National Geographic’s “Story of God”


I had the privilege, honour and opportunity to travel to Pasadena California for the Television Critics Association 2019 Winter Press Tour for National Geographic’s “Story of God,” as a panelist. The trip and experience was surreal and I am still pinching myself because it felt like a dream.

I want to say Gitchi-Meegwetch (Greatest Thank You) to Morgan Freeman, National Geographic and Revelations Entertainment for creating space for the Indigenous narrative and voice. Vision Quests, fasting and spending time with our First Family – Creation is an Indigenous Way of Knowing that we as Anishinaabe and many other Indigenous Nations develop and maintain relationships with Creation, the spirit world and the universe.

My interview is airing on March 19th, 2019 on the National Geographic channel. Hope you enjoy the episode.


TCA Winter 2019 – Morgan Freeman, Nelufar Hedayat – Pasadena, California


Mississauga’s of Scugog Island First Nation – Film shoot


Spirit Bear and Children Make History

“I was so honoured to be part of sharing Spirit Bear’s tremendous story and the protection of First Nations Children.”


Spirit Bear December 6th 2017 @SpiritBear

Spirit Bear and Children Make History

Spirit Bear is BEARY excited to announce the release of his first children’s book! After months of hard work and a little help from his friends Cindy Blackstock, Eddy Robinson, and Amanda Strong, Spirit Bear’s book about is now available for a cost of $15 + shipping.

When Spirit Bear’s mom tells him about an important human rights case happening in Ottawa, Ontario, he makes the LONG trip (by train, his favourite way to travel) to go and watch, and to stand up for First Nations kids.

And he isn’t the only one! Lots of children come too—to listen, and to show they care. Spirit Bear knows that children can change the world because he’s there to see it happen.

This is the story of how kids—kids just like you—made a difference…with a bit of help from some bears and other animals along the way!

With special thanks to Unifor ( for their generous support of this project.



Summer Institute: Truth and Reconciliation – Implementing the Calls To Action



Deer Clan Lodge

Summer Institute: Truth and Reconciliation – Implementing the Calls To Action

Aug 22nd
10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Crawford Lake

3115 Conservation Road
Milton, ON L9T 2X3

Open in Google Maps


$25 plus HST per person

Crawford Lake Conservation Area is pleased to welcome noted speaker Eddy Robinson  adn artist/educator Reagan Kennedy to present a special workshop – “Truth and Reconciliation: Implementing the Calls To Action – Summer Institute” for educators and interested members of the public. During this day of learning, Eddy and Reagan will bring attention and awareness to the impacts of Residential Schools and how the Calls to Action of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission can and should be honoured in every classroom.

Join us in the Deer Clan Longhouse, a stunning modern space located within a reconstructed 15th century Iroquoian Village, to learn how you can play a role in building relationships between people and communities

Admission includes park entrance and parking. Stay the day and explore the 15th century Iroquoian Village and rare meromictic lake located at Crawford Lake Conservation Area! Tea & coffee will be served.

About Reagan Kennedy

Reagan Kennedy is a multi-disciplinary artist, curator and arts educator of Lenni-Lenape descent. With a background in community arts programming, Reagan has worked for various organizations including the Station Gallery, OCAD University and the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. She is a graduate of OCAD University where she completed her degree in Criticism & Curatorial Practice and Indigenous Visual Culture. In 2014 Reagan debuted her major body of work in the inaugural exhibition of the Deer Clan Longhouse at Crawford Lake Conservation Area titled Exchanges and Changes: Comprehensive Narratives. She is currently the Arts Program Coordinator for 7th Generation Image Makers of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto.


Negotiating My Identity…who am I?

IMG_1577Who am I?

Who am I and where am I from? Whether it is at a family function, public event, workplace or in the schoolyard everyone to some degree has experienced the uncomfortable once-over (first known use of the word according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary was in 1913), either from a single person or group of people.

I have been to a lot of small towns all throughout Ontario and that feeling of being placed by someone is oh so familiar. You are walking down the main street and turn into the local restaurant or coffee shop and It’s almost as if every one at that moment stops and turns in their seats to watch you walk into the joint. Best way I can describe that feeling to you is, it’s like being in a movie about racism. Maybe a movie you’d see at a film festival in Canada rather than a Hollywood version of overcoming adversity and being different, like Footloose.

“Hey Kevin Bacon it was against the law for us to dance long before your movie.”

Sometimes we have done the very same thing to others. Speaking of othering we have to ask ourselves if we have been othered? Or othered others? That’s a lot of othering! This conversation is beginning to sound like a paradigm.

