Indigenous. Immigrant. Imagine.
Canada’s Aboriginal population today is in resurgence,
comprising both the youngest and fastest growing demographic in the country.
Yet Canada’s indigenous are still an afterthought in our national identity. Having studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland in my third year I came to recognize that the story of Canada, compared to those of other countries, was vague, our national identity more an idea, a question constantly seeking answers. When I returned from Edinburgh I came to believe that something was missing from our shared national story — a story that I increasingly realized was not rooted in the land, but rather began somewhere else. And while Canada’s Aboriginal peoples are rightfully recognized as Canada’s First peoples, their presence in our narrative is minimal, especially in our cities. Thus I began my undergraduate thesis at OCAD with the intent of re-imagining Canada’s narrative to restore a sense of place, believing that tapping into the potency of the overlooked indigenous history of Canada’s cities would produce a rich re-imagining of Canada’s story and revitalize the Canadian identity.
And thus I arrived at Immigin.
Abstract from Process book
Immigin (a portmanteau of indigenous, immigrant and imagine) is a program sponsored(hypothetically) by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration with support from indigenous groups and cultural centres across Canada. The program strives to introduceimmigrants to Canada to the indigenous history of the land they are coming to through a Welcome Package offering a gift of sentimental value as well as a story capturing the history of the city they intend to settle in.
Immigin aims to reflect the changing fabric of the country, introducing the newest generation of Canadians to the indigenous culture and history of the land, celebrating resurgence in the rapidly growing demographic of Canada’s indigenous peoples.
The main component of the Immigin brand is the Immigin Welcome Package, a gift to immigrants newly arriving in Canada. The package is meant as an offering of welcome, a gesture of goodwill and consists of three elements:
The Welcome Package
1. The main piece, a coil of sweet grass, acts as a gift and keepsake to the new arrivals.
2. A storybook that is localized to the region of Canada they are immigrating to. The storycaptures the indigenous history of that region, presenting it in an engaging, easy to understand, and concise manner that recognizes that the indigenous meaning of the land has not been lost to history or the current of time.
Cover of The Toronto Carrying Place storybook
3. The Introduction to Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, an official government document that expands upon information provided about Canada in the Canada Study Guide for the Citizenship Test, provides an Aboriginal perspective on events in Canada’s history. Thispiece assumes a re-crafting of the Citizenship Test to better recognize indigenous contributions to the fabric of our country.
The token piece of the Welcome Package is a coil of sweetgrass offered as a gift welcoming the new arrival to the country. Sweetgrass is considered sacred, being one of the four sacred medicines. Considered to be the hair of Mother Nature, its healing properties have ensured its use in smudging rituals, in which it is used as incense to purify and cleanse oneself of bad spirits. It is also brewed into tea and has a sweet smell that does not go away with time. All of these properties make it the perfect welcome gift for the immigrant to Canada.
Toronto Carrying Place Map
Toronto’s history is anchored in the Toronto Carrying Place, a portage route that connectedLake Ontario to the Upper Great Lakes & the lands beyond through the Humber and Rouge rivers. Before Toronto the city the land that the city now sits on was still a center of trade, with people coming through this ancient highway to meet, barter, and travel.
The Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe and Wendat, long before Europeans arrived at theshore, inhabited this land, and many places today still hold sacred meaning to them. This map of the Toronto Carrying Place maps out places with indigenous meaning, with the Carrying Place itself represented by a thread symbolizing how it weaves a narrative of the land as a place of commerce even before there was a city resting upon it.
Map as it appeared in Graduate Exhibition at OCAD University. Map is 50'’ x 22'’ (inches).
Detail of Toronto, with thread representing the Humber route of the Carrying Place.
Detail of the Narrows, Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching.
Detail of Compass and Legend.
Detail of Type Treatment.