Urban Indigenous Strategy

Urban Indigenous Strategy Banner

The City of Hamilton is situated upon the traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas.  This land is covered by the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, which was an agreement between the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabek to share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. We further acknowledge that this land is covered by the Between the Lakes Purchase, 1792, between the Crown and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.  

Today, the City of Hamilton is home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island (North America) and we recognize that we must do more to learn about the rich history of this land so that we can better understand our roles as residents, neighbours, partners and caretakers.

The City has developed an Urban Indigenous Strategy that will strengthen the City’s relationship with the Indigenous community. The strategy will help promote a better understanding among all residents about Indigenous histories, cultures, experiences and contributions.

Residential School Findings: Every Child Matters

The horrific discovery of unmarked graves at Marieval Indian Residential School and Kamloops Residential School are reminders of the shameful legacy of residential schools and the resulting trauma that the Indigenous communities continue to experience.

On June 28, flags at all City of Hamilton sites were lowered to half-mast in memory of the Indigenous children whose remains have been found in unmarked graves in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. The flags will remain lowered indefinitely. Further, the Hamilton Sign will be lit up in orange on July 1 to pay respect to Indigenous children, families and survivors of the residential school system.

A National Residential School Crisis Line has also been set up to provide support to former students. This 24-Hour Crisis Line can be accessed at: 1-866-925-4419.

Indian Residential Schools Awareness & Resources:

Why is this important?

  • To carry out the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada at the local level.
  • Our Future Hamilton community vision includes key directions regarding Indigenous cultures and knowledge.
  • City Council approved the Aboriginal Justice Strategy in 2015 acknowledging Indigenous peoples as the original peoples of this area.
  • We recognize many of the national issues that impact Indigenous peoples locally such as missing and murdered Indigenous women and the legacy of Indian residential schools.
  • To commit to the 231 Calls for Justice from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry Final Report and to develop framework with local Police Services, Community Partners, Education Institutions, and residents to dismantle barriers for Indigenous women and girls to feel safe and equality within their city.

How will the strategy be developed?

Throughout the development of the strategy there will be opportunities to participate or provide feedback:

December 2016 to December 2017

  • Review reports and research.
  • Promote and participate in community events.
  • Raise awareness of this new work within the Indigenous community and with all Hamilton residents.
  • Establish governance and guiding principles.
  • Community members will be brought together to provide advice (a partnership circle), and drive the work (a coordinating circle).

January to August 2018

  • Engage the Indigenous community and the broader public in Hamilton on the strategy using the themes of Land, People and Spirit
  • Continue community conversation around reconciliation.
  • Work with partners and youth to develop a project identifier
  • Provide a survey to collect community input on what actions the City can take in the Strategy.    

September to December 2018

  • Analyse the survey findings and feedback from Phase Two.
  • Present the key findings and recommendations to community.
  • Prioritize the strategy’s recommendations to short, medium and long term.

January to July 2019

  • Presented the final strategy to City Council
  • Shared the final report with Indigenous community partners
  • Started to have conversations with Indigenous community partners and residents regarding the 40 recommendations from the final report.

July 2019 to December 2021

  • Work with community partners and City staff to develop an implementation plan.
  • Continue community consultation throughout the developing stages.

The Urban Indigenous Strategy Final Report 

The Urban Indigenous Strategy was presented to the General Issues Committee on July 8, 2019. The strategy was endorsed and fully supported. The Urban Indigenous Strategy team will collaborate with City staff, community partners and the Indigenous community to develop an implementation plan in the fall. Review the  Urban Indigenous Strategy Final Report (PDF, 1 MB)

The Urban Indigenous Strategy Implementation Plan was fully endorsed by Hamilton City Council on February, 4, 2021. The Implementation Plan is categorized in six working groups to address the recommendations from the strategy’s final report. Urban Indigenous Strategy Implementation Report (PDF, 3.6 MB)

How you can be involved

Throughout the development of the strategy there will be opportunities to participate or provide feedback:

  • Join our mailing list
  • Attend community events, workshops, surveys or public education campaigns
  • Educate yourself and raise awareness among your family and friends about Indigenous histories and experiences
  • Invite us to speak to your organization or committee about the development of the strategy.

Events & initiatives in the community

Indigenous events & initiatives in the community will appear here when announced.

Virtual National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration
June 21, 2021 
12 noon to 1 pm
Live streamed on the City of Hamilton's YouTube Channel

For more details about this event contact:
Nicole Jones 
Email: [email protected]

National Indigenous Peoples History Month (June 2020)
The month of June is National Indigenous Peoples History Month and June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day, both are recognized nation-wide. Due to Covid-19, events and festivities were hosted on an online platform. Well recognized media platforms such as Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), CBC and local communities and municipalizes offered various events that were streamed online to celebrate the month and day. Although, National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day looked very different, communities were still able to celebrate the contributions and achievement of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

Spring Equinox Gathering – Battlefield Museum (Postponed due to Covid-19)
Battlefield Museum, the Urban Indigenous Strategy and the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre partnered in hosting a Spring Equinox Gathering on March 21, 2020. The significance of the event was for traditional knowledge keepers to conduct a White Pine Ceremony as Battlefield had planted new white pines on the museum property. The event was to celebrate the newly planted white pines as well as celebrate the beginning of Spring as it has significant meaning to the Haudenosaunee and their ceremonies. Unfortunately, the gathering has been postponed due to Covid-19.

