Pan Am Games: Five indigenous acts you should see

It is being billed as the largest Indigenous arts, culture and sports festival ever. The Aboriginal Pavilion is a 17-day celebration that runs concurrent to the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in Toronto.

From music artists to visual artists and comedians the Aboriginal Pavilion has something for everyone

Michelle Thrush in Find Your Own Inner Elder (Facebook)

It is being billed as the largest Indigenous arts, culture and sports festival ever. The Aboriginal Pavilion is a 17-day celebration that runs concurrent to the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in Toronto.

But with this many days to take in the festival, where does one begin? CBC Aboriginal has the answer for you. 

Here are our recommendations:

The Arts Marketplace

Loretta Gould's painting "Guided by the Light." (Loretta Gould)
The Arts Marketplace is open daily at 11 a.m. and kicks off July 13 at the Fort York Historic Site. There will be a lot of artisans and craftspeople with their wares. If you want to own an authentic piece of art, clothing or a dreamcatcher that hasn't been mass-produced and culturally appropriated then this is the place you should head.

While you're there take a look for up-and-coming painter Loretta Gould. This Mi'kmaq artist made a living making quilts. Then in 2013, her sewing machine broke and she took up painting. Gould uses bright, bold colours to depict "her spiritual feelings on canvas," according to her bio.

Comedy Night

On July 19, comedy troupe The 1491s take over the mainstage at the Cultural Village at Fort York. This sketch group of comedians is best known for the YouTube videos they make. One of their most popular ones entitled "Slapping Medicine Man" has over 750,000 views. But the video that kicked off The 1491s career is the "New Moon Wolf Pack Audition."  Hilarity ensues.

You can see their brilliance starting at 6 p.m. at Fort York.

Find your own Inner Elder

Michelle Thrush is best known for her edgy and dark character Gail Stoney in the TV series Blackstone. But did you know she also has a comedic side? Thrush tours around First Nations communities and events with her one woman show Find Your Own Inner Elder.

Thrush bravely dons clothing and make-up to age her while she takes you on a journey of her own memories and the impact her grandmother had on her. She transforms herself from a child to an old Cree woman. Using comedy to break down barriers she doles out sage advice to audience members while they look for their own "Inner Elder."

You can catch the Gemini Award winning actress from July 17 - 19 on the West Stage of the Aboriginal Pavilion at various times.

Paddle Song with Cheri Maracle

Cheri Maracle performs in the solo show Paddle Song.
 This musical theatre piece was written by Dinah Christie and Tom Hill. It stars Mohawk Cheri Maracle in a one-woman show about E. Pauline Johnson - a Mohawk poet from the late 1800s who was ahead of her time. In a time that women rarely travelled alone, Johnson did just that for over 30 years.

Paddle Song encapsulates Johnson's early life from paddling along the Grand River in her home that is now Six Nations in Ontario to earning her place along the literati across North America and Great Britain.

Paddle Song hits the West Stage on July 22 at 4:15 p.m.

Electric/World Fusion/Classical Night

Classical guitarist Gabriel Ayala performs July 24th. (DeezMas Photography)
Gabriel Ayala, a Yaqui from southern Arizona, brings his unique guitar stylings to Canada. The inventor of jazzmenco, a blend of jazz and flamenco, Ayala has performed around the world. With 10 CDs under his belt, Ayala's music is perfect for hot summer nights.

He performs on July 24 along with Iskwé, Cris Derksen and Quetzal Guerrero beginning at 7 p.m. 

Tune in to Unreserved on CBC Radio One after the 5 p.m. news in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nunavut, and after the 4 p.m. news in Yukon and the N.W.T. for more artists performing during the Pan Am Games.

You can also listen on demand right here.


Kim Wheeler is an Anishinabe/Mohawk. She is a writer and an award-winning producer living in Winnipeg. Her work on the CBC radio series ReVision Quest garnered a New York Festival silver medal and two ImagineNative awards. Wheeler currently works as an associate producer for the CBC Aboriginal Digital Unit and Unreserved on CBC Radio One.