There are many spaces that First Nation’s occupied. The first place that the Native Canadian Centre ever was, was on Church Street, just up from the main area. It was the space that we could afford. And that was the first community hub that we ever had in Toronto. They weren’t there for that long, but they had a house. I do remember reading all sorts of interviews with elders that have now passed saying how amazing it was.
These are women and people at this time who had moved to Toronto, from their communities. A lot of people moving here because they had gone to residential schools, got out of residential school, went back to their home community and found that they couldn’t live there because they can’t speak their language, they had lost so much of their culture, they don’t feel like they’re a part of it anymore. So they have moved to Toronto and worked as cleaners or nannies or whatever at the time and they never had a space.
The Native Canadian Centre started with Native people getting together and asking the YMCA for a room once a week where Native people could come gather. So, this house on Church Street, was rented through fundraising of selling crafts and coffee and fundraising events. If was the first place ever that people could just come in from out of the cold and have a coffee or sit with other people that looked like them. And feel like they had a space for community. Having that space of Church street is really interesting.
A lot of the two spirit work that happens today obviously stems from the historic work that our elders and aunties have laid the groundwork for.
An excerpt from interview with Amber Sandy. July 2016