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Big Drum Social

April 2, 2024

Written by Amy Stephenson, Manager – Community Health Teams

March 23, 2024, at the Toronto Zoo

Indigenous residents of all communities were invited to this Big Drum Social with over 20 vendors. It was a great day with four drum groups and MC Thunder Jack!

March 23rd, 2024, marked a significant occasion as Ziigwan (Spring) was welcomed with open arms at the Toronto Zoo’s event center through a vibrant Big Drum Social. Despite the lingering wintry conditions outside, the atmosphere inside was brimming with the energy of springtime as a diverse crowd gathered to partake in the festivities.

This event was not merely a celebration of the changing seasons but also an occasion to foster awareness and connection with the Indigenous community in Scarborough. In a collaborative effort with SHN (Scarborough Health Network) and their inaugural Indigenous Patient Navigator services, the Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities (SCHC) proudly orchestrated the day’s events.

As the inaugural Drum Social for SHN, SCHC, and the Toronto Zoo, there was a sense of anticipation regarding what the day would entail. The turnout spoke volumes, with over 200 individuals in attendance and more than 15 Indigenous vendors showcasing their skills, ensuring the day would be memorable.

The event offered a plethora of experiences, from perusing the exquisite artisanal creations on display to being mesmerized by the rhythmic beats of the drums and the graceful movements of the dancers. The four drum groups present – Eagle Heart Singers, Ashunyung, Michi Saagiig Manoomin, and All Nations – lent their voices to the occasion, representing various Indigenous communities across the Toronto region.

Head dancers Cedar Smoke, Kelvin Boissoneau, Joshua DePerry, and Sean Roots captivated the audience with their skillful performances, weaving together elements of tradition and history. MC Thunder Jack guided the proceedings, whose spirited commentary kept everyone engaged, while head veteran Tom Cowie played a pivotal role in initiating the ceremony.

Beyond the spectacle of the performances, the Big Drum Social served as a conduit for bridging cultural divides and fostering understanding between the Indigenous community and Scarborough residents. It was an opportunity for individuals to immerse themselves in Indigenous culture, gaining insight and appreciation for its rich heritage.

A heartfelt expression of gratitude is owed to Ellie Henery from SHN, whose leadership, alongside SCHC and the Toronto Zoo, ensured the event’s success. Their support and collaboration underscored the importance of community partnerships in promoting inclusivity and cultural exchange.

In conclusion, March 23rd, 2024, will be remembered as a day of unity and celebration, where the rhythms of the drum echoed through the halls, and the spirit of Ziigwan permeated the air, heralding the arrival of spring and the promise of renewed connections within the community.