[Skip to Content]
Ontario Arts Council (OAC)
Grants Advanced Search
Grants Advanced Search

Indigenous Culture Fund (ICF) Engagement: Results and Responses

Between November 2016 and May 2017, the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS) engaged with Indigenous partners across Ontario to inform the development of the Indigenous Culture Fund (ICF). 
ICF was created to support cultural priorities and activities as defined by Indigenous peoples and communities, including on and off-reserve, urban, rural and remote. 
For the engagement process, OAC and MTCS created a draft program framework, which was shared for feedback using three strategies:
  1. open engagements meetings,
  2. one-off meetings/attendance at existing conferences and events, and
  3. online survey on OAC’s website.
The open engagement sessions were attended by 94 people in the following locations:
  • March 3, Ottawa, Wabano Centre (with Elders Albert Dumont and Thomas Louttit),
  • March 8, Thunder Bay, Baggage Arts Centre (with Elder Catherine Everson),
  • March 9, Sioux Lookout, Friendship Centre (with Elder Juliette Blackhawk),
  • March 28, Toronto, Native Canadian Centre (with Elders Patti Phipps Williams and Duke Redbird), and
  • March 29, Six Nations of the Grand River, Six Nations Polytechnic (with community leader David General).
OAC and MTCS met with representatives of the Chiefs of Ontario (November 2016 and April 2017), the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (December 2016), the Métis Nation of Ontario (December 2016 and May 2017), and the Independent First Nations Youth Working Group (December 2016 and March 2017).
OAC set up an information booth and/or took part in meetings at the following events:
  • January 24-26, Sault Ste. Marie: Anishinabek Nation Health Conference (350 in attendance), information booth and meeting with Health Advisory Group,
  • February 16-18, Timmins: Great Moon Gathering (450 in attendance), information booth and meeting with Timmins Native Friendship Centre,
  • February 10-12, Sudbury: Ojibway Culture Foundation Anishinaabewin 8 conference (300 in attendance),
  • February 8-9, North Bay: Nipissing First Nation meeting, Aanmitaagzi meeting, Aboriginal Curatorial Collective meeting, individual artist meetings (10 in attendance),
  • March 7, Fort William First Nation: information session (40 in attendance),
  • March 9, Sioux Lookout: Equaywuk women’s gathering, information session (14 in attendance),
  • April 4, Wikwemikong First Nation Library: information session (12 in attendance),
  • April 10, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory Community Centre: information session (17 in attendance), and
  • April 11, Peterborough: Friendship Centre, information session (20 in attendance).
Feedback Results and Responses
The feedback and responses below are divided into the categories of the Draft Program Framework:
  • Name and Goals of the Fund,
  • Application Criteria and Amounts,
  • Application Process,
  • Assessment Process and Criteria,
  • Reporting and Evaluation Process, and
  • Support for Applicants, Intellectual Property and Confidentiality.
General feedback and responses is also included.

Name and Goals of the Fund
Feedback Response
There was little consensus on the name of the Fund, but a sub-heading may make the purpose more clear.
Continue to use the name Indigenous Culture Fund but add the tagline “Supporting Indigenous Communities and Ways of Life.”
Concerns were expressed around some of the language in the goals, particularly around being clear that the Fund will support rather than “empower” and “engage.” 
Refine the language of the goals to better reflect the Fund’s role in supporting cultural activities and creating opportunities for sharing and learning. 
Revitalization is a good word to describe the needed support for language initiatives, which are vital. 
Add the support of language revitalization to ICF Goals.

Application Criteria and Amounts
Feedback Response
Significant feedback was heard related to the issue of self-identification and how there needs to be different mechanisms for assessing individual applicants. Letters of support or reference for individuals were strongly encouraged.
Require individual applicants to provide letters of support and describe relationship with the community or communities they are working in or with. 
Many asked how OAC would ensure equity in terms of equal distribution of grants between north and south, large and small organizations. 
Develop assessment guidelines to assist fair distribution of grants.
Youth should be encouraged to apply.  OAC needs to include the definition for youth; 16 was suggested as the minimum age.
Define youth for ICF as 16-30.
Language for some of the categories needs to be clearer (e.g., “cultural safe-keeping” wasn’t a term people were comfortable with). It should be made clear that Indigenous cultural activities include things like food harvesting, contemporary cultural expression, protocols development, language immersion, traditional sports and physical activities, and traditional storytelling. 
Revise language to reflect feedback.
Multi-year grants and two year windows for project grants is great – one year is not enough time to build momentum and see results.
Develop a multi-year project grant program. 
Rolling deadlines and multiple deadlines is a great idea.
Create a program for small grants (under $5,000) that has a rolling deadline so that applicants can get results within two months.

