‘Why Do You Need to Know That?’ Slipstream Movements and Mapping ‘Otherwise’ in Tkaronto [i]

Karyn Recollet and Jon Johnson

University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

The frequencies of the land...if you can activate the power of what grounds us. Literally the gravity that pulls us to that ground beneath our feet. If you can tap into that power - the strength of that...anything is possible.
(Cowboy Smithx, in Calgary Arts Development, 2018)
Slipstream movements incorporate the corporeality of the experience - the senses, the movements, the gestures that the land is interpellating us into embodying.
(K. Recollet, author)


Karyn Recollet is an urban Cree, who experienced a dislocation from her home territory of Sturgeon Lake, Saskatchewan, and was raised by a mostly British family in Southern Ontario. Recollet met her Cree family during her late teens and has since been thinking with and through kinships as a practice of land-ing, whereby one’s practice is a series of on-going and persistent set of relations based on visiting. Jon Johnson is a person of mostly French Canadian descent, who also acknowledges Kanienkehaka, Algonquin, English, and Scottish ancestors. He was raised in Northern Ontario but has been living in urban Southern Ontario since the mid-1990s. Johnson’s work is focused on urban Indigenous storytelling traditions of Toronto. Both Recollet and Johnson live and work in the Greater Toronto Area, on Mississauga, Haudenosaunee, and Wendat lands. They are both lead organizers for First Story Toronto, an Indigenous community-based organization focused on storying Toronto’s Indigenous presence through tours and other popular educational initiatives, and together have led many storytelling tours. Both Recollet and Johnson also worked as tour guides in various capacities before their involvement with First Story Toronto.

From the Archive: Exhibit A

On one particular tour, Recollet and Johnson were brazenly asked, “What are some Indigenous mating rituals?”, as though Indigenous love exists outside of human intimacies. This was shocking, confronting, and confounding.


WHY DO YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT?! In this paper, we challenge the fetishistic, voyeuristic, spectacle-indulgent nature of white privilege’s entitlement to Indigenous lands, bodies, experiences, and knowledges. We activate instead slipstream cartographies / choreographies as an alternative to the Indian tour guide.

Originally, we planned on writing a piece that described ‘decolonial walking practice’ as a First Story methodology. As we felt through this terrain, we quickly recognized a series of tensions and acknowledged the incommensurabilities of creating a definitive list of ‘best practices’ for a decolonial walking tour. We chose to challenge our own assumptions that creating a decolonial walking practice was within our scope, and decided instead to critique the very notion of ‘the tour.’ Consequently, we write this piece as a tentative engagement with the potentials of slipstream movements and geographies as ‘otherwise gestures’ to foster more meaningful, respectful, and consensual relationality with places and each other. Drawing on insights from Indigenous feminist theories, Indigenous futurisms, and from our collective experiences as accomplices who engage Indigenous places by walking alongside them often, we explore the multitudinous implications of invoking a more expansive, complex and multiscalar praxis of ‘land-ing’ that entails radical relations of care with land, the stories, and one another. Intermittently, we introduce a series of scenarios experienced by First Story Toronto tour guides that establish a need for us to be writing this article. We also explore the slipstream atmospherics / geographies of the Humber River, and Bear Mound in High Park to determine movements and gestures as ongoing processes of seepages and spillages of time and space.

First Story Toronto Tours as Fraught Convergences

First Story Toronto is an Indigenous-led community-based organization centred on researching, keeping, and sharing stories and knowledges of ancient, ongoing, and future Indigenous presence in Toronto. First Story Toronto members have engaged in a variety of popular educational initiatives focused on storying Indigenous Knowledge and presence in places across the city. But First Story Toronto’s most popular initiative has always been its tours of Indigenous presence in places across the city.