Well regardless there is the obvious once-over and what motivates and informs these physical gestures people use everyday? Hmmph…There is glance over the shoulder, full body scan of someone, the big fake smile, look in the eye, firm handshake please to meet you analyzing engagement. Even though this is proper business etiquette it almost feels like something else. Are we trying to determine if they are safe?

Here’s a funny incident I am not sure where to file it; maybe under bad manners. I remember being with my family in the food court and I ran into this former upper echelon of privilege who greeted me with a big smile, considerate conversation, firm handshake, commented on how wonderful my family looked. Then right in front of everyone proceeded to wipe his nose with one hand and then wiped it on my left shoulder. It wasn’t just one wipe either, he made sure the snot was off his fingers and onto my jacket. As I recall I watched his hand while he was doing it, ha ha.

According to Body Language Expert Mark Bowden’s analysis of the Trump and Trudeau handshake this engagement is an engagement of dominance “Who can suppress the other, who’s in control.”

I am certain there are numerous examples we could ponder. Am I locating the locator and what does that mean for me? What does it mean when we locate someone silently according to socio-economic status, race, and gender?

Are we observing their skin color, their ethnicity, how expensive their clothes are? Are we evaluating their vocabulary? What are we thinking about the person if they didn’t go to University?


The Ontario Human Rights Commission defines racism and discrimination somewhat on their website.

Discrimination is not defined in the Code but usually includes the following elements:

  • Not individually assessing the unique merits, capacities and circumstances of a person
  • Instead, making stereotypical assumptions based on a person’s presumed traits
  • Having the impact of excluding persons, denying benefits or imposing burdens.


In the past two years I have had the honor and privilege of traveling across this beautiful country as a guest in many places, speaking to the Indigenous narrative.


During my presentations I pose a question to the audience. “If you seen me standing in line for a coffee at your favorite coffee place would you be able to identify me as being Indigenous, First Nations or my personal favorite Anishinaabe (Ojibway)?”

Mind you the question is a set up to help people unpack their misconceptions and stereotypes. I have posed this question numerous times with slight variations in answers from grade school to professional learners. It was very interesting to watch non-Indigenous people assert themselves as experts. Most leaners were certain about their expert knowledge of Indigenous culture, ceremonially outfits, dance regalia and the physical traits of over 1152 Nations in North America.

Most common responses from learners who could not identify me:

  • “You look normal.”
  • “You have short hair.”
  • “Your skin isn’t dark enough.”
  • “You look White.”
  • “You are wearing nice clothes.”
  • “You are well dressed.”
  • “You look educated.”
  • “You look like you are from South America (Columbia).”
  • “You’re not wearing buckskin or fur.”
  • “You’re not wearing beads and feathers.”

Most times I try my best to respond to answers with humour.

“Trust me you would not see me in traditional ceremonial attire grabbing an espresso gazing upon the horizon as I wait in line trying to look especially stoic. Or even better yet picture me running on the treadmill with a feathered headdress sweating profusely!”

So my question is, why do you expect us to look like that now?

There is a time and place for ceremonial attire and dance regalia usually ceremonies or celebrations. Traditional attire is usually adorned with special symbols of nationhood, beadwork, quillwork, family clans and sometimes spirit colors (spirit protectors). It can take years to make traditional outfits, ceremonial attire and dance regalia so I am not just going to wear it downtown on the subway. just imagine how long my moccasins would last on the concrete?

What is normal? What are people normalizing? Are they normalizing white privilege?

The reason I ask learners these questions is because I really want to help them understand what sorts of stereotypes and misconceptions they may have about Indigenous people. Believe me these misconceptions have found a nice cozy comfortable place on my identity many times, sometimes of my own doing!

As a young man I remember being proud to wear a Cleveland Indians T-Shirt like it was somehow part of my identity and culture. As far as I know the caricature Chief Wahoo isn’t my cousin or an ancestor of mine but for some ridiculous reason people think he is really Indigenous. Just like the misconception that all Indigenous women are “Indian Princesses.” As far as I know Indigenous people did not have a monarchy, so this fictitious identity created by the dominant society has unfortunately informed the world about what Indigenous people should look like.

One of the conversations I have found myself in way too many times is about my own identity and what I should look like as an Indigenous man. I have debated and even negotiated my own identity with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Why do I have to defend my ancestry?

“I swear I really am First Nations, I am Ojibway and Cree.”

I believe this persistent racist ideology from Canadians, Americans and the world are not going away anytime soon. It is almost like the stereotypes and misconceptions created for Indigenous people are the measuring mechanism for identity. Guaranteed some of these notions are being passed on right now as we speak to the next generation Canadians and Americans.

