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Street Signs Connect Modern Day Toronto To Indigenous History


What's in a name? Or in this case, what's in a street name? Well, Susan Blight says a lot. She is an artist and activist in Toronto, and she's Anishinaabe, the indigenous nation once stretched along the U.S.-Canada border from North Dakota all the way to Ohio.

SUSAN BLIGHT: We're a very big nation in terms of the land mass which we call our homeland.


A few years ago, she and her friend, Hayden King, started a project to connect Toronto to its indigenous history. Their target was street signs.

BLIGHT: We began doing these guerrilla interventions, I would say. Sometimes they were stickers. Sometimes it was just a cardboard art piece. And we'd actually place those over top of the official signs.

SHAPIRO: They would translate street names into the Anishinaabe language. So for instance, Queen Street...

BLIGHT: We took queen and made it to ogimaa, which is a leader, and from street to mikana, which is a road or a path, anything that somebody can travel on.

SIEGEL: A business improvement group took notice and reached out to Susan Blight. And this month in a small Toronto neighborhood, Anishinaabe translations went up on the official street signs.

BLIGHT: I like the idea that Anishinaabe people might be walking in the city, they look up and they see their language. I like that it might also inspire non-indigenous people to perhaps form a more meaningful relationship with the indigenous nations whose territory they live and work on.

SHAPIRO: She says it's about knowing where you are and where you're from. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.