Elder Duke Redbird is a poet, artist and educator with a passion for sharing his knowledge.
In 2018, after noticing what he described as a non-existent Indigenous presence along Toronto’s waterfront, he had the idea to change that. He purchased a houseboat that would become a vessel for sharing and celebrating Indigenous history with Torontonians.
“Retrieve the history. There’s 100,000 years of history here,” Redbird told Global News.
The boat is called “Wigwam Chi-Chemung” and in partnership with “Myseum of Toronto,” it will be docked at the Ontario Place marina through the summer.
The houseboat, covered in Indigenous art will serve as an interpretive learning centre – offering a place for people to engage with, ask questions of, and learn from the perspectives of an Indigenous Elder.
“One of the common questions that young people ask is, ‘Do you still live in tipis?’ and that gives me an opportunity to explain what an incredible design the tipi was … Created by Indigenous people, whose function and design hasn’t changed since the day it was made,” said Redbird.
Amid the pandemic, “Myseum of Toronto” has created an interpretive phone line system which features a variety of recorded content and an option to leave messages with questions to be answered by Elder Redbird.
It is to provide an alternative to people who don’t wish to visit the Wigwam Chi-Chemung in person. The phone number is 1-647-373-5705.
Redbird said the first thing non-Indigenous allies can do is to learn the history of the land where they live.
“Before you try to solve the problem of the whole country, just find out for yourself where you live and … who occupied it. It’s easy to find out the history of the territory in which you live,” said Redbird.