Burlington as we know it today is rich in history and modern traditions of many First Nations and the Métis. From the Anishinaabeg to the Haudenosaunee, and the Métis – our lands spanning from Lake Ontario to the Niagara Escarpment are steeped in Indigenous history.
The territory is mutually covered by the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy, the Ojibway and other allied Nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes.
The land on which we live, play and work is part of the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit.
Learn more about the history of Indigenous people in Burlington and Canada through these resources:
- Watch a video by ONE Burlington on Appreciating Indigenous Heritage
- Visit Crawford Lake and explore the longhouse village to learn about local First Nations history
- Tour the Joseph Brant Museum and learn about Mohawk leader Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea)
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Report and Calls to Action
- Purchase a handy pocket-sized booklet of the Calls to Action from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
- Explore the Indigenous Trail at the Royal Botanical Gardens
- Watch for Indigenous-focused exhibitions and shop for native art at the Art Gallery of Burlington
- Visit the Indigenous History Month website
- Take a free online course through the University of Alberta called “Indigenous Canada”
- Visit the Indigenous Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto
- Tour the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ontario
- Explore the Burlington Public Library’s initiative with Indigenous author David A. Robertson who has curated a booklist of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and picture books by Indigenous writers about residential schools to help increase understanding of the tragic legacy left in their wake.
- In December 2022, Burlington City Council received a memo from staff on the 2021 Census results that showed Burlington has the largest Indigenous population in the Region of Halton. Learn more here.
Steps the City of Burlington is taking to honour and support Indigenous residents in our community:
- To advance the first principle of Reconciliation as Relationship, Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward announces, in Nov. 2022, the formation of a Burlington Indigenous Talking Circle of urban Indigenous residents to begin meeting in 2023. The goal of the Circle is to foster relationship building and dialogue between the Mayor’s Office, City Council, staff, and urban Indigenous residents in Burlington, to take action on Reconciliation.
- Burlington City Council and Halton Regional Council unanimously support naming Sept. 30 National Day for Truth & Reconciliation
- Flying the ‘Every Child Matters’ flag at City Hall for the month of September and lighting the Burlington Pier orange on Sept. 30
- City of Burlington will observe National Day for Truth & Reconciliation on Sept. 30 as a holiday, focusing on educational events and opportunities that reflect on the nation’s past and recommit to understanding the truth of our shared history and advancing reconciliation.
- On Jan. 18, 2022, Burlington City Council approved the renaming of Ryerson Park to Sweetgrass Park.
- The City of Burlington flies the flag of the Mississaugas of the Credit year-round on one of our flagpoles at City Hall
- City officials and staff express a land acknowledgement at the beginning of all city council and committee meetings
- Council has initiated the renaming process for Ryerson Park in keeping with our naming policies, ensuring equity, diversity and inclusion is reflected in the new name, and asking staff to report back to committee with a recommendation for a new name by November 2021.
- A Council workshop focused on Indigenous education and issues is being planned for 2021/22
- Indigenous-led staff education workshops were held throughout June of 2021
- Council signed and support the Halton Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Charter which guides the Halton community in fostering equity, diversity and inclusion in the region.
- The City has created and supports the Burlington Inclusivity Advisory Committee, who provides a monitoring and measuring role to help ensure that the City applies an inclusion lens to its policies, services and programs.
- The City will be undertaking an initiative focused on ensuring our employment practices and policies reflect a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion and are partnering with the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion in this work.
- The Mayor has appointed a staff lead in the Mayor’s office to support Indigenous issues and grow community relationships
- The Mayor and staff have all enrolled in the University of Alberta’s free online Indigenous Canada certificate course, from the Faculty of Native Studies that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada.
- Taking action to mourn and honour the lives lost at residential schools upon the discoveries of unmarked children’s graves at residential schools throughout Canada including lowering of the flags at City Hall, placing children’s shoes on the steps of Civic Square, and holding a traditional prayer ceremony.
- On Jan. 30, 2022, the City of Burlington supported a local Indigenous ceremony in remembrance of the ongoing discovery of graves at former residential schools at the newly-renamed Sweetgrass Park.
