Tkaranto Past/ Tkaranto Future Mural

June marks National Indigenous History Month to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenouspeoples in Canada. For the fifth feature in the Riverside BIA ‘40 years, 40 stories’ series, we are commemorating the ‘Tkaranto Past/ Tkaranto Future’ mural painted in 2017 by artists Odinamaad , in partnership with Chief Lady Bird  and Dave Monday Oguorie. They developed the mural concept by collaborating with Traditional Wisdom Keeper, Philip Cote and youth participants from Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre. The mural moves beyond animating the walls of Woodgreen Services’ 650 Queen Street East location, by rooting the area’s history.

Mural Artists (left to right): Odinamaad, Chief Lady Bird and Dave Monday Oguorie


The mural embodies that Tkaranto (Toronto) has always been considered a meeting place: first, for Indigenous nations for travel, trade, hunting and fishing, and in present day, for people who come here from around the globe to gather on the traditional territories of those who first occupied the land. Odinamaad and Chief Lady Bird shared the meaning behind the mural images:

The West-Facing Wall


Floral designs reference Anishinaabe woodland style painting, quill work on birch bark boxes and beadwork on friendship bags; also a symbol of feminine energy, growth and nurturing. Bead work is a placework marker of where different First Nations are from.


The otter is from the Ojibwe Creation Story of Turtle Island, symbolizing where everything began, the origins of the land that we are on and the sacrifices by the animals.  In that first story, the otter is a symbol of “Survivance”, representing how Indigenous peoples are staying rooted in the face of colonialism, and how art is another form of surviving, and sharing first stories.


The fish is a main form of sustenance for Indigenous peoples; and also a reference to the fish fences, also called Weirs or Mnjikaning, in Chief Lady Bird’s community of Rama First Nations and many other communities.


Water is life; symbol of the three rivers in Tkaranto and the many underground rivers which have been hidden by development; it’s also a symbol of honouring the clean water we have here in Tkaranto, which many Indigenous communities do not have and there are calls to change this as access to clean water is a basic human right.

Sky Domes

These ‘sky domes’ were included at the request of a local First Nations resident for whom they held special significance in her culture. Sky domes are Haudenosaunee designs, which honour the sky world from where life became.


The eagle offers guidance; a symbol of connection to healing and communication with the spirit world.  Mural artist Chief Lady Bird is from the Eagle Clan.


The bear is a reference to the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) constellation representing self-sacrifice and annual cycles of renewal.

Half Moon/Half Grandmother

Reference to the ‘moon grandmother’ who has 13 cycles, teaching us how to live and what to do each month.

Lady Slipper

A symbol of persistence to care for people as it is a reference to the story of Lady slipper: a young girl who went to fetch medicine for her people. On her journey her feet became frozen and bleeding. She passed away but where her blood fell lady slipper flowers grew in the spring, becoming a source of medicine for her people.

Woman + Child

The baby in this depiction is strapped into a cradleboard which is a traditional protective baby-carrier that safeguards the infant and makes them able to be placed at eye level so they can see and experience the structure, ownership and learnings within the family; references a different viewpoint, as well as creation of bonds between peoples.

Spirit Connection

The west wall has an overarching spirit connection (yellow lines) starting from the cradle board that links back throughout the mural; symbolic of a prayer toward the next generation of youth.

The South-Facing Wall

Birch Bark Baskets

Birch bark baskets are used for many purposes such as drying fish, and safekeeping berries, and are used around river sides in communities; a symbol of abundance where there is unity.

Thunder Birds

The thunder birds protect us and bring cleansing with the rain, keeping dark spirits down; they symbolize clashes with underwater forces.


The Trickster ‘nanaboozhoo’ is a benevolent being, sometimes taking the form of a rabbit, the co-creator of everything; ‘boozho’ is also a greeting for ‘I see you’, acknowledging and giving credit to the creators.

Eagle Feather

The eagle feather is the highest honour you can receive, based on contribution to the community, given from one Indigenous person to another. The Tkaranto skyline provides a contemporary connection whereby the feather becomes your medicine and symbolizes the enduring Indigenous presence here in Tkaranto.

The mural is part of the Riverside public art self-guided walking tour, check out the other stops on the tour!


Tkaranto has always been considered a meeting place. First, for Indigenous nations who have gathered here to travel, trade, hunt and fish. And now, in present day, for people to gather here from around the globe on the traditional territories of those who first occupied the land.

The land has always been known to guide us physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Through this holistic lifestyle our ancestors are able to guide us through struggles and instill teachings and guidance to help us find the kindness in our path and hearts to heal ourselves and find balance. As a people, we are hurting. There are many young people suffering from depression as a repercussion of the continued effects of colonialism. In addition, there is both a water crisis and suicide epidemic impacting many First Nations communities within Canada. With all of this in mind, this mural aims to foster pride and hope and depicts hopeful metaphors alongside historic symbols surrounding our urban dwelling, such as the eagle feather – a sacred item for our people.

Public art that positively represents First Nations histories, contemporary living and imagined futures, is a way for us to smudge positive energy over our communities. This mural integrates traditional practices of this area, such as the use of fish racks, star knowledge and matriarchal family structures. By sharing this imagery with the people of Toronto, we are all able to keep the true history of Canada alive and acknowledge the enduring Indigenous presence on this land. Traditionally, this bounty was shared. This is what we are trying to do right now; exhibiting and sharing the bounty of Indigenous energy and culture – making space for Indigenous youth to have a voice and retrace their ancestors’ way of life.

Public art that shares Indigenous stories not only shares this history with our own peoples, but it also enables us to share with others as well. We hope to move toward a healthier and more holistic future that respects mother nature in a more sustainable manner so that we can provide for future generations like our ancestors did before us.