Application Process
Feedback Response
Feedback on the online process was positive, but OAC must ensure accessibility for those without access. 
Support use of paper and oral application option for applicants.
There were concerns expressed about funding “ceremony and spiritual practices” and how OAC will ensure that the people getting funding are those that are endorsed by their communities.  Others agreed that these practices are part of culture and saw opportunities in this language to undertake projects, such as building a sweat lodge. 
Design program guidelines to include the eligible activities, which reflect Indigenous values and definitions of culture.
Capital costs were a strongly expressed need. In order to build capacity in communities, people need to be able to purchase hardware, materials and be able to undertake small-scale building projects (e.g., hunt camps, sweat lodges, greenhouses, cultural spaces). Also, childcare should be an eligible expense.
Create new budget template for application forms that includes childcare, materials, supplies and small capital costs (e.g., start-up capital, building materials). 
Transportation is an important cost in both remote communities and for urban dwellers to travel to get to ceremony or on the land. 
Provide opportunity to cover travel costs.

Assessment Process and Criteria
Feedback Response
OAC needs to ensure that the panels are representative of the applicant pool. 
Engage Indigenous partners to expand the assessment pool.
Ensure that applications are assessed and understood in their context.  Regional and remote practices, particularly in the north, are very different. 
Develop clear communications for assessment panels about funding priorities and assessment criteria.
Assessment criteria needs to be carefully considered: panel is not “judging culture” but rather looking at project readiness and impact.
Communicate assessment process on ICF webpages, including form to participate as assessor and alternative application options (oral and paper).

Reporting and Evaluation Process
Feedback Response
Burdensome reporting requirements are a major barrier to Indigenous people seeking grants.
Reporting should be relevant to the size and scope of the grants/projects.
Create simple, clear reporting mechanisms scaled to the size of the grant that capture the compelling stories about cultural activities supported by the Fund in communities.
OAC should share the results of the funding, so communities can see what others are doing.
Provide a summary of successful grant recipients on the OAC website, when available.

Support for Applicants, Intellectual Property and Confidentiality
Feedback Response
OAC must play a proactive role in giving positive feedback and supporting new applicants in the process. 
Incorporate post-grant feedback and support into ICF staff roles.
Must be clear that applicants do not have to report on culturally sensitive or confidential information, and that intellectual property is retained.
Make clear statement that applicants do not have to report on culturally sensitive or confidential information, and intellectual property is retained by the applicant.
Support is needed for preparing applications. Many communities do not have this capacity. Providing grant development workshops was enthusiastically received.
Develop mobile lab to support application writing and build partnerships with local organizations and community members to provide in-person grant writing training and support.
Communications needs to be snappier. Facebook and online is a great way to reach people.
Develop communications strategy that includes social media.
Build communications network and to get the word out about ICF. In-person meetings and engagement is the most effective. 
Work with local “connectors” to help spread the word, share success stories, and provide support.
Going into northern communities and accessing remote communities is essential. 
Make northern outreach a priority.
OAC should strive to offer information and forms in Indigenous languages.
Research what it would entail to translate materials into Indigenous languages for Year 2 (2018-19).
General Feedback
Feedback Response
A relationship of trust is critical to the success of this Fund. Concern was expressed that the OAC is not an Indigenous organization. Appreciation was also expressed that this Fund is being led and managed by Indigenous people at the OAC.
MTCS and the OAC acknowledge that Indigenous communities have their own cultural priorities, and this Fund is intended to support those priorities and be managed in a way that is consistent with Indigenous cultural practices and Indigenous knowledge.
OAC should see the development of this funding as an ongoing process, and ensure that they create mechanisms to get ongoing feedback from community members as it evolves. 
Make outreach and relationship building a key priority.
There are many government grants and no centralized place where Indigenous communities and applicants can find this information.   OAC staff will develop knowledge and resources to support applicants in identifying other funding sources.