First Story Toronto Tours originated in 1995 as the Great ‘Indian’ Bus Tour of Toronto, a five-hour bus tour activating knowledges of Indigenous history and perspectives of Toronto, developed and led by Anishinaabe scholar, activist, and community leader, A. Rodney Bobiwash. At the time, there was little to no acknowledgment of Indigenous presence (past or present) in Toronto, and so the tour combined community oral histories with archival and historical research of Toronto to unfold a story of over 13,000 years of continuous Indigenous presence in the city. The Great ‘Indian’ Bus Tour of Toronto was understood as a necessary response to the colonial erasure and misrepresentation of Indigenous peoples, histories, and knowledges towards the development of better understanding and more respectful relations among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. It was well-regarded as an important initiative by many Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents of the city, and the tours continued to be led by others after Bobiwash’s passing in 2002. Ongoing research and collaboration among First Story Toronto members expanded on Bobiwash’s original tour and led, over time, to the innovation of a series of bus and walking tours of areas across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Bobiwash’s original bus tour, and the subsequent First Story Toronto Tours it inspired, are part of a nascent urban Indigenous oral land-based storytelling tradition of Toronto (Johnson, 2013). This storytelling tradition informs the way Toronto’s Indigenous community understands, locates and represents itself in time and space, and it informs community ethics and practices. The tours have always involved sharing the stories of Indigenous presence that exist in places across the GTA, in the hopes that they inspire respectful conversations around issues of Indigenous histories, communities, places, perspectives and knowledges. But the tours are also often fraught convergences of people with knowledges and experiences that vary significantly across age, gender, culture, nation, and privilege within a colonial system that upholds certain kinds of knowledges, experiences, ontologies, and epistemologies as truth over others.

In sharing these stories with diverse audiences, we are reminded of the potential for tours to become opportunities to extract, appropriate, decontextualize, and fetishize Indigenous Knowledge as primarily ‘stuff’ to know, rather than as a ‘way’ of knowing through the maintenance of sustained ethical relationships with more-than-human entities across domains of land, water, sky, and spirit. Indigenous folx have endured a long history of voyeuristic consumption of Indigenous Knowledge and subjectivities as curiosities by settler audiences, perhaps most overtly encouraged during Victorian-era performances of Indigeneity, such as Pauline E. Johnson’s vaudevillian poetic performances and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows, both of which were performed in Toronto in the late 1800s [ii] (Gray, 2017).


In the Western colonial context,
Systems of classification and representation enable different traditions or fragments of traditions to be retrieved and reformulated in different contexts as discourses, and then to be played out in systems of power and domination with real material consequences for colonized peoples. (Tuhiwai Smith, 2016, p. 59)


As a Western construct, the tour is also informed by a deep desire for classification of self and other, of lands and places, redefining and condensing radical relationships through a system of representation. Western touring practices, informed by colonizing logics, misrepresent Indigenous systems of knowing—and present Indigenous peoples as disappear(ed)ing—as a way of upholding and legitimizing colonial narratives and structures. Our earlier experiences as tour guides in other contexts were fraught with settler-colonial desires to discursively and physically capture Indigenous land and life as completely knowable objects within settler-colonial logics. For instance, as an interpreter / tour guide along Lake Ontario, Recollet was asked as part of her job to dress in pioneer clothing during a Canada Day celebration at the museum, and Johnson was asked to provide tours while employed at an archaeological museum that erased Indigenous perspectives and ongoing presence. These historic and ongoing forms of violent classification, representation and erasure have had very real consequences for Indigenous peoples. When urban Indigenous land-based storytelling is simultaneously defined as a ‘tour,’ and storytellers as tour guides, it can motivate a shift away from a context of ethical participation and relationality, and towards more voyeuristic expectations of Indigenous peoples, lands, and knowledges.

Now, as two First Story Toronto members that have long served as guides on these tours, we regularly navigate thorny ethical questions around problematic comments and questions, issues of voice and representation, and what should and should not be shared with particular audiences in particular contexts. We question whether we are now in a different moment, a post Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) era characterized not so much by a lack of visibility of Indigenous folx, but rather by intensified engagement that has also intensified settler efforts to expose, categorize, and make hyper-legible Indigenous world(view)s; it is, for some, a time of almost too much visibility. For Indigenous tour guides, this can gesture toward a tense expectation of self-confession whereby they are expected to perform trauma through storytelling Indigenous experiences of colonization, perpetuating violence that we do not wish to repeat.

From the Archive: Exhibit B

Another recent incident occurred after a First Story guide shared her perspective on the ways priests and nuns treated Indigenous children, including her own relatives, in residential schools. After the tour, a male participant on the tour (who self-identified as Catholic) approached the guide to express his displeasure with the way nuns and priests were portrayed (i.e. not all nuns and priests…), requesting that the guides apologize and correct the way they were portrayed during the following tour. The next week this individual provided the guides with literature to ‘educate’ them on their ‘flawed’ perspective.


