Underneath Toronto lies a network of rivers and streams. Buried rivers leave traces; streets bend and turn in ways that counteract the logical grid system of urban design; retaining walls weep during rainstorms; ravines and parks flood in springtime. These glimpses capture our imagination and give us hints at the water flowing below… as it is with stories. Immigrants don’t start their lives in a new country – the whole story of who they are comes with them. Colonialism has worked hard to erase the presence of Indigenous stories in Canada and Indigenous people’s stories are often rendered invisible. It is the goal of Rivers Rising not to mourn the loss of these rivers, and these stories – the goal is to bring them into the daylight. To make them visible and knowable. Daylighting- the act of bringing hidden rivers back so we can all see the water flowing- emerged from the same desire as digital storytelling; to bring the hidden into view.
Rivers Rising is a community engagement collaborative project of the Toronto Green Community (TGC), the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto’s (NCCT) First Story program, and the Toronto Community Garden Network (TCGN). We engage and build capacity of community members to tell stories about their own relationship to their watershed reflecting themes of sustainable food, water, and culture. Rivers Rising Ambassadors focuses on training newcomers, recent immigrants and Indigenous community members to lead neighbourhood walks, incorporating as part of the content, the stories they have gathered through the digital storytelling process.
This digital storytelling project is an integral part of the overall Rivers Rising project which is being funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation for a duration of 3 years. Community Story Strategies was referred to us through an organization in our networks. It has been a true pleasure to work with both Jennifer LaFontaine and Emmy Pantin, who have professionally guided us through the process of understanding digital storytelling and helping us make the best choices to achieve exceptional results. We also received outstanding feedback from project participants who greatly appreciated their approach and supportive facilitation style. It is also fitting that both artists have personal experiences with newcomer and Indigenous identities, given the make-up of our project participants. We cannot imagine bringing this project to fruition without them.
Rivers Rising Staff