(Hand)making a difference

Collective of local artisans create market focused on Indigenous vendors


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The first Pitâw Mīno Muskîkî Indigenous Handmade Market happens on Friday and Saturday and it promises to be the boujeest, rezziest market of the year.

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The first Pitâw Mīno Muskîkî Indigenous Handmade Market happens on Friday and Saturday and it promises to be the boujeest, rezziest market of the year.

It all started earlier this year when a collective of five Indigenous women — Shauna Fontaine, Brittney Grisdale, Candace Neuman, Dana Connolly and Rachel Bach — came together in a sharing circle to bring this concept to life after identifying barriers and challenges for Indigenous artisans at larger handmade markets.

Some of these barriers include no reserved space for Indigenous vendors at bigger markets and shows, as well as certain out-of-reach requirements just to participate that can leave smaller makers unable to take part.

“It leaves options for smaller shows for our people, which doesn’t sustain our economy because it’s not getting as much of an audience coming to the show,” said Fontaine, of Anishinaabe Girl Designs.

The group approached Ivanna Yellowback, a known storyteller in the Indigenous community, to ask if she would be able to gift them with a name. They brought offerings of tobacco to the Red River in ceremony and shared the intentions of the group.

“Ivanna took that back and she prayed upon that, and she was gifted a name in her dream that came from her grandfather, which is Pitâw Mīno Muskîkî, which means ‘brings good medicine,’” said Fontaine, a member of Sagkeeng First Nation.

“She said that name comes to us because what we’re doing is we’re sharing gifts of medicine with the world and with our community and we all have different gifts.”

Fontaine says Indigenous peoples have been sharing their gifts and knowledge freely for centuries, adding that these teachings have enhanced the global and Canadian economies with little to no acknowledgment or economic benefit to Indigenous peoples. She says purchasing something handmade from local Indigenous creators supports entrepreneurship, economic development and cultural continuity, under the umbrella of reconciliation.

“Our children watch and learn as we are in our workspaces, including our home nations and land-based settings. They gain invaluable teachings while spending quality time among relatives and adopt lifelong values to live life in a good way,” she said. “They begin to create themselves and find healing, self-identity through cultural artistic exploration. This benefits families, communities and our cultural knowledge is sustained. This heals our communities.”

Grisdale, a member of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation and part of the collective, says all the profits from the markets will go back into the community.

“We’re all doing this as volunteers and that’s fine because we want to see it go back into the community, and we want to see it grow, and we want to be able to provide a platform for other Indigenous makers to showcase what they have. If you look at the bigger picture, people are becoming self-sufficient, and our communities are growing stronger.”

Grisdale started her business, Black Wolf Dog, because she wanted to blend up her passions for community activism and art. She creates her wares to make a broad statement and spark conversations, including bamboo door mats painted with sayings like ‘This is Indigenous Land’ and a cheeky “Awas,” which means “go away” in Anishinaabemowin.

“It’s more than just home decor; it’s sending a message and hopefully creating conversations around things that make us uncomfortable,” she explained. “I want to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

While the craft sale is Indigenous-led, all are welcome to come and learn and appreciate the vast variety of talent that will be showcased at the two-day event being held at Sgt. Tommy Prince Place, 90 Sinclair St. Shoppers can expect to see an array of traditional and non-traditional jewelry, homewares, body care, clothing and regalia, among other items.

The talents extend beyond makers to include other Indigenous artists, including DJ Kaptain, who will perform this evening, and local musician Kristen McKay, who will perform on Saturday. There will also be kids’ arts activities led by Kisa MacIssac, hot and cold food services and baking, a photo booth, and spaces for tea and conversation. Word on the street is that Santa will be paying a visit.

“One of my personal goals is to see spaces like this exist for Indigenous makers, specifically Indigenous females or gender-fluid peoples, so that they have somewhere that they can sell their wares in a space that they’re receiving fair market value for the work that they’re doing,” Fontaine said.

“We don’t see each other as competition; we want to empower each other and build each other up.”

To find out more about the market or learn about some of the vendors participating, please visit the Pitâw Mīno Muskîkî Facebook group here: wfp.to/market


Twitter @ShelleyACook

Shelley Cook

Shelley Cook
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project

Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

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