This moment requires a strategic shift in our touring practices that moves beyond simply sharing the stories. In response to voyeuristic and extractive expectations we have encountered on the tours, we ask, ‘Why do you need to know that?’ This facilitates a creative pause to decenter the voyeuristic expectations of ‘the tour’ and to create space for a self-reflective process of coming into deep personal ethical relationships with domains of land, water, sky, and spirit.

Slipstream Spaces / Movements

Land-based storytelling practices require us to know how to visit a space / place. There is a need to know where we are so that we know how to visit. So, for instance, we still have to know the old miikaans such as Davenport Road in a past-present, future-past context, in order to invite a space that is still open to possibilities. But the temporal-spatial and more-than-human relations that permeate well-storied places are sometimes too complex to be rendered legible. For example, Tkaronto’s naming is layered with multiple Indigenous future-pasts and present-futures embodying a Mississauga, Haudenosaunee, and Wendat space variously meaning: where the trees stand in the water, a log, a ‘meeting place’, and a gathering place. In the context of the tour, it is possible for such geographies to become over-determined. Perhaps overdetermination was initially a necessary response to the incredible violence wrought through the forced inscription of Western colonial maps and histories onto / over Indigenous Knowledges and identities. But, given the continuum of colonial violence and interference in Tkaronto, the land holds stories that sometimes cannot be told, that we can’t even imagine holding space for—where being ‘off the map’ is perhaps the only option. We want to point out how incredibly difficult it is to have grounding in / on / around a space that is placed by violent forces. Legibility can be as disorienting as illegibility—in places where relationships are not entirely legible, we, as guides, often feel that we have to perform legibility to fulfill others’ expectations, thereby risking the integrity of our own land-ing practice.

The process of storytelling is fraught with an always / already accompanying force of historical situatedness (the assumption that entering into Indigenous space/time is necessarily anachronistic). But Indigenous folx have always been futurists. Lee Maracle shared with Recollet that tobacco is a time-travelling plant, a technology of Indigenous futurity. Similarly, Creation stories are also technologies of futurity, stories of movements between worlds, into ‘Otherwise spaces’ and times, slipstreams, situated within the larger continuum of space and time.

The slipstream is a quality of time and space within Indigenous thought; it is a black hole, a glitch, but one that evades the singularity towards the creative production of a multiverse. The slipstream is a technology of the future. Slipstream thinking intervenes in settler-colonial narratives of Indigenous disappearance and erasure to create space for Indigenous geographies, whereby “Indigenous stories and resistance produce an Indigenous futurity, a world wherein settler futurities are thrown into question and not portrayed as a given” (Hunt, 2018, p. 81). A focus on futurisms asks instead why Indigenous futurity is not a given. Slipstream spaces are important for the generation and regeneration of alternative futures unfettered by settler-colonial fragilities, thus increasing the potential for future Indigenous worldings. This thinking is largely influenced by Grace Dillon’s (2012) activation of slipstream space, articulated within the context of the relationship between sci-fi and Indigenous futurity orientations. Dillon asks: “Does sf [science fiction] have the capacity to envision Native futures, Indigenous hopes, and dreams recovered by rethinking the past in a new framework?” (p. 2). Slipstream can be thought of as a space of generous Indigenous desire, which is not a form of consumptive desire. It is a desire that invokes an erotics of land and land relationality, where land is expansive and sentient, and our relationships become activated through deep listening, care, and attentiveness. Audre Lourde’s description of places of possibility resonates with an element of slipstream maps whose layers and stratospheres we are attempting to articulate.

These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through darkness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman's place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep. (Lorde, 1984, pp. 36-37)

Slipstream thinking brings us to feeling and thinking joy—Indigenous joy as a precious hub—and refocuses our attention to how land spaces and more-than-human kin are activated in the now, and how are they related to kinships of future ancestors.

Slipstream spaces require a release from the factual, and a leaning into possibilities of fragmented and partial knowledges. In this space, land-ing practices may be disorienting, gesturing towards a kind of unbelonging. Land-ing cartographies (including signs of borders and boundedness) may be rooted in our more-than-human kinships—perhaps the trees themselves are gesturing towards our unbelonging as branches gesture us away. These movements in Tkaronto ask us to consider our positions as visitors, perhaps uninvited guests, and to allow our gatherings to enter into productive spaces of tension and to be collectively unsettled.

