Walk the Mikinaak
Ogimaa Mikana is an artist collective founded by Susan Blight (Anishinaabe, Couchiching) and Hayden King (Anishinaabe, Gchi’mnissing) in January 2013. Through public art, site-specific intervention, and social practice, Ogimaa Mikana asserts Anishinaabe self-determination on the land and in the public sphere. In the spring of 2018, a mapped walk and community newsletter were developed as part of the Diagrams of Power exhibition in the OnSite Gallery at OCAD University. In preparation, Monica had the opportunity to work with Hayden King for a fast, one-month stint to assist in building a database of the original place names for downtown Toronto in the Iroquois and Anishnaabemowin languages.
Monica began work on the database by reading the research report for the Williams Treaties and focusing on Treaty 13A. She then sifted through an extensive online catalog of the first maps of York, combing the images for any mention of place names or the original landscape features before they were altered through colonization by the British. For each new entry into an Excel spreadsheet, Monica also created a pin on a Google Map with a short, cited description of the location. As the map filled up with pins, a mental image of the de-colonized landscape emerged.
Using this information, combined with their own knowledge of pre-colonial Toronto, Ogimaa Mikana walked out several routes near the downtown core. Capturing their routes digitally, they shared that data with Indigenous academics Margaret Pearce and Eliana MacDonald to create counter-maps of the city. Combined with a set of directions, articulated in Anishinaabemowin, the piece was presented in the form of a community newsletter, free for viewers to take from the Diagrams of Power exhibition space.