Feb 2020 Youth and Elders Gathering (March 2 to March 6, 2020)
The Hamilton Regional Indian Centre hosted their annual Youth and Elders Gathering. The gathering consisted of various Elder and Knowledge Keepers from across Ontario that facilitated workshops over five days at the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre. Some topics of the workshops included: Two Spirit, Traditional Medicines, Star Knowledge, and many more. The week ended in a social housed at the Hamilton Boys and Girls Club. It was open to both the Indigenous community and Hamilton residents.

Urban Indigenous Strategy Community Report Back on Implementation Plan (November 14, 2019)
On November 14, 2019 the Urban Indigenous Strategy team presented key recommendations and initiatives from the strategy that will be implemented into the implementation plan. The community report back was held at the Celebration of Growth Annual Social.

Honouring our Sisters, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Closing Ceremony (November 5, 2019)
On November 5, 2019, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Exhibit team hosted a ceremony that closed the exhibit. The ceremony was conducted outside behind the castle where there was a sacred fire lit. There was a traditional closing done by Norma General as well as next step recommendations from Hamilton Police. The event was successful and approximately 75 community members attended.

The Grizzlies (October 8, 2019)
On October 8, 2019, the Urban Indigenous Strategy partnered with the Hamilton Public Library in screening The Grizzles. The Grizzlies is based in a Northern Artic community that is facing a high suicide rate amongst their youth. Their lives become inspired by the game of lacrosse. This event was open to all Hamilton residents.

Indian Horse Movie Screening (October 1, 2019)
On October 1, 2019, the Urban Indigenous Strategy partnered with the Hamilton Public Library in screening Indian Horse. Indian Horse is based on a true story of an Indigenous man played hockey who attended residential school and lived through discrimination in the 1970s. This event was open to all Hamilton residents.

Honouring our Sisters, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Exhibit Opening Night (September 26, 2019)
On September 26, 2019, the Urban Indigenous Strategy team in partnership with local Indigenous youth created a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls(MMWIG) Exhibit called Honouring our Sisters.The exhibit contained stories of the MMIWG as well as the display of red dresses. Opening night consisted of a traditional opening by Elder, Norma Jacobs, opening remarks from Museum and Heritage and a special guest speaker, Bernadette Smith from the Drag the Red Campaign. There were over 200 guests who attended. The duration of the exhibit was September 26, 2019 to November 5, 2019.

Urban Indigenous Strategy Community Feast (August 8, 2019)
On August 8, 2019, the Urban Indigenous Strategy team hosted a community feast to celebrate the endorsement of the Urban Indigenous Strategy. There was a traditional opening by knowledge keeper Jackie LaBonte and opening remarks made by Healthy and Safe Communities, General Manger, Paul Johnson. In total, there was 60 community members in attendance.

National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration (June 21, 2019)
On June 21st, National Indigenous Peoples Day, a celebration at City Hall was held featuring welcoming remarks from a coordinating circle member Lyndon George and Councillor Nrinder Nann, songs from the Spirit Vision Singers and cake.  In the evening, the Hamilton sign outside City Hall was lit up in the colours red, white, black and yellow representing the Medicine Wheel.

Indigenous Flag Raising Ceremony (May 30, 2019)
On Thursday, May 30, 2019, the Urban Indigenous Strategy and Hamilton's Aboriginal Advisory Committee partnered and held a Indigenous Flag Raising Ceremony at City Hall to honour Indigenous flags being raised. Fifty participants were in attendance including Councillor Nrinder Nann on behalf of Mayor and Council, Pat Mandy on behalf of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, and Clear Waters Council Secretary and Veteran Don Kennedy. Other speakers included: Monique Lavallee from Hamilton Executive Directors' Aboriginal Coalition, Marilyn Wright from the Aboriginal Advisory Committee, Jackie Labonte our Traditional Knowledge Keeper and Otsíhsto kó:wa singers. Four flags will be flown at City Hall for the month of June to represent Six Nations, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis Nation.

Community Presentation (December 3, 2018)
On December 3, 2018, the Coordinating Circle held a community presentation to share the key findings and key directions from the Urban Indigenous Strategy survey that was done in May. Great conversation and feedback were shared by participants. The event reaffirmed that there is still a lot of work and a lot of opportunity for building a stronger relationship with the Indigenous community.

