Canadian Geographic
Sylvia Maracle Image Credit: Canadian Geographic
Sylvia Maracle Image Credit: Canadian Geographic

Sylvia Maracle

The head of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres on the group’s 50th anniversary

Kiley Bell

In the late 1960s, small groups of Indigenous women in Ontario hosted social gatherings in their homes, church basements and wherever else they could find space to reconnect and strengthen cultural bonds after moving, or being displaced, from their small rural communities to larger cities and towns. What started then as informal get-togethers of friends has since grown into 28 non-profit friendship centres under the leadership of one governing body — the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres. Sylvia Maracle, the federation’s executive director, who is from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, has dedicated more than 40 years to improving the quality of life for Indigenous Peoples living in urban environments throughout Ontario. Now, as the federation celebrates its 50th anniversary, Maracle reflects on the successes of the federation’s past and looks to its future.

On Indigenous presence in urban areas

In Canada, 65 per cent of Indigenous Peoples do not live in their home territories or northern rural communities — they live in towns and cities. In Ontario, it’s 85 per cent. There’s a very prominent conversation going on in Canada about reconciliation with First Nations, Métis and Inuit. We need to extend this dialogue to discuss where Indigenous Peoples live because there is a notion in the media and in education that we all live in remote communities or on reserves and that’s simply not


Continue Reading with Magzter GOLD Subscription

Log in if you're already a subscriber

Get unlimited access to thousands of curated premium articles and 5,000+ magazines

Try FREE for 7 days or

Download the Magzter App and
Try FREE for 30 days


More from Canadian Geographic