The Ontario government is donating $ 1 million to launch a traveling exhibition promoting indigenous culture and innovation.
The funding announced on September 24th will be a joint venture between Indigenous Tourism Ontario (ITO) and Science North based in Sudbury, Northern Ontario’s largest tourist attraction.
Science North currently hosts an indigenous ingenuity exhibit that showcases historical and modern aspects of indigenous culture and innovation.
The Indigenous Ingenuity exhibition, a collaboration between ITO and Science North, will be on view at Thunder Bay Art Gallery over the coming winter months.
And now, thanks to the funding announcement last Friday, Kevin Eshkawkogan, ITO’s chief executive officer, said a bespoke traveling exhibition on indigenous ingenuities is being developed. It will offer both educational and interactive displays.
“In the spring we will start bringing it to 50 churches,” said Eshkawkogan. “Basically, it’s all of the First Nations in northern Ontario.”
Eshkawkogan said there was a five-year plan to visit the traveling exhibition in First Nation communities. A precise schedule for these visits has not yet been set.
But Eshkawkogan believes that an ideal partnership has been established.
“Science North’s goal is to spread the science,” he said. “And we know indigenous tourism better than anyone.”
Science North is mandated to provide a science and learning program across Northern Ontario and is an agency of the Department of Heritage, Sports, Tourism and the Cultural Industries.
Eshkawkogan said the traveling exhibition on indigenous ingenuity will help some indigenous business tourism companies hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s ideas like this that get us out of there,” he said.
One goal of the traveling exhibition is to get local indigenous tourism companies to advertise for themselves and possibly also create some type of program or events.
Eshkawkogan said the duration of the traveling exhibition will be different in each community.
“For some churches it will be there for a week,” he said. “And for other churches, it could be a weekend or a special event.”
Eshkawkogan is confident that the exhibition will be a success.
“It will inspire the youth for science,” he said. “Our goal is to get these people to gain indigenous experience.
Science North CEO Guy Labine believes the traveling exhibition will play a crucial role.
“This is the largest single initiative to showcase indigenous content to visitors in Science North history,” he said. “It is an important step in deepening our engagement and partnerships with indigenous organizations to improve visitors’ access to authentic scientific and cultural experiences.”
The government supports this project financially through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC).
NOHFC provides money for a variety of endeavors in Northern Ontario that promote reconstruction, job creation, skills development and growth.
The traveling exhibition is intended to create eight new full-time positions. And the funding will also help keep 20 more full-time positions.
Greg Rickford, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs who is also Minister for Northern Development, Mining, Natural Resources and Forestry, said his administration is aware of the importance of supporting the tourism industry.
“Before COVID-19, we had a vibrant tourism sector up here in the north, so it is vital that we look for ways to support our local indigenous and northern attractions during this time of recovery and adaptation,” he said. “(The) investment contributes directly to the sustainability of Science North and our indigenous and northern tourism industries.”
Rickford also said the traveling exhibition will be of valuable service.
“I invite everyone to take this opportunity to learn more about indigenous peoples and how their contributions and achievements have shaped our province and our country for the better,” he said. “As we learn more about the diverse indigenous cultures in Ontario and across Canada, we continue to develop our relationships with indigenous peoples. Education initiatives like these are critical to driving reconciliation. ”
Lisa MacLeod, Minister for Heritage, Sports, Tourism and Culture also believes the traveling exhibition will help boost the province’s indigenous tourism industry.
“Ontario indigenous tourism offers unique opportunities to experience indigenous heritage and culture through art, nature and other immersive experiences,” she said.