Arts and Culture for Early Years       May 11 – 20, 2019        

Biinoojiinyag Gitgaanmiwaa (Children’s Garden)

Leslie McCue, Toronto, ON

May 15th – May 21st, 2018 at The Theatre Centre

Biinoojiinyag Gitgaanmiwaa translates to Children’s Garden and is a transformative space for young children and families curated by Leslie McCue. Conceived as a relaxed performative space to explore, engage and to experience Indigenous culture through various interactive experiences, you’re welcome to visit the garden for a brief moment, a full performance, an activity or for the full week!

Keynote Speaker: J’net AyAyQwaYakSheelth (One Who Gives Away and Still Stands Tall)

Keynote:  Tuesday May 15, 2018 – 3:30PM – 4:00PM (for Festival Delegates)

J’net AyAyQwaYakSheelth is a member of the Ahousaht community within the Nuu-chah-nulth Territory in BC. In her permanent position at the Royal Ontario Museum as the Indigenous Outreach and Learning Coordinator, J’net engages with the Indigenous community to assist the ROM with meaningful representations of Indigenous peoples. In her role, J’net works closely with educators and Indigenous knowledge carriers across the province to maximize opportunities for students to engage in Museum learning. J’net is a mother, textile artist and avid dancer. J’net is excited to join WeeFestival this year as Keynote Speaker, to talk about Indigenous knowledge integration in education for young learners

Rosary Spence | Cradleboard Workshop May 20th at 11AM
Join Rosary Spence in the garden to learn about Cradleboards & Moss bags (Waspisoyan). Rosary is Cree from the coastal Cree community of Fort Albany First Nation, off the coast of James Bay. Rosary currently lives and works in Toronto as a singer, speaker, actor and entrepreneur. Rosary will be speaking about the traditional use of the Waspisoyan also known as the “moss bag”, commonly used among the Indigenous communities across the nations. she will also be providing a demonstration with her assistant Sofia.
Register by emailing


Nimkii Osawamick | Hoop Dancing

Thursday May 17, 2018 – 11:30AM – 12:00PM
Saturday May 19, 2018 – 12:30PM – 1:00PM & 5:30PM – 6:00PM

Join Nimkii Osawamick as he shares the Hoop Dance, which shares stories of all living entities and creation itself. Nimkii will provide an introduction to elements of hoop dancing — all ages and levels of learners welcome. Nimkii will give a dance demonstration and then invite the audience to share in a circle to learn basic steps and movements with the hoop. Nimkii Osawamick is an Anishnaabe dance artist from Wikwemikong, Unceeded First Nation located in Manitoulin Island and is a member of the Wolf Clan.

Tuesday May 15 16h00 – 16h15
Friday May 18 10h00 – 10h15 (School Performance)
Saturday May 19 15h30 – 15h45
Sunday May 20 15h30 – 15h45

Created and directed by Leslie McCue, Ode’min is inspired by the 7 sacred teachings and living Mino Bimaadiziwin (The Good Life). Ode’min (Heart Berry), a strawberry character, moves and dances through the installation interacting with the world around them, performed by Aria Evans.


Strawberry Planting

Stop by the Biinoojiinyag Gitgaanmiwaa (Children’s Garden) anytime between May 16 -21 to participate in this activity.

Strawberries are Aanishinaabek peoples sweetest teaching. Visit the garden to learn more about the strawberry and plant your very own seeding to take home in a biodegradable newspaper pot as a sweet reminder of your time in the garden.


Cradleboard Installation | Hold our Babies Close
Curated by Leslie McCue, Mentored by Elwood Jimmy

Ongoing May 15-21, 2018

Visit the Biinoojiinyag Gitgaanmiwaa (Children’s Garden) to view an installation of Tikkanaagan’s (Cradleboards), accompanying each cradleboard will be a photo of the babies who used them and their parents favourite story or memory of their Biinoojiinyag in the boards. Tikkanaagans have been used for generations to carry infants while keeping babies safe and comfortable. All babies love to be swaddled, this is still a common practise to cradleboard newborn children until they are able to walk, within some Indigenous cultures.

Hold our Babies Close, shares intimate family moments, a sacred moment, that for some was interrupted due to colonial disruption through: forced adoptions and family separation, the 60’s scoop, residential schools, stolen generations and the on-going, unwanted apprehension to the this day. There are currently more children in care now than the height of residential schools.

This installation is in honour of all those who are making their way back, those who are starting to find their connection, and to those who didn’t make it home.

We swaddle you with love, and the strength of thousands of years of your ancestors. This is for you.

Statement from Leslie McCue, Curating Artist
“Lynda Hill, Artistic Director of Theatre Direct and The WeeFestival and  I believe and understand the responsibility we have as teachers, educators, artists, parents and caregivers to raise culturally aware, compassionate and responsible children. Seeds of understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples should begin to be explored in early childhood, allowing those seeds to continue to grow and be nourished into adulthood. The Children’s Garden recognizes that growth within our young ones, our future leaders, and provides an immersive experience to cultivate and explore that knowledge in a collaborative environment. The knowledge we give our children today will ripple well beyond their years and will be passed down to future generations.”

Participating Artists

Leslie McCue | Creator & Curator of Biinoojiinyag Gitgaanmiwaa
Leslie is a proud member of Mississaugas of Curve Lake First Nation. An arts administrator, artist, performer and educator who over the years has fought for Indigenous rights by breaking stereotypes and raising cultural awareness. Her work is driven by her past, her passion to educate and the motivation to empower others. Leslie is currently the General Manager for Paprika Festival, the Administrator for Chocolate Woman Collective, and the Coordinator for the Royal Ontario Museum Youth Cabinet. Leslie is excited to be a Resident Artist Educator for YPT this season. Leslie currently sits on the Indigenous Advisory Circle at the Royal Ontario Museum and freelances for various organizations in arts administration, facilitation, project coordination and curation.