Stories from the Land (June 22, 2018)
The Urban Indigenous Strategy partnered with the Soaring Spirits Festival and hosted their final event, "Stories From The Land."  Three speakers: Rick Hill, Elaine Lee and Val King were invited to share stories and perspectives on traditional knowledge with attendees.

National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration (June 21, 2018)
On June 21st, National Indigenous Peoples Day, a celebration at City Hall was held featuring welcoming remarks from community member Yvonne Maracle and Mayor Eisenberger, songs from the Spirit Vision Singers and cake.  In the evening, the Hamilton sign outside City Hall was lit up in the colours red, white, black and yellow representing the Medicine Wheel.

Bringing the City to the Community Information Fair (June 2, 2018)
The Information Fair was an opportunity for City staff to meet Indigenous residents and discuss the numerous programs and services that the City provides. The event was a great pilot, bringing together 80+ Indigenous community members and 18 City of Hamilton booths attended the event. The event included information booths representing a number of different City services, a Cultural Cardio class, Young Ogichidaa Singers, draws and much more.

Indigenous Flag Raising (May 28, 2018)
The Urban Indigenous Strategy, Hamilton's Aboriginal Advisory Committee and De Dwa Da Dehs Nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre partnered and held a Full Moon Ceremony at City Hall to honour Indigenous flags that were flown for the month of June. Thirty participants were in attendance including Mayor Eisenberger, Chief Stacey LaForme, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Six Nations Councillor Wray Maracle and Secretary and Veteran Don Kennedy, Métis Nation of Ontario Clear Waters Council.

Youth Shaping Spirit in Hamilton (April 11, 2018)
The Youth Shaping Spirit in Hamilton workshop asked local Indigenous youth to reflect on their Indigenous identity and discuss ways that the City can reflect their culture and community. The youth created an art piece to represent the urban Indigenous youth living in Hamilton and how they wanted the City to honour their traditional roots. In partnership with Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), the youth presented their art piece on May 3, 2018 as part of LAO’s “Boldness Project”. The artwork has also been on display at alternative community events throughout the city.

Community Conversation on Reconciliation featuring the KAIROS Blanket Exercise (March 19, 2018)
The Coordinating Circle hosted a second community conversation on reconciliation, featuring the KAIROS Blanket Exercise.  The event brought together one hundred Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents to participate in the exercise at the Hamilton Public Library Central Branch.  The KAIROS Blanket Exercise is an experiential learning tool that aims to raise awareness and understanding of the history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island

Overview of Community Conversation on Reconciliation (December 13, 2017)
The Coordinating Circle brought together Indigenous community members in a conversation at the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre. Forty-one participants came and shared their perspectives on what reconciliation in Hamilton means to them. The Coordinating Circle plans to continue this dialogue with more people in the community during Phase Two.

The four Indigenous flags that were temporarily installed at City Hall in honour of National Indigenous History Month are now flown on permanent basis. These flags are the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Six Nations Flag, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation Flag, the Métis Flag and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Flag.

The Urban Indigenous Strategy partnered with local Indigenous youth in creating a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls(MMIWG) Exhibit called Honouring our Sisters. The exhibit consisted of stories of MMIWG and shedding light on the normalization of violence against women and girls.

Opening night was held on September 26, 2019 and the closing ceremony was held on November 5, 2019. The duration of the exhibit was from September 27, 2019 to November 5, 2019.

The Urban Indigenous Strategy has gained two Indigneous Youth Representatives who will help guide and enforce the implementation of the Urban Indigenous Strategy with their knowledge and fresh perspective.

The Use of Indigenous Medicines Policy

The City of Hamilton has developed a Use of Indigenous Medicines Policy, which confirms the City’s commitment to supporting Indigenous peoples to use sacred medicines in ceremonies such as smudging or prayer pipe ceremonies in municipal facilities. The policy outlines the steps that City of Hamilton staff are expected to follow to accommodate the use of Indigenous medicines.

In the course of developing Hamilton’s Urban Indigenous Strategy, smudging ceremonies have been incorporated to begin the meetings of the Coordinating Circle in the Lister Block. Since the Fall of 2017, weekly cultural competency training run for the Hamilton Police Services has also incorporated smudging ceremonies. The new policy not only supports these important initiatives but will be used by other divisions and programs within the City that are working to build relationships with Indigenous peoples and create a welcoming environment in municipal locations.

For more information on the policy, please contact [email protected]

Indigenous Books


Learn more about Indigenous contributions to Canadian literature with a list of suggested books from past #IndigenousReads campaigns.

Hamilton Public Library - A curated collection of ebooks and eaudiobooks are available from Hamilton Public Library on Overdrive and the Libby app.  High demand items may have hold lists; please browse the collection for other options, use the Which Book Next recommendation service, or suggest a purchase to HPL librarians.

Indigenous Films

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls



Contact us

Shelly Hill
Manager, Indigenous Relations, Urban Indigenous Strategy
905-546-2424 ext. 4081

Nicole Jones
Project Manager, Indigenous Initiatives
905-546-2424 ext. 7552