Installed as a temporary attraction for the 2015 Pan Am Games, the TORONTO sign in Nathan Phillips Square continues to draw crowds of tourists and selfie-takers three years later. Updates since then have helped to extend its lifespan well beyond the intended temporary use, and the latest modifications add recognition of Toronto's Indigenous roots. The latest changes were unveiled yesterday in honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day.
The sign now features a Medicine Wheel—an Indigenous representation of the circle of life, cultural values, tradition, and spirituality—prominently displayed at the west end of the sign. New vinyl wraps have also been added to the seven letters spelling out "TORONTO", with a birch bark pattern inlaid with Indigenous symbols. These include feathers, fire, an inukshuk, lacrosse sticks, a medicine wheel/unity pin, a Métis sash, an Ojibway canoe, a sweetgrass braid, a turtle, a dreamcatcher, and a wampum belt.
"City initiatives like these and the Indigenous Arts Festival are helping to build a tradition of Toronto profiling the Indigenous experience, past and present, at some of the city's most accessible and prominent public locations," reads a statement from Ward 19 Councillor Mike Layton, who also serves as Co-Chair of the City's Aboriginal Affairs Advisory Committee.
The Medicine Wheel will remain part of the sign through the upcoming Canada Day weekend, and will return to Nathan Phillips Square in the Fall to honour the Indian Residential School Survivors (IRSS) Legacy Celebration, taking place October 9 to 11. The vinyl wraps will remain throughout the summer.
"Miigwetch to the City of Toronto for honouring your commitment to the First Nations, Métis and Inuit people of this land by incorporating the healing of the Medicine Wheel in the iconic Toronto Sign,” said Frances Sanderson, Co-Chair of the City's Aboriginal Affairs Advisory Committee in a statement issued earlier this week.
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