This unbelonging (as we walk alongside the on-goingness of settler colonialism and violence) calls for a different way to move within slipstream spaces that embody the pause, stillness, and the silences. Land-ing within a slipstream space causes us to question a type of ownership over the lands that walking assumes. A slipstream walking practice centers not knowing and illegible maps as sources of (un)knowing; expressing those countermoves that unsettle ‘tours.’ Slipstream moves can help Indigenous folx presence in such a way that avoids the pitfall of self-confession in a desire to become visible and legitimate to state optics. Slipstream movements instead offer a way into a creative spatial analysis in ways that refuse state recognition of our bodies and gestures, almost as though entering into a portal, or a black hole, where hidden gestures activate future worldings.

From the Archive: Place Dysphoria and The Anti-tour guide

Karyn: What does it mean for an urban Cree survivor of the 70’s scoop to be activating land here in Tkaronto? Perhaps place dysphoria for urban Indigenous folx becomes a real thing for us as we come to experience alternative land-ing practices, where we are not of territory, but on territory. I am constantly worrying about my own practice of being a tour guide...that assumes some sense of authority/ expertise when really what I am feeling is a form of place, spatial and temporal dysphoria. How do we move within the slipstream of possible futures, pasts and presents simultaneously when we were not meant to still be here? What does multiscalar motion look like in attending to our relationships with the celestial? Could a move towards the celestial be perceived as an uncritical accounting for place dysphoria towards the terrestrial? I must ask myself this as I continue to explore the way that my body, my being, responds to the walking tours that we have been doing. I am also aware of the expectation of being the Indigenous trauma informant…that ethnographic desire of presencing through self confessions, thereby reproducing our own erasure through the desire to be visible to state optics (and operate within the same ranking and categorizing). Perhaps dysphoria and diaspora are a plane in and of itself, a slipstream through which I perceive land and space. This unsettling feels unsettling. What does radical love look like with this plant, this more-than-human kin? What does consent sound like...what if I am not meant to be here as an Indigenous outsider to this space? I have to be ready and willing to hear the words that no, consent is not given. What transpires then...those choreographies, those movements of letting go of this need for belonging. Perhaps it’s in the walking away? A visitor always has to be open to the potentials of moving on. As a survivor of the 70’s scoop (a perpetual visitor), I have adapted this practice.

In the wake of post TRC neo-liberal practices of ‘deeper engagement’ with Indigenous folx, which expose, categorize and create hyper-legibility, ‘otherwise’ gestures craft hopeful places and stories that resist capture. First Story Toronto bus and walking tours become a desirable practice in light of this context. Slipstream walking practices rupture consumptive relations and release facilitators from cultural voyeurism and superficial allyship. Collapses of time/space, slipstreams engage activators and witness / participants, focusing inward to sensually experience land-ing as acts of recuperation. Provocations and quiet moments become the new protocols to enter the slipstream space. As recuperative acts, these gestures of the slipstream evade capture—centring release—the seepages, spillages, overflows of Indigenous joy. Slipstream movements are gestures of glyphing that leave ephemeral traces reflecting spaces embodying the spillage of maps into unknown hidden geographies. Recollet visualizes slipstream spaces as the Milky Way, manifesting as collage, a multilayering of strata(sphere) thinking and doing. If we could read the atmospheric codings within the slipstream, these would be our maps. Slipstream movements produce potential as a continuation of this layering / collage-like process, where stories are layered on the land through a land-ing practice that is embodied, gestural and movement-based.

We ruminate on the potentials of embodying relations of care as foundational principles for our gatherings. Our suggested movement practice reorients First Story tours away from the impossible responsibility of representing overdetermined spaces, to allow for the germination of slipstream possibilities. From this perspective, the stories are technologies of generating and becoming, rather than objects to be consumed. We mobilize a ‘conversive’ approach during our walking practice to create moments of stillness and silence, to be present for the complexities and tensions. We are intentional in our practice as we engage in an ‘ethics of care,’ inviting witnesses / participants / potential accomplices to think and co-imagine desirous possibilities.

Our gatherings embody ‘checking-in’ as another gesture of the slipstream, making bodily gestures which hint towards an ethics of care (with each other but also other Indigenous and POC folx on the tour). We are aware that we are operating in a moment where right-wing radicalism is impacting the relations in the city in which we gather to walk. This check-in acts as a safety device to make sure that we are all safe as we open ourselves to knowledges which challenge racialized gender violence. As we unapologetically discuss processes of rematriation and decolonization, check-ins amongst the guides and with the witnesses / participants / hopeful accomplices are entirely necessary.

