By Clint Leung

Toronto is home to many events and festivals. One such event is the Canadian Aboriginal Festival, the largest of its kind in Canada which I attended recently. It is usually held late November or early December. It was my first time at this event which has been held at the Rogers Centre (Skydome) in Toronto for the last several years.

I got there for the Grand Entry of the Native American Indian dance contestants and it was certainly a great spectacle to witness, much like the entry of athletes at the Olympics. It was great to see so much representation of different age groups and Native groups from across North America at this giant pow wow like event. The different Native American Indian singing drum groups spread out along the perimeter of the main floor took turns supplying the accompanying music for the dancers.

I was very impressed with the dancers, their colorful costumes and of course, the powerful Native American Indian pow wow drum music which accompanied each dance performance. Different dances were grouped by type of dance including contemporary (but still Native) and traditional. Male and female dancers went on separately and some divisions were divided by age group as well.


For most of the dance competitions, one of the Native American Indian singing drum groups would be asked to bring their setup to the middle of the floor and the dancers would actually dance around the seated drummers. When a dance division was large with a lot of dancers, the scene was like a giant swirl of wild colors. As a result, most of the dancing was an incredible spectacle to witness.

I was less impressed with the quality and range of Native American Indian artwork at the festival’s Marketplace though. Most were bead work, dream catchers, low end jewelry, leatherwork and t-shirts with Native themes for sale. There weren’t very much high end gallery quality Native artwork present. The only Northwest Native Indian representation was a single booth offering aboriginal design blankets. No Northwest Native Indian art of any other type was present. There was only one Inuit art booth with only a minimal number of small stone carvings available.

The traditional Native Indian food was okay. I had a salad venison stew combo which was delicious. I also tried the buffalo burger but found the deep fried buns to be much too oily for my taste. At $7 per burger, the price was a bit steep too. This was the same price for the stew. There was also moose burger on the menu as well but I didn’t have a big enough appetite to try both types of burgers available.

They had fashion shows and musical performances there too but they were more contemporary rather than aboriginal and most of the festival’s action was still at the main dance areas. There were many other booths representing Native American Indian groups and related aboriginal businesses but I think these were of little interest to most attendees. It was definitely the native dancing that was the major draw for the Canadian Aboriginal Festival.

Toronto’s Rogers Centre Skydome was a good indoor location for the event but given the relatively sparse attendance especially of non-Native public, it might have been too large a venue as I would estimate that only 10 percent of stadium seats at most were ever occupied at any one time. Don’t forget that the Skydome is a full size sports baseball/football stadium.

Would I go again? Sure, for the $10 ticket entry, the Native American Indian dance and accompanying music singing drum performances were certainly worth it. The Canadian Aboriginal Festival was almost like a National Geographic special coming to life.

About the Author: Clint Leung is owner of Free Spirit Gallery ( , an online gallery specializing in Inuit Eskimo and Northwest Native American art including carvings, sculpture and prints. Free Spirit Gallery has numerous information resource articles with photos of authentic Inuit and Native Indian art as well as free eCards.


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