Travelling exhibit on Indigenous culture and innovation gets provincial funding

Monday, September 27th, 2021 1:07pm


Image Caption

The current Indigenous Ingenuity exhibit running at Science North has inspired a travelling exhibit on Indigenous culture and innovation. Photo courtesy of Science North.


“Come spring we’re going to start taking it to 50 communities. It’s basically all the First Nations in northern Ontario.” — Kevin Eshkawkogan, CEO, Indigenous Tourism Ontario
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Ontario government is providing $1 million to launch a travelling exhibit promoting Indigenous culture and innovation.

The financial support, which was announced on Sept. 24, will be a joint venture between Indigenous Tourism Ontario (ITO) and Sudbury-based Science North, the largest tourism-based attraction in northern Ontario.

Science North is currently housing an Indigenous Ingenuity exhibit, which showcases historical and modern aspects of Indigenous culture and innovation.

The Indigenous Ingenuity exhibit, a collaboration between ITO and Science North, will be stationed at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery for the upcoming winter months.

Kevin Eshkawkogan of Indigenous Tourism Ontario

And now, thanks to this past Friday’s funding announcement, ITO’s chief executive officer Kevin Eshkawkogan said a customized Indigenous Ingenuity travelling exhibit will be developed. It will offer both educational and interactive displays.

“Come spring we’re going to start taking it to 50 communities,” Eshkawkogan said. “It’s basically all the First Nations in northern Ontario.”

Eshkawkogan said there is a five-year plan to have the touring exhibit visit First Nation communities. An exact schedule for those visits has yet to be determined.

But Eshkawkogan believes an ideal partnership has been established.

“The goal of Science North is to spread the sciences around,” he said. “And we know Indigenous tourism better than anybody.”

Science North’s mandate is to deliver a science and learning program throughout northern Ontario and is an agency of the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.

Eshkawkogan said the travelling Indigenous Ingenuity exhibit will help some Indigenous business tourism operators who have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s ideas like this that will get us out of this,” he said.

A goal of the travelling exhibit is to have local Indigenous tourism business operators promote themselves and also possibly create some type of programming or events.

Eshkawkogan said the length of time that the travelling exhibit will stay in each community will vary.

“For some communities it will be there for a week,” he said. “And for other communities it could be for like a weekend or a special event.”

Eshkawkogan is confident the exhibit will be a success.

“It’s going to inspire youth into the sciences,” he said. “And our goal is to get these people to develop Indigenous experiences along with that.

Guy Labine, the CEO of Science North, believes the travelling exhibit will have a vital role.

“This is the single largest initiative in presenting Indigenous content to visitors in Science North’s history,” he said. “It’s an important step in deepening our engagement and partnerships with Indigenous organizations to increase visitor’s access to authentic science and cultural experiences.”

The government is providing financial support for this project via the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC).

The NOHFC provides money to various ventures in northern Ontario that stimulate recovery, job creation, skills development and growth.

The travelling exhibit is expected to create eight new full-time jobs. And the funding will also help retain 20 other full-time positions.

Greg Rickford, the minister of Indigenous Affairs who is also the minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, said his government realizes the importance of supporting those in the tourism industry.

“Before COVID-19, we had a vibrant tourism sector here in the north, so it is crucial that we look at ways to support our local Indigenous and northern attractions during this time of recovery and adjustment,” he said. “(The) investment directly contributes to the sustainability of Science North and our Indigenous and northern tourism industries.”

Rickford also said the travelling exhibit will provide a 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 country for the better,” he said. “As we learn more about the diverse Indigenous cultures in Ontario and across Canada, we continue to strengthen our relationships with Indigenous peoples. Educational initiatives such as this are critical to advancing reconciliation.”

Lisa MacLeod, the minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, also believes the travelling exhibit will help bolster the Indigenous tourism industry in the province.

“Indigenous tourism in Ontario provides unique opportunities to experience Indigenous heritage and culture through art, nature and other immersive experiences,” she said.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.