Atmospheric and Riparian Relations of Care: Gestures as Geo/Skyscapes of the Slipstream

One of our slipstreaming provocations is to think about how Indigenous folx are activating multiple scales through forms of transmotion (Vizenor, 2015). For an extreme example of a possible geo / skyscape, we look to the protestors of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline repelling from the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in Vancouver. And we think alongside Tkaronto’s Elder/Honour wall (N'gekaajig Kidowog #SimcoeMural) [iii] , as water glyphs close to the historic shoreline for Lake Ontario. These instances of choreographic fugitivity jump scale in the sense of their reaching outwards towards riparian zones where land and waters meet to create moments of stillness and reflection. These otherwise gestures bodily embrace maps to tomorrow, within the space of riparian zones.

We also acknowledge that pedestrian movements can be a recuperative gesture, as old miikaans (footpaths) created by Indigenous people throughout Toronto represent particular forms of knowledge of, and relationship with, land, water, and place. Each of these paths, following bluffs, river valleys, shorelines, and savannas, represents Indigenous Knowledge of Toronto, as Indigenous footprints (as glyphs) have inscribed their knowledge of territory into the land over millennia. In this sense, miikaans are like the petroglyphs inscribed in rock at sacred sites across Turtle Island.

Part of our process / praxis involves a foundational understanding of land and territory as overflowing / exceeding the terrestrial plane into the atmospheric. Geographical spaces that are slipstreams in and of themselves allow us to think about how we become witnesses and accomplices to lands’ movements. Herein, we evoke the expansive possibilities of the High Park Bear Mound and the Humber River as lands’ creative gestures echoing the slipstream.

High Park Mounds: Portal to slipstream

Some have suggested that there are as many as 57 mounds in High Park alone and that this could be an under-acknowledged ceremonial site. Across Turtle Island, mounds have experienced violent fragmentation, like when Snake Mound in High Park became a hub space for BMX stunt biking. Indigenous scholar Chadwick Allen (2015) speaks to the alignments and embodied provocations of mounds as they create “multidimensional dialogue[s] structured by, with, and through other earthworks” (p. 398). In these ways, mounds jump scale as an activation of relationality towards each other and the cosmos. Placed at the highest point in High Park, Johnson has often described during tours how the configuration and upward alignment of the Bear Mound in High Park create updrafts above the mound, which is why hawks and other large birds like to circle the mound, riding the updrafts to gain height before soaring off on their journeys and migrations. A prominent bird watching place, local residents call it Hawk Hill. Perhaps it was created with that intention? Certainly, the winged relations have their own knowledge and stories of place. Encoded within Indigenous knowledge systems, mounds jump scale as they embed their own forms of choreographic fugitivity through exceeding the terrestrial, and pushing upwards into the atmospheric. In the process, they activate a cypher, in the case of Bear Mound creating a space for birds to circulate and gather—a gathering space. In this way, they embody a quality of time and space as multiverse. Indigenous mounds, therefore, embody these technologies of jumping scale, coding the atmospherics through seepage and slippage from terrestrial to celestial.

The Humber River: Portal to Slipstream

The Humber River is a place of multitudinous relationalities and unfoldings. It holds the memory of glacial movements that once covered the area, as well as the millennia of Indigenous settlement and movements along the portage route along the East side of the river from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe. The river is known as Kabechenong in Anishinaabemowin, referring to either the portage route or to its use as a camping place, likely near Bloor St. where the portage route intersected with the east-west Davenport trail. The river is also known as Niwa’ah Onega’gaih’ih, Little Thundering Waters, a name that refers either to the presence of rapids near the intersection of these two trails, or to the presence of Thunderbeings in the area, or perhaps to the Thunderbird mound just to the north of this intersection. That mound is associated with the Seneca village of Teiaiakon, the Knife that Cuts the River, situated along the river atop what is now Baby Point during the 17th Century. The river valley surrounding this village held the fields of corn, beans, and squash that fed the village. The river ran through the middle of a very large Black Oak savanna, an ecosystem carefully maintained by Indigenous peoples through technologies of fire. Plant relations here today are the descendants of corn, beans, and squash, and the Indigenous medicines that were encouraged to grow in the savanna. The river continues to be a place of movement for salmon, and a hunting ground for coyotes, herons, egrets, beavers, and other more-than-human relations. And it continues to be a place for Indigenous ceremony and medicine. It is also a place of rupture and conflict introduced by the fur trade, colonial desires for the land and settlement, and the introduction of invasive species. Each of the names for this river and the happenings and relationships along its course, past and present, activate multitudinous possibilities, desires, narratives, and ethics for future-pasts and present-futures. The Humber River, then, is a good example of a slipstream of relations across time, land, water, and sky.

