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The Moccasin Identifier Project is Launched
Catherine Nasmith | July 1, 2017

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From Issue No. 259 | July 11, 2017

Phillip Cote Moccasin Design Moccasin design in Granite at Ontario Place

June 21 is National Aboriginal Day, coinciding with the longest day of the year. What does that mean for Canadians post Truth and Reconciliation Commission? What does it mean to cultural conservation organizations? What to do on June 21? What to do every day?

The Moccasin Identifier Project (MIP) is a beautiful, gentle idea created to teach non-indigenous Canadians whose territory we are on. Founded by former Mississaugas of the New Credit chief, Carolyn King, the project consists of stenciling marks of the moccasins of Indigenous Peoples. As Carolyn King said in a recent presentation of the MIP, “We all have different moccasins.”  Her hope is that over time stenciling these marks will become an annual event in school yards across Ontario as a way of teaching the history of the land we share. Marked in chalk, the disappearing moccasin marks represent those who are still here, yet who left no permanent marks, people who lived lightly on the land.

Even though the project is still in development stages it is having an quite an impact. In Toronto last week it appeared three times, in permanent and disappearing forms. At the entrance to the newly opened William Davis Park at Ontario Place, deeply carved into granite of the Canadian Shield are much, much, larger than life moccasin stencils. Ms. King describes the Ontario Place installation as the formal launch of the MIP. Also carved into stone is the phrase “Walk Gently on the Land,” in French and English, but not in an indigenous language. Hope that is coming soon…

At the sidewalks to Fort York, prints have been stenciled in black paint.

ACO Toronto, (I am President) recently partnered with Heritage Toronto, the City of Toronto, Heritage Toronto and MIP to bring the stenciling project to Nathan Phillips Square. The stenciling co-incided with the launch of five flags representing the five Indigenous Peoples currently present in Toronto, Mississaugas of the New Credit, Six Nations, Huron-Wendat, Métis, and Inuit as well as a sunrise ceremony on June 21. MIssissaugas of the New Credit are the treaty people of Toronto. To bring the MIP to Toronto City Hall, we were asked to have stencils representing all five groups. We were limited to using materials that would leave no permanent mark on the square. Artist Phillip Cote created several new stencil designs. We opted for the tempera paint used by school children.

A small party arrived to start the night of June 20, to stencil up the ramp so that participants the next morning would see the stencils as they moved from the flag area at the bottom to the members lounge at the top. We made it half way up, and then hastily photographed the results as the rain hit and washed the marks away.

So was that a waste of time and effort?

No… everything teaches you something. We need to refine the materials to make marks that are a little less ephemeral and that can allow more to participate in stenciling exercises. The more important lesson was that stenciling is not so much about making marks, but what one is thinking about while doing it: the people each stencil represents, thinking about what it means to all of us to share the land and restore fairness to our relationships.

Mayor John Tory mentioned the MIP in his remarks and looked around for the stencils as he spoke. Afterwards we explained to him what had happened, and that we hope to find a way by next year to be able to invite more people to participate in blanketing the square with moccasin stencil marks that last just long enough for contemplation and celebration.

ACO Toronto is honoured to be able to partner with the MIP. 



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