculptures. Measuring 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide, the piece was crafted by Inuk artist, Kellypalik Qimirpik using over 50 tonnes of mountain rose granite. Its lakeside locale makes it a perfect area for strolling and taking in the views.

Shop for one-of-a-kind artisan souvenirs

If you’re souvenir hunting, the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto’s Cedar Basket Gift Store sells a range of pieces designed by Indigenous artisans. While there, be sure to browse the art collection on the walls of the centre. 

Learn the history of Indigenous footwear

A short walk along Bloor Street from there, you’ll find the Bata Shoe Museum which houses handcrafted works of historical and cultural significance including an extensive collection of Native American and Circumpolar footwear. Before you visit, check out the Making of Moccasins video with Justine Woods, a Métis interdisciplinary designer based in Tkaronto.

Browse Indigenous art in the Distillery Historic District

Located in the charming Distillery Historic District, Gallery Indigena is a must-stop for serious collectors or those just wanting to appreciate great Indigenous art. It specializes in Inuit sculpture and prints, Iroquois sculpture, paintings, North West Coast masks, and wood art. As well, the car-free Distillery District is a lovely spot for an evening stroll and tasty nosh.

You may also like: 5 Ways to Discover Indigenous Art

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