Slipstreams like the Humber River illuminate the importance of riparian zones as a way of thinking and embracing relations of care in Tkaronto. Convergences between land / sky, land / water, and water / sky become zones of the slipstream. In Anishinaabemowin, the concept / verb / worlding device, Biidaabin, describes the slipstream space where day is in relationship with night, where celestial bodies intimately hold space for each other. These in-between zones are spaces of immense possibility, where present pasts and past futures dwell. In relationship with our practice, slipstream movements embody choreographic fugitivity / futurity, illuminating land as motion and interrelationship. Thus, we think about future land-ings as a way into intimacies—relations of reciprocity and care—as land and water contain each other and both are sentient. The water’s edge represents water’s knowledge of land and land’s knowledge of water, just as snowdrifts represent the residuals of winds’ and lands’ mutual engagement, and shadows represent the limits of sun’s knowledge of land. These land-ing engagements are always ongoing, as the water’s edge is always changing in response to dynamic, contextual relationality with land. Perhaps the falling into (and land-ing) is never complete.

What are the recuperative gestures of entering into a spatial otherwise (Crawley, 2015), where all things are possible? We can consider the water walking activations around the Humber River as slipstream movements (The Great Lakes Water Walk, 2017). These gestures manifest walking in circuitous motion (cyphering) around bodies of water, as protest perhaps, but more importantly, to manifest generative bodies of futurities. Thus, water walking at the water’s edge of the Humber River has possibilities as a spatial / temporal glyphing practice, a methodology of accessing a slipstream space. It is the creation and careful production of the slipstream space that we can use as a vehicle to ‘jump scale’ into other possible futures. It is precisely because of these movements at the water’s edge, that we can come to enter this zone, an ethical space (Ermine, 2007) that also means that we have responsibilities to uphold.

Slipstream geographies allow for us to consider the question of whether belonging should be the end game for everyone. This is not a desired feature of the work that we are doing. Taking Katherine McKittrick’s lead (2006), we can land in place, but will not claim it in ways that are familiar. What if Indigenous folx were to activate an intentional illegibility, to not be mapped through settler choreographies and cartographies. This acknowledgement of unbelonging requires of us all to explore alternative actions / movements of release and letting go of this need to belong. During one tour, for example, Recollet and Johnson asked youth witnesses / participants to imagine more-than-human beings returning to the space, the eel and the salmon, and to imagine us transforming our bodies into these beings. In a small way, Recollet was asking of us to consider our own unbelonging, our own not being here, to embody recuperative gestures for the more-than-human beings that fold into the Humber River on a continuum, in a slipstream. This recuperative gesture conveys uncertain rules and uneven geographies wherein the complexities of a slipstream cannot be easily mapped. This affirms that we can land in place in ways that Western maps cannot claim as their own.

Slipstreams as Gestures and Movements of Consent and Refusal

Tanya Lukin-Linklator’s (2018) activations of ‘recuperative gestures’ resonate with us as we consider how we are maintaining ethical practices of consensual relationality with the lands and each other as kinship-building practices. Through slipstream thinking we consider the expansivity of more-than-human consensual relations across time and space, such as those existing with urban plant and water being kinships, relatives that have undergone continuing fragmentation and toxic exposure. What are the processes of consent that allow one to move from an unengaged voyeuristic space of unbelonging towards an ethical and responsibilized space of unbelonging? For Indigenous and Black folx within Tkaronto, land-ing occurs within and amidst complex entanglements and embodied remembrances of forced exiles. We are reminded of Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging, as Brand reflects on land-ing as an embodied experience while tracking a flight to Africa:

My legs are cramped, my stomach is in a constricted knot. I tell myself to relax, fall asleep. But how can I, crossing Africa?...Like all maps, the one on the screen makes the land below seem understandable, as if one could sum up its vastness, its differentiations in a glance, as if one could touch it, hold all its ideas in two hands. I wish I was on the ground. I know I would soon be enveloped by it, overwhelmed as all land overwhelms me. The patience and breadth, even islands overwhelm. (2001, p. 89)