North American Society has been made to feel ok about stereotyping Indigenous people and mocking their culture. The usage of inappropriate logos, mascots, mocking gestures at athletic events, schools, summer camps are usually defended with an argument of paying tribute, honour and respect to Indigenous People.

When we still have professional teams like the Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins and the Edmonton Eskimo’s there’s absolutely no question and no need to point fingers as to who’s perpetuating this racism. I mean did it all start with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha in 1855 or was it Sir James Matthew Barrie’s Peter Pan?

Passage from: I am not the Indian you had in mind, By Thomas King

I’m not the Indian you had in mind I’ve seen him, I’ve seen him ride Rush of wind, Darkening tide With wolf and eagle by his side His buttocks firm and well defined My God, he looks good from behind but I’m not the Indian you had in mind

The Indigenous narrative has not been at the forefront for most Canadians. Bonita Lawrence and Enakshi Dua draw attention to how Indigenous people are most times left out of the conversation. I feel that Indigenous people are always left out of the conversation because most of society doesn’t even know that Indigenous people still exist.

“So Canada what are we celebrating?”


Which brings my thinking to Sir John A. MacDonald and Duncan Campbell Scott. Were they and Canada partially successful in assimilating and getting rid of the Indian problem? Are we the Halluci Nation? I have heard many Indigenous people state that they feel invisible in the big cities.

Unfortunately most Canadians young and old are emotionally invested in the stereotype and objectified images of an Indian as well as absurdly thinking we all still live in teepees. Don’t even get me started on those thanksgiving celebrating Americans and their investment of that holiday. I think I am going to lose it if I see another Indian with feathers for my children to color. Let’s not forget Halloween and the appropriated racism (Pocahontas, Indian brave and maiden costumes) running rampant door to door for treats.

For the most part when I visit a school I have to be very hyper sensitive and always on the lookout for the Indigenous presence.  How are Indigenous People represented in this space? Are there a paintings, relevant books, posters or a display? I try to call on my childhood hero Bravestarr “Eyes of the Hawk!”

Helpful filter 7 Myths about Cultural Appropriation

This year during one of my school visits I walked into the library and seen this diorama sitting on the shelf. The diorama was supposed to represent the Algonquin/Algonkian people. I took it off the shelf and literally blew the dust off of it.  I put it on the table for  all the students to see. I asked them what was wrong with the diorama? They couldn’t really see anything wrong with it. So I pointed out everything in the diorama that was misrepresented; the Canadian Flag, the teepee, a totem pole and a plastic Aztec figure by a birchbark canoe.

Beside the obvious errors in the diorama the students and I got into some discussion about who Indigenous people are today. I asked them if someone should do an urban Indigenous diorama? Maybe with a professional Anishinaabe in a suit working for an Indigenous organization, a leader, an actor, a First Nations hockey player playing in the NHL as a goalie for Montreal (Carey Price) or a maybe member of parliament (Wab Kinew)?

I told them before I left that it is very important for us to learn about the past and what has happened but as Canadians we should learn about who Indigenous people are today.

Who am I? I am Anishinaabe ( John Trudell – Being Human ) and  “We are Still Here.”


St. Mary’s Tedx Talk

DADEE68VoAAD8c1.jpgLINK: St. Mary’s Tedx Talk


I want to first begin by saying it was truly an honour to be invited to speak at the St. Mary’s Tedx Talk on May 17th, 2017

by Mr. Craig Zimmer. I have learned so much through this process and I am very grateful for the opportunity to share my story.

I also want to say Chimeegwetch and send my sincerest heartfelt thanks to Bob Joseph, Mark Bowden, Wab, Kinew, Andrea Sampson, Ryan McMahon, Thomas King for generously giving me their time and mentorship. I know in my heart I will continue to grow as I reflect on the wisdom from these amazing people I have had the opportunity to cross paths with.

The Anishinaabe Ways of Knowing, Traditional Teachers, Elders and ceremonies have also been extremely instrumental with my personal an spiritual growth. The teachings I have encountered on this journey have touched my heart and will continue to forever stoke the sacred fire within.

Kiizhay Meegwetch,





Article I wrote for VICE

LINK: Cities are Indigenous Land, Too – Vice

Eddy Robinson – March 20th, 2017



Teaching Rock wrap of shoot


On answering the question “Where are you from?” as an Anishnaabe born in Toronto.