Lindy Kinoshameg | Social Dancing
A proud Odawa from the Pike clan, Lindy was raised in Wiikwemkoong Unceeded First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Lindy has spent the last 10 years in Toronto, focusing his energy on Indigenous cultural awareness and breaking stereotypes through the arts. Always striving to practice new art-forms, this has led to a multitude of experiences: Visual arts projects, Healthy Living Program Coordinator, and Indigenous Radio Program Host, working his way up to Production Tour Manager and Event Coordinator, Indigenous Dance and cultural workshop facilitation. Lindy is now involved with Young People’s Theatre as Community Engagement Facilitator, in part to his strong belief and push towards incorporating Indigenous values and teachings into his practice, and sharing his knowledge with others.

Rosary Spence | Cradleboard Workshop

Originally from the coastal Cree community of Fort Albany First Nation, on the western shores of James Bay in northern Ontario, Rosary Spence is a recording artist, actor, visual artist, designer, and cultural educator. Steeped in time-honoured Aboriginal rhythms and styles, Spence’s debut album (released May 2015) is titled Maskawasiwin, a Cree word for Strength. It is dedicated to all of the teachings and teachers whom have provided her with strength thus far in her life’s journey. Produced by Marc Marilainen at Marilainen Music, Maskawasiwin brings forward a recording that depicts the range of Spence’s musical ability, from traditional vocables, to acoustic rhythms, and modern urban fusions.

As an actor, Spence has performed with Jumblies Theatre Company in “Like An Old Tale” (2011) and “Nigamo” (2012, 2014), in Native Earth Performing Arts 26th Weesageechak Festival (2013), “Treaty 9” by Falen Johnson (2014), and in television series Paranormal Witness: Season 4 (2014). Spence has also added the title of playwright in her repertoire of skills and abilities with “N’Mooshum Ayamehewin”, a play dedicated to her late grandfather, Frederik Spence, debuted in the Animikiig program during Native Earth Performing Arts 24th Weesageechak Festival in 2011. In 2012, Spence collaborated with South-Asian writer and story-teller Sharada K. Eswar in “When the Fish Met the Turtle” which was showcased during the 25th Annual Weesageechak Begins To Dance Festival (2013).

As a designer, Spence has been designing jewelry and custom leather works from a very young age. She was taught how to bead and create handmade leather works by her grandmother, Fabiola Spence. Her inspirations include her Cree heritage, urban culture, vibrant colours and elements. In 2007, Spence released self-labelled fashion line titled Designs by Rosary which includes Indigenous fashion and footwear, graphic apparel, jewelry, and accessories. In 2014, Spence designed limited edition footwear and contributed original one-of-a-kind footwear as a Storyboot Artist for global shoe company, Manitobah Mukluks. In 2015, Spence joined Indigenous apparel brand Urban Nish as a brand ambassador and design consultant. In 2017, Spence joined international eyewear company, Dreamcatcher Eyewear, as a designer.  Rosary Spence currently resides in Toronto, Ontario.

Nimkii Osawamick | Hoop Dancing

Nimkii-nini (Thunder-man) is Odawa/Potawatami from Wiikwemkoongsing Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, ON. Member of the wolf clan. Nimkii has been always been around dance since the age of 3, growing up around the pow wow trail he earned his first eagle feathers as a Fancy Dancer. At the age of 13 he earned his first set of hoops and has been learning ever since. Nimkii is well known in the community for sharing his stories and the stories of our ancestors passed on through song and dance.

Aria Evans | Performer “Ode’min”

Aria is a Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist working in film, dance creation and performance. She draws on her experiences as a woman of mixed race (Mi’kmaq/Black/settler heritage) as well as her BFA (2012) to capture meaningful social and cultural themes through her interactive art. Aria is artistic director of the Go To Company where collaboration is the departure point to the work that she creates. She was co-Artistic Director of hub14 from 2013-2018 and the Toronto, Ontario and Canada Council for the arts have supported Aria’s endeavours as well as Jumblies Theatre, Native Earth Performing Arts and b current.

Aria has presented her own choreographic work with Theatre New Brunswick, The Toronto Concert Orchestra, Ontario Culture Days, Soulpepper, SummerWorks, Nightwood Theatre, the University of Toronto, HarbourKIDS, Native Earth Performing Arts, the Toronto Fringe, FRESH BLOOD, the Gardiner Museum, the Harbourfront Centre’s Next Step Series, Series 808 and Dance Ontario, Long Winter, Labspace Studio and many more. Her works have been presented in both North America and Europe. She has toured with Theatre New Brunswick, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, created work commissioned by the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance, performed for the Indspire awards, participated and performed in works by Michael Greyeyes and Yvette Nolan, Penny Couchie, Julia Sasso, Peggy Baker, The Banff Centre, A Tribe Called Red, Susan Lee, Constance Cooke and Expect Theatre, to name a few.

Aria has sat on Canada Council and Dora Award juries, been an Invited Guest Contributor to the 20th anniversary Canadian Arts Summit, talked on interdisciplinary panels for TAPA’s INDIEX, DarkNights and On The Move. In 2017 she was chosen to participate as one of Culture Days’ Youth Arts Ambassadors.

About Leslie McCue

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Visit the Leslie McCue website