We recognize that this conversation requires care and attention towards the complexities of Indigenous and Black experiences of forced exile (trafficking of Indigenous young people through residential schools, prison industrial complexes and youth detention centers, and the systematic national child removal system i.e. the sixties to millennial scoops). These violences are not to be compared to, but rather enunciated alongside, the forced exiles of the middle passage, prison industrial complex, and other violences faced within Black communities. These forced exiles remind us that land can overwhelm. Brand’s experiences gesture towards an unsettling, overwhelming experience of land which resonates with Indigenous experiences of land as a space / place of violent death and erasure. We consider the implication of unbelonging as an option, perhaps even a furtive gesture so that geographies resist capture.

From the Archive: Exhibit C

Alongside participants consisting of Indigenous and Black secondary students, we activated a walking tour to a local art gallery to view a Kent Monkman exhibit. The students noticed how they were being seen as embodying suspect subjectivities in white space as their POC, non-binary, and Indigenous pedestrian movements, praxis and aesthetic were being read in ways that they had no control over. As Indigenous folx in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (hooks, 1992) we have been taught to make ourselves invisible or small in the cities through gesturing, for example, by moving out of the way when a white person walks towards us. In the gallery space, the racialized students, including the guide with her child, were constantly surveilled.

We need to be open to strategies of ‘walking away,’ as they call attention to and disavow complicity in ongoing violence and the failure to uphold relational obligations. In line with Dallas Hunt’s (2018) writing, we might

ask of settler audiences […] to sit with, or dwell in, these affective spaces, to engage with narratives that consider the possibility of one’s disappearance—narratives that Indigenous peoples have had to deal with for a very long time. Indigenous populations have had to engage with symbolic and material realities/violences that have vanished their bodies and foreclosed their possible futures for centuries, and they continue to deal with these realities on a daily basis. (p.84)

Walking away can be interpreted as an embodied falling into the environs of a slipstream. The slipstream asks of us to deeply reconsider the practice of walking itself that, while discursively framed as innocent, is overwhelmingly not so. The gestures of walking / strolling can be a technology to reproduce racialization and gender violent geographies, as in the stroll (Razack, 2000). It is necessary to be willing to walk away from each other to walk into ethical relationality within a slipstream. Radical love implies a willingness to ‘walk away’ when we have ruptured or transgressed a boundary without consent. The slipstream gesture of walking away is a respectful departure, but also a ‘walking into’ a more caring, more ethical space. ‘Walking away’ and moving into a set of relations and responsibilities is a form of choreographic fugitivity, thus requiring an ethos and approach to movement that is more covert, fugitive, and furtive.

Relationality that considers walking in as a choreographic move disrupts the nation-state’s exploitative relationships with Indigenous / POC folx and lands. In refusing the map, slipstream movements honor the possibility of other choreo-cartographic scales. As choreographers of fugitivity, Indigenous anti-tour guides can embrace cartographical spaces that are anti-recognition spaces. For the anti-tour guide, the desire for recognition might not be on this plane; it might exist on a different scale. Slipstream geographies call on us to accept the responsibility of ‘not coming to know’ them as entirely legible. Ethical relationality can also entail holding space for the incommensurabilities.

From the Archive: Exhibit D

Johnson was approached after a talk on Indigenous history of Toronto by a man that wanted him to share a map of Indigenous sites and trails across the city. Subsequent investigations revealed this person to be heavily involved in the oil industry. Would this knowledge be used to further disenfranchise Indigenous peoples and lands to the benefit of the oil industries? Johnson refused to share any information with the man.


Some knowledge, regarding mounds for instance, is so contextual within specific systems of holistic understanding and governance practices held by a community that those outside the community are not meant to know or are not yet capable of knowing. How can we simultaneously communicate what some are ready to know while maintaining illegibility for those who are not? As an always archive, the slipstream can accommodate the production, maintenance, and protection of hidden geographies of Indigenous recuperation that it is necessary to keep precious. These hidden geographies are only accessible via the slipstream (de)encryption technologies of collage and abstraction (Mojica, 2008). While Western maps are too obvious, totalizing, and extractive, Indigenous technologies such as birch bark scrolls, petrogylphs, and contemporary visual and interpretive performative arts involve gestures, images, cyphers, and glyphs whose full meaning is only decipherable to those that already know (or by degree, to those coming to know). Such strategies of illegibility within the realm of the slipstream allow Indigenous facilitators to maintain the integrity of the invisible, hidden geographies of Indigenous communities.