“Where are you from?” It’s a question a lot of us have encountered from time to time over a noisy coffee, awkward lunch, in the workplace, or my favourite place: cultural awareness workshops. I have faced the interrogation and negotiating of my identity from Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks, as I am sure many people have.

What reserve are you from? What’s your tribe? How come you don’t live on the reserve? Wow, you don’t look Native. Ah, you’re a city Indian!

As an Indigenous speaker and educator I have travelled throughout North America over the past 20 years, and I’ve heard this a lot. There seems to be an undertone that you’re not culturally qualified as an Indigenous person if you’re from the city. For some reason there’s this misconception that you are more culturally qualified if you’re from the reserve.

Honestly, I truly understand why people would feel that way. I mean, how would it sound if I said I am going to tell you a traditional Indigenous story about how bear met raccoon at Yonge and Dundas? Immediately the story sounds modern just based on the location. When I relocate the story of bear meeting raccoon on the shores of Old Women’s Bay (Lake Superior), for some reason it seems more Indigenous. The stories and teachings are from the land.


Graffiti of a Anishinaabe (Ojibway) Thunderbird from the Petroglyphs north of Peterborough by Paula “La Bomba” Gonzalez

I was born and raised in marginalized impoverished Toronto. As an Anishinaabe (Ojibway) boy growing up in the city during the 70s and 80s, I had no clue who the hell I was. All I knew was that I was an Indian. Since then, I have done a lot of Indigenous land-based learning and spent a lot of time attending Anishinaabe (Ojibway) ceremonies and cultural events in and out of the city. I’ve learned traditional Anishinaabe stories come from Creation. Even though there is a blanket of asphalt over the land, Indigenous stories were here way before Toronto was. So as an Indigenous person how can I connect with the spirit of the land in the big city, is that even possible?

I have been taught by traditional Anishinaabe elders that when we ask where you are from in the language you are essentially asking if you are related, if you are from the same territory, if you are safe to date. Sometimes that part doesn’t translate well. Another important part of the interaction that I have come to know as an Anishinaabe is the opportunity for a person to announce their name, cultural titles and/or role the occupy in their community. The gesture is specifically to inform Creation and the spirits who you are.

For the past several decades urban Indigenous identity has existed in cities like Toronto hidden within the constructs of urban planning tucked away in the nooks of concrete, damp basements, dark laneways, and poor neighbourhoods. There are Indigenous health organizations and student associations serving our specific needs. And urban Indigenous organizations like the Friendship Centre Movement have emerged out of cities and now can be found in over 119 locations across Canada.

I remember being seven years old walking up the steps of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (formerly known as The North American Indian Club) and looking up in the sky at this magical totem pole standing proudly in front of the building. Written on the walkway in brass just before the big wooden doors you’ll see the word AHNEEN, which means hello. Back then “The Centre” was the hub for us urban Indigenous folk and, to some degree, still is. It was a safe place, and it was awesome. If you wanted to you could visit with traditional elders and ask them anything about the culture. Walking up from the Spadina subway you could hear the sound of the drum emanating from the auditorium vibrating down the sidewalk.

The Canadian government and Indigenous organizations have very different lens and understanding when they refer to urban Indigenous populations. The government’s Urban Aboriginal Strategy defines “urban Indigenous” as First Nations, Metis, and Inuit residing in urban areas, but the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada website mostly refers to us as “off-reserve.” In 2011 the Government of Canada reported that the Aboriginal population reached over 1.4 million and 56 percent of that population lived in urban areas. There has been a seven percent increase on the Indigenous population moving to the urban areas from 1996 to 2011. Cities with the largest populations in 2011 were Winnipeg (78,420), Edmonton (61,765), and Toronto (36,995). The migration to the cities for a better life unfortunately has been met most times with poverty, loss of identity, placelessness, invisibility, discrimination, systemic racism, and homelessness.

Indigenous people moving and being pushed from their home territories into the cities has been a common narrative unknown to many Canadians. Canada has some secrets and hidden history they don’t want you to know. In 1857, during the gradual civilization act which was followed up by the Indian Act in 1876, everyone who was identified as being an Indian were put on the Indian registry confined to the reserves and given numbers. These assigned numbers are now reflected on the current Indian status card and the holders who still carry them around. Counting Indians is not new—there are even racist children’s songs written about it.


The author’s son walks at Crawford Lake Conservation Area

The author’s son walks at Crawford Lake Conservation Area. Photo via the author
Up until the 1940s, First Nations people needed an official Indian pass from the Indian agent to leave the reserve if they wanted to go into the city—otherwise they were incarcerated or transported directly back to the reserve. These Indian agents, usually white alpha males (just google images of these guys), served as judge and jury over the community entirely.