- At its meeting on June 16, 2021 Halton Regional Council unanimously carried a resolution from Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward and Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan calling on the Government of Canada to:
- Proclaim a national day of mourning for all Canadians;
- Authorize and support an immediate search of the locations of all former residential school for additional unmarked and mass graves and a national initiative to commemorate and protect Residential School burial sites across Canada through a process that must be Indigenous-led and carried out through ceremony;
- Continue their efforts to implement the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, specifically Actions 71-76 regarding Missing Children and Burial Information.
- A similar resolution was also unanimously passed by Burlington City Council at a Special Council Meeting on June 7, 2021.
Indigenous initiatives and events – past, present and future – that are happening in the City of Burlington:
- Promenade of Pain Art Installation in Spencer Smith Park (October, 2020)
- Orange Shirt Day (annual on Sept. 30)
- Joseph Brant Day Festival put on by Museums of Burlington every August (annual) *not held in 2020/2021 due to COVID-19 and currently under review for a revised event
- Recognition of National Indigenous History Month (annual, each June)
- Indigenous Women’s Panel hosted by Mayor (June 2021)
- Display of children’s shoes at city hall in honour of the children’s unmarked graves at residential schools (May 2021)
- Supported Hope for Healing art installation at Spencer Smith Park in honour of residential children (June 2021)
- Mayor and staff attendance at local Moon Ceremony held in Burlington by local Indigenous women (July 2021)
- Burlington Public Library hosted Darin P. Wybenga, Traditional Knowledge and Land Use Coordinator of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation on August 6, 2021 to present a brief overview of the history of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation with a focus on treaties relating to the Burlington.
Visibly honouring urban Indigenous residents of Burlington:
In listening to the voices of the Indigenous community, the City of Burlington is looking at ways we can create a more visible presence and honour Indigenous community members. Ideas include creating a gathering place in Spencer Smith Park, a possible statue, and a feather crosswalk. We are here to listen and open to all ideas through the Mayor’s office and also encourage the community to consider submitting ideas via the following approaches as well:
The City of Burlington’s Arts and Culture Fund (BACF) provides annual grants to local artists, multicultural groups and arts and cultural organizations to foster creativity and enrich how Burlington residents experience and engage with arts and culture. The program recognizes and supports diverse identities, perspectives, languages, cultures and artistic practices. You can learn more about eligibility, past projects and criteria on the City website.
The City of Burlington’s Community Support Fund (CSF) provides financial support to residents and community groups who want to enrich and connect the Burlington community through sport, recreation, art and cultural experiences. The fund supports community gatherings/neighbourhood parties/health and fitness classes and similar events for an amount of up to $1,500 per application as well as special projects for an amount of up to $5,000 per application. Learn more on the City website here.
Support Indigenous-led organizations and businesses:
(We welcome additions to this list via the Mayor’s office at email@example.com so please reach out with any suggestions)
- Knowledge Keeper, Performing Artist and Loctician Amber Ruthart
- The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) supports 29 Friendship Centres across Ontario that are focused on supporting urban Indigenous people though policy, justice, homelessness & research.
- The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) provides Indigenous Women’s Services that focus on supporting Indigenous women in Ontario. In addition, the organization publishes a free quarterly magazine call She Is Wise.
- The Downie & Wenjack Fund which aims to build cultural understanding and create a path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
- Cheekbone Beauty: an Indigenous-owned and founded Canadian cosmetics company based out of St. Catharines, Ontario.
- The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) is a membership-based organization that helps to promote Indigenous businesses in Canada. It conducts a lot of research and provides, training and governance.
- The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is a National Indigenous Organization representing the political voice of Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada, inclusive of First Nations, on and off reserve, status and non-status, disenfranchised, Métis and Inuit. NWAC was founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of Indigenous women within their respective communities and Canada societies.
5 thoughts on “Indigenous Community and History in Burlington”
What about naming an important street like Fairview, Joseph Brant. I am part of a Rotary club who has an Indigenous Awareness Group. We have tried to bring that to council’s attention without luck. Wondering if that can happen.
You are on a good path, just remember it’s a long journey.
At last. I am so happy to read information on our indigenous roots. Please tell me are there any living chiefs who are in fact chiefs in our area of Burlington and the Niagara Escarpment? Are there authentic indigenous events for Burlington that everyone may attend?
I was happy to read this information on initiatives and support for Indigenous history and culture in Canada, Halton, Burlington, and surrounding areas. I will be sure to check in regularly and when possible, I will participate.
This is great to see, and very helpful. Thank you.