As the Ogimaa Mikana [iv] project establishes, cartographies can be furtive; maps and pathways (the miikaans) gesture towards something that might not be meant to be completely legible nor knowable to escape the ‘all-knowing’ white male gaze. We always need to ensure that there are mechanisms of escape, and be mindful of care and consent. The Dish with One spoon is a diplomatic metaphor to the Great Lakes Anishinaabek; its existence determines the consensual practices of radical relationships between people and the more-than-human worlds. According to Susan Blight and Hayden King, in Untitled (All Walls Crumble), the Ogimaa Mikana Project,

considers the tension between visibility and invisibility to challenge settler-colonial logic. Against a crumbling wall holding up Ottawa’s major highway - scheduled for demolition and replacement - we draw attention to the ways the settler state recycles itself, and by extension, affirms its legitimacy. We see it and resist in provocative ways that mirror a there/not there presence. (Ogimaa Mikana, n.d., para. 2)

They also state,

Against this crumbling wall, we reclaim space for an anti-recognition: to speak to each other, as Anishinaabeg, as communities pushed out by gentrification, as the colonized, and offer a refrain and a sign of defiance: ‘Wakayakoniganag da pangishin. Nin d'akiminan kagige oga ahindanize’. (Ogimaa Mikana, n.d., para. 3)

We are inspired by the guerilla-style, furtive movements of the Ogimaa Mikana project that continues to work within the space of the slipstream while asserting Indigenous futurity on geospatial landscapes. These slipstream movements maintain and acknowledge the continued survivance of stories while engaged in the creative process of new storying, as the future requires us to dwell in a space where we are connected to our future ancestors. They need to see our glyphs [v] from their dwellings in the celestial. Within Tkaronto, Indigenous and Black futurists are slipstream thinkers. Perhaps what is needed are more gatherings, similar to those between Black and Indigenous folx who are involved in land activations, Black and Indigenous farmers and medicine gardeners, muralists, star knowledge holders, performance artists, dance artists—those who dwell in slipstream spaces to create narratives of profound relationality in-between spaces—pauses, refuges, stillness—an atmospherics of otherwise possibilities.

From the Future Archive:

There are no silences anymore—no need—the trees are folding into each other, reinscribing the atmospherics with their precious breath. The hawks, bees, and salmon are cyphering again here in this savanna, this space of fire renewal—those practices have been brought back. Some had called these geoscapes their secret garden, secret only so that they can return and once again use these lands as their own playground. Little did they know that the hidden codes in these lands determine the shapes of our gatherings. As they come into the space, they now focus on bearing witness—without cell phones, without cameras, without expectation and we knew that this time would once again come. Their movements are different, more grounded; someone once described it almost as a levitation, a sky dance, a moon walk, a celestial becoming. Giving away their obsession with belonging, they no longer mixed the knowledges from this space with their desire to hold shiny things captive. These days, our coming together is focused, intentional, and hopeful for our future ancestors. Sometimes our gatherings have no words, sometimes we dance, we hold space through considering the relationships between our bodies and that body of water—we are sentient beings together. Today, that Diné body somatic practitioner is helping us to code the atmospherics, and it is a good day.


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[i] We would like to acknowledge our thoughtful and brilliant First Story Toronto colleagues who continue to inspire us. Thank you Jill Carter, Serena Johnson, Philip Cote, Vivian Recollet, Amber Sandy, Monica Bodirsky, Megan Davies, and other past, present and future co-visionaries.

[ii] Haudenosaunee poet Pauline E. Johnson had what some have called her ‘breakthrough performance’ in 1892 at the Toronto Art School Gallery. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was staged at Woodbine Park in 1885, with Lakota chief Sitting Bull participating as a central figure.

[iii] This mural was conceptualized and produced by artist Tannis Nielson to honor Indigenous thinkers.

[iv] The Ogimaa Mikana project is an ongoing effort by Susan Blight and Hayden King to reclaim and restore Anishinaabemowin place names, using street signs, billboards, and other signage, to Toronto’s landscape.

[v] Glyphing can be thought of as a technology of the slipstream. It refers to the ways that music, dances (including pedestrian gestures), and other forms of persistent Indigenous motion activate specific spatial/temporal cartographies in much the same way that petroglyphs activate Indigenous presence on land/sky spaces (Recollet, 2016).