On the one hand you are an Indian seen in a patronizing way governed by oppressive policy needing permission for everything. On the other hand, you may have become an Indian enfranchised by racist policy to extinguish all of your treaty rights in various ways. If you went to university or volunteered for the military, you lost your identity. Either way, Indigenous people may feel this loss, overtly and subtly.

That loss and inequality continues today, as 50 percent of First Nations children currently live in poverty. First Nations adults are more likely to die from avoidable causes before 75, there are over 1,500 missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW), and now a national inquiry is underway to take testimony from the families of the MMIW this spring 2017. There are over 130 Indigenous communities on boil water advisories across Canada. Places like Kashechewan, where Indigenous people are frequently displaced and evacuated constantly to urban areas due to constant flooding and severely contaminated water, are left wondering if the living conditions will ever improve.

First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada has stated that there are more Indigenous children in care now then there has been at the height of residential schools. Truth and Reconciliation 94 calls to action is at the forefront for many Indigenous people, communities and organizations. The calls to action signify a process, a relationship of inequity, resistance, resilience, and resurgence of Indigenous people.

Growing up in Toronto I noticed settler communities establishing themselves in areas like Greektown, Little Italy, and Chinatown through businesses. I always thought: Where’s Native Town? Where are Indigenous people locating themselves in Toronto? Why are we disappearing from the consciousness of Torontonians and Canadians?

After working in the Toronto’s Indigenous community I found that the population was spread out all over the Greater Toronto Area mostly according to affordable housing clusters. We therefore never really establishing a significant presence in the city. Which brings forth the notion that a majority of the urban Indigenous population was and is living in poverty.
Think about Toronto and the Indigenous presence for a moment. Other than the Inukshuk on the Lakeshore, which is actually from the far north, there is practically no visual presence of the ancestors that once occupied the shores of Lake Ontario reflected within Toronto. This is how we end up in a negotiation about our lineage with coworkers. There is majority of Canada that still sees Indigenous people as an Indians—with or without their status cards—and assume that all Indians live on the reserve. But Indigenous people have become much more than the collective nouns and assumptions placed upon them.

So, with that in mind, I have to consciously think of the ancestors and create an Indigenous presence each day. When I leave my house in Mississauga I put sema (prayer tobacco) down outside on my freshly cut lawn or by the single sapling on my property. I smudge with sweetgrass in my vehicle before a speaking engagement in order to get in the zone. I teach my children traditional Anishinaabe songs in the basement of my house. I have DJ Shub, Tribe Called Red, and my favourite pow wow groups downloaded to the system of my minivan. Learning Anishinaabe words from Wab Kinew’s language app Neechee. I try to have a little embellishment to signify my Indigeneity; like my favourite T-shirt bringing about awareness for Truth and Reconciliation, a small square piece hide (moose hide campaign) safety pinned to my jacket for Indigenous women, oh, and I can’t forget my decorated rearview mirror.

No matter where I am in the world my clan, my spirit name, my spirit colours, my Anishinaabe identity are always with me. Traditionally the Anishinaabe give their children spirit names at birth. My traditional teachers taught me that you couldn’t get anymore traditional than having your mishomis (grandfather) and nokomis (grandmother) bestow a spirit name upon you.

Our traditional knowledge systems have been severely damaged by the oppressive methods carried out by the Canadian government through residential schools. Residential schools have directly impacted many generations of Indigenous people on and off reserve. People like myself and so many others have had to visit with elders to receive a spirit name at a local urban Indigenous organization. I received my spirit name at Anishnawbe Health Toronto near Sherbourne and Queen streets when I was 18 from a medicine man visiting from Red Lake Minnesota. As honoured as I was to receive my spirit name from him, I would have loved to receive my name from my mishomis.
We are in an amazing time of accessibility; as Indigenous people we can access our Indigenous ways of knowing through laptops, smartphones, and digital space. I have to be honest: Even though we can view almost anything online, there is nothing like being in person smelling the sweetgrass burning and hearing the comforting vibrations of the heartbeat drum and voice of an elder speaking in the language.

Indigenous people continue to be resilient and resistant to the attempted acts of genocide by the government of Canada. Indigenous ways of knowing are not primarily based on culture, it is so much more than a song and dance; it is a state of mind, a state of spirit. Indigenous people have the inherent right to connect with this land and access their ways of knowing no matter where they are. The spirit and voices of the ancestors, our grandfathers and grandmothers live within this earth, underneath these sidewalks and will continue to stoke the internal fires of resurgence.