Secret Life of Canada

Why the 'Indians of Canada Pavilion' at Expo 67 still matters

If you weren't around for Expo 67, you may not get why Montreal's world fair was a big deal for 100-year-old Canada. Consider this: in the golden age of PR, Expo attracted 50 million visitors to a country of 20 million people. But there was one pavilion that wanted to tell a more nuanced story.
Expo 67 was Canada's biggest flex during its centennial year — but the story behind the spectacle reveals much more about young Canada. (Ron Case/Getty Images)

If you weren't around for Expo 67, you may not get why Montreal's world fair was a big deal for 100-year-old Canada. Well, consider this: Expo attracted 50 million visitors to a country of 20 million people in the golden age of PR. This was a young country's chance to put its best face forward.

But there was one pavilion that wanted to tell a more nuanced story.

The Indians of Canada Pavilion — a name that didn't age well — was just one of over 100 pavilions at Expo 67, but its impacts on Canada-Indigenous relations, the art world and the people who attended and participated still linger to this day.

Part one. 

In part one of a two-part series, Falen takes Leah on a minirail tour around the Expo 67 grounds. We learn a bit about the lead up to the world's fair and the fraught planning process.

You may have heard of Expo 67 — Canada's biggest flex during its centennial year — but do you know the fascinating history of the Indian Pavilion? It was separate and distinct from the Canada Pavilion, and it was primed to make that distinction matter. In the first part of a two part episode, Falen takes Leah on a minirail tour around the Expo grounds. (Content warning: clowns.) 36:06

Listen for: 

  • A general layout of the fair and some of the many countries and global figures in attendance, from Jackie Kennedy to James Baldwin to the Queen. 
  • Some lighter fare, from the story of how an ashtray inspired the Canada Pavilion to the foul-mouthed parrot that had to be escorted from the grounds. 
  • How groups like the National Indian Council, The Indian Expo Task Force and others started planning the Indians of Canada Pavilion, which stood apart from the Canada Pavilion 
  • Why legendary Anishinaabe artist Norval Morriseau walked away from his Expo commission.
  • Interviews with Russell Moses, who speaks about his father and his work at the Indians of Canada Pavilion, and Expo 67 hostess Barbara Wilson, who shares memories of her training for the pavilion.

Part two. (Coming soon)

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