Thank you to Mural Supporters

This was a Cultural Hotspot SPARK project made possible in part by the Government of Canada, City of Toronto, StreetARToronto, the Government of Ontario, and Riverside BIA.  Thank you also to Woodgreen Community Services and Sherwin Williams.

The ‘Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories’ Series is part of how we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of this incredible neighbourhood of community-builders.




Ramping up the Arts in Riverside

If you’ve been into the Riverside Arts Market at 790 Queen Street East since it opened in February of 2016, then you’ve likely seen the ramp painting that features the iconic Queen Street Viaduct, referred to by locals as the Riverside Bridge.

Painted by local artist Christine Miller ( in 2016 shortly after Riverside Arts Market opened, the ramp pays homage to local history while also shining a light on local art. The piece was commissioned by Arts Market owner, Daniel Cohen, who noticed that there were many young families with strollers in the neighborhood and saw that a ramp featuring art would benefit the community. By 2016, this was Daniel’s third Arts Market location (Leslieville Arts Market opened in 2011 and College Arts Market opened in 2013) and having already rented space to hundreds of local vendors and artists, he knew that working with Christine would inspire artists and creatives in Riverside.

Studying the bridge closely in person & taking photos for reference, artist Christine Miller sketched out her plans for the ramp. Over the course of 9 hours in the evenings when the Market was closed, she painted the ramp with porch and floor paint, then adding sand (for grip) and sealant, knowing that it would be well traversed in the years to come. Christine was recently surprised at how well the ramp had held up with over one-hundred-and-thirty-thousand people walking on it over the course of four years!

To see this unique piece of art and works from many other Toronto vendors, visit Riverside Arts Market today! The Arts Market went completely online for the first couple of months during COVID-19 but now both the Riverside (790 Queen St E) and Junction Arts Markets (2978 Dundas Street East) have reopened for shopping from 11am-6pm daily. Support the over 150 local artistic entrepreneurs that sell their products at the Arts Market. Find them online at

Robbie and Lindsay at the Riverside Arts Market during COVID-19 (June 2020)


The ‘Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories’ Series is part of how we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of this incredible neighbourhood of community-builders.



A Telltale Sign of Riverside: Ron Fletcher and Stan Jones’ Riverside Gallery and the Riverdale ArtWalk

As part of our ‘Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories’ series we’re pleased to share this story from Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood.

Stories can come from unexpected places and sometimes now innocuous things have a deeper history, waiting to be told. Look at 808 Queen Street East, a space that has not been used as a commercial storefront for many decades. However, the mysterious but lasting Riverside sign on its facade remains as a reminder of the space’s legacy from the 90s involving some of Riverside’s local movers and shakers.

Ron Fletcher, the co-founder and first President of the Riverdale Historical Society, took us on a trip down the memory lane, sharing, “Stan Jones and I were business partners in Riverside Gallery, an art gallery and bookstore that we ran in the late 90s.”

Ron – who is also a historian, author, and a former Chair of the Riverside BIA – recalled Stan’s contribution to the creation of the sign. He said, “Stan designed the script and made the sign himself out of solid wood, using woodworking tools. The sign was in two pieces that Stan joined and then hung above the door on the front of the building.”

There’s a lot more to the story though: Ron himself also played a significant role as BIA Chair in renaming the original ‘Queen-Broadview Village BIA’  to ‘Riverside BIA’. Talking about that Ron says, “We chose the name Riverside because it was the historic name of the community until 1884, when it voted to join the city of Toronto.” The name Riverside can be seen on 1880s historic maps in the Toronto archives, along with neighbouring Leslieville.

Ron’s contributions to the BIA have continued over the years, as a tour leader of Riverside history, architecture and film & TV tours in partnership with the Riverside BIA through Doors Open Toronto, and Heritage Toronto.

Yet another important contribution of Ron and Stan was the Art Studio Tours they ran in their first few years of business with the Riverside Gallery. The tours eventually morphed into the Riverdale ArtWalk.

Now, in its 22nd year, the Riverdale ArtWalk is a public fine art exhibition which has been voted the best outdoor art show in Toronto. Until this year, the ArtWalk has been a free two-day public fine art exhibition at Jamie Simpson Park and Recreation Centre. In the current time of COVID-19, the Riverdale ArtWalk is launching as a virtual online art show running June 6th-30th! There will be over 2000 original pieces of art to enjoy and purchase, all from the safety of your own home. Find the perfect piece to add some beauty to your space.

With lots of Riverside businesses now open, don’t miss taking a physically distant stroll down to the Riverside sign at 808 Queen E, and check out some nearby shops such as the famed Arts Market and tons of great local takeout. A big thanks to Ron and Stan for all their community contributions and thank you for supporting local!


The ‘Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories’ Series is part of how we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of this incredible neighbourhood of community-builders.



Love-19 Challenge Riverside >> WIN FREE GIFT CARDS

Our friends Jon and Cheryl at J & C Toronto Realty have launched the Love-19 Challenge to support local businesses in Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood during COVID-19.

What is the LOVE-19 Challenge?

They are giving away 19 gift cards to support local businesses hit by COVID-19. You can SIGN UP TO WIN free gifts card (no strings attached) and/or nominate your ‘fav business for gift card purchase.Hear all about straight from Jon and Cheryl and then head on over to to enter!!

Innovative Offerings by Riverside BIA Businesses During COVID-19

Check out our round up of the many creative and innovative offerings from Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood businesses & organizations during COVID-19, plus lots of ways to support local and help #savesmallbusiness (also see our Riverside BIA COVID-19 Directory for what’s open – essential workplace, open- online/phone, and closed).

From virtual tip jars and fitness equipment rental, to virtual bridal appointments and custom masks and more….