The present research report is based on a survey focused on Indigenous non-profit cultural organizations in the province of Quebec, with an Indigenous Board of Directors, as well as Indigenous employees. This approach allowed us to catalog and identify (six) organizations according to a specific set of criteria, allowing us to present the documented information. The collected data comes from the organizations themselves. Thereafter, we were able to conduct a brief analysis and to highlight some observations on the state of key infrastructures dedicated to Indigenous art in the province.
The observed organizations are: the Ashukan Cultural Space, in Old-Montreal, the Musée amérindien of Mashteuiatsh, the Musée des Abénakis in Odanak, the Musée Shaputuan in Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, the Huron-Wendat Museum in Wendake, and the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute in Oujé-bougoumou.
Brief analysis and observations:
We were able to observe a significant gap in terms of location and rental in our analysis of the 6 key cultural organizations dedicated to Indigenous arts in Quebec. The Ashukan Cultural Space, located in an urban setting and off reserve, is the only tenant organization of the lot. Another important aspect to consider with regard to this organization is that it has never benefited from funding for its operations, from either public or private funds, since its creation in 2012. Therefore, it must broaden its funding sources (federal, provincial, municipal, and private). As a result, the organization has no choice but to carry out projects according to the eligibility criteria of the grant providers. This financial instability also expressed at the staff level, as it has less permanent employees and hires more contract workers than other organizations located on a reserve.
As a result, and considering the funds allocated by Band Councils, on-reserve infrastructures benefit from a considerable financial stability relative to their operational budget. However, the funding for on-reserve organizations with a cultural vocation is subjected to the goodwill of elected officials, as a single budget is granted per community for the cost of services to the population (health care, education, safety, culture, etc.). Because of this structure, the budget allocation dedicated to culture varies based on the priorities established by Band Councils and their vision of what constitutes a priority project. Ultimately, we see an imperative need to obtain funding from various sources.
Ashukan Cultural Space is the only Indigenous cultural incubator in the Greater Montreal1, despite the area hosting the greatest concentration of indigenous population in the province (34,745 in the census metropolitan area according to Statistics Canada)2. Moreover, we noted that the square footage of the space is smaller than is the case for on-reserve proprietors of their facilities. 3
In the context of this research, we have decided to exclude Wapokini mobile, a mobile studio dedicated to film and audio creations for which the (permanent/ yearly/ tenant) head office is located in Montreal, for the reason that it did not correspond to the aforementioned criteria. Although Ashukan Cultural Space does have the status of an Indigenous cultural organization, as well as a primarily Indigenous Board of Directors, it only has 1 indigenous staff out of 96, while Wapikoni mobile hires 16 permanent workers at its head office and 80 contract workers operating on reserves for part-time work. As for its budget, it reaches $1.6 m per year, which is significantly higher than the budget of other listed organizations. Wapikoni mobile's budget is also sourced from a diversified profile of contributors: INAC, CAC, CALQ, CAM, Canadian Heritage, the McConnell Foundation, Bombardier, René Malo and Telus, although its funding is primarily comes from federal sources such as Health Canada. 4
Broadly speaking, one of the most striking observations is that there are very few infrastructures dedicated to Indigenous arts in Quebec, especially when comparing them with the total number of museums on the territory, factoring arts museums exclusively and including those dedicated to Indigenous arts in the present report, for a total of 74 locations. Furthermore, we note that none of the listed Indigenous cultural organizations includes creation in its mandate. There is indeed no creative space for Indigenous artists in Quebec, which has a significant impact on the development of artistic practices, on artistic collaborations, and on the dissemination of knowledge. On the 74 museums in Quebec, 4 of the listed locations are dedicated to creative spaces, but none of them are part of the infrastructures dedicated to Indigenous arts. 5
In May 2017, as part of the Aboriginal Spring of Art (ASA3), the production of a report titled État des lieux sur la situation des arts autochtones au Québec (situational analysis on the status of Indigenous arts in Quebec) was requested by performing arts organization Ondinnok. This made it possible for 50 participants to meet in Tiohtiá:ke (Montreal), all either artists or part of Indigenous arts organizations. Following this assessment as well as a series of governmental consultations over a two-year period with participants of the sector, a manifesto, the Manifeste pour l’avancement des arts, des artistes et des organisations artistiques autochtones du Québec (in French only), has been written and signed by over 70 Indigenous artists and artistic organizations of Quebec. The Manifesto has been submitted to more than 40 political and artistic institutions, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. 6
Nevertheless, the current situation remains unsatisfactory for Indigenous infrastructures, which is largely due to the lack of funding dedicated specifically to Indigenous artists and organizations. In contrast to the reality in Quebec, the Ontario Arts Council has structured its grant program into 7 components to include and support all Indigenous artistic disciplines, and has an annual budget of $760,0007, while the Toronto Arts Council has a budget of $340,0008. As far as the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec and the Conseil des Arts de Montréal are concerned, the Manifesto informs that they are allocating for the first time a budget of $167,599 and $120,000 for supporting Indigenous artists and writers 9. Ultimately, the development of Indigenous cultural organizations the development of Indigenous arts as a whole, and the lack of a creative space dedicated to Indigenous arts, are fundamentally linked to inadequate funding, despite the growing demand from public authorities and governments10 to create programs adapted to Indigenous artistic, social and cultural realities. This is an issue largely affecting the conditions of Indigenous artistic productions and cultural organizations.
Banner image: provided by Mylène Guay. The photo is part of the Nuit Blanche of March 2, 2019. The artist Nico Williams initiated a project mainly in the Aboriginal artistic and cultural communities in Montreal. Each person made a triangle in plastic beading. During the event at the National Monument entitled Nuit Rouge, all the triangles were created and beaded together to realize this work. Work entitled: Woven (2019) 18,900 HAMA Plastic Cylinders. Here is the list of people who participated: Craig Commanda, Renee Condo, Jackson Coyes, Léuli Eshraghi, Mylène Guay, Sam Guertin, Whitney Horne, Amanda Ibarra, Cory Hunlin, Caitlin McGuire, Nadia Myre, Scott Osborne, Shelley Ouellet, Wayne Robinson, Amanda Roy, Lydia Risi, Nico Williams, Kelsey Wilson, Sage Wright, Jean Philippe Massie Martel and Pierre Portelance.