Mural-covered houseboat to share Indigenous history of the Toronto waterfront this summer

A houseboat adorned with woodland-style murals will soon be docked in the Ontario Place Marina for the summer as an Indigenous interpretive learning centre.

The project, led by Elder Duke Redbird in collaboration with the Myseum of Toronto, is aimed at providing an opportunity for Torontonians and visitors to learn about the Indigenous culture and history of Toronto.

“When people look at the boat they are being educated … in a communication process,” said Redbird, an Anishinaabe poet, painter and knowledge holder.

The boat is called Wigwam Chi-Chemung which means big house canoe. It’s currently out of the water while the painting of the murals is finished. It’s estimated that it will be in the water next week.

One side of the boat is being painted with a design by Redbird and the other is designed by Philip Cote, a Shawnee, Lakota, Potawatomi, and Ojibway visual artist and knowledge holder.

The side painted by Duke Redbird has a loon sharing a peace pipe. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

The side Redbird designed has a shaman passing a loon a piece pipe.

“The idea is that by sharing the peace pipe, the loon will take the message to the Creator that we are at peace with the animals and with the environment, with nature,” he said.

On the other side that Cote has designed, there is an otter that gave the Anishinaabe people the first teachings and a thunderbird that signifies the eighth fire.

The side of the boat designed by Philip Cote has an otter and a thunderbird. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

Educational opportunities

Redbird said the goal of the boat is to have an Indigenous presence on the waterfront. In 1805 the Mississaugas of the Credit sold to the Crown more than 101,000 hectares of land from the Toronto waterfront northward. It did not include the water, where Redbird said Indigenous people have historically thrived.

Redbird says acknowledgement of an Indigenous presence along the city’s waterfront has been missing so this project will bring attention to that history. (Rhiannon Johnson/CBC)

“What we’re trying to do here is to tell a story that maybe not a lot of Torontonians or Canadians know about the Indigenous connection to water,” said Jeremy Diamond, CEO of Myseum, a non-profit organization that delivers barrier free educational programming.

Myseum presents opportunities for people to explore the city around them that they may not feel connected to on a regular basis, said Diamond.

Wigwam Chi-Chemung will be docked in the Ontario Place Marina from June until October and will hold public programming hours throught the summer on selected dates.

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