The recent Black Friday/U.S. Thanksgiving blitz was the biggest ever for online sales, with nearly US$11.6 billion pumped into American-owned businesses. When counted up later this week, experts predict online sales to reach nearly US$9 billion for "Cyber Monday."
As shoppers further prepare for holiday purchases, whether at stores or via a computer/smartphone, I’d like to make a suggestion: buy Indigenous.
Think about it: most big-box companies are U.S.-owned, where do you think your dollars go?
Mostly to the south and the CEOs, billionaires, and entrepreneurs often referred to as the "one per cent."
If you buy from Indigenous-owned businesses, exclusively living and working in Manitoba, you are not only supporting locally-produced artists, families and communities, but buying some of the best work Manitoba has to offer.
Buying Indigenous means an investment in this province. Indigenous businesses don’t pick and leave when the economy gets tough — this is our home.
So here, in no order, is a short list of the many ways you can "Buy Indigenous" this holiday season. (Most are available online but a few also have retail locations.)
Interested in Indigenous music?
Check out award-winning Cree traditional and mezzo-soprano singer Rhonda Head’s new album Akihtasona, available on the Indigenous-run TR1BE online streaming platform.
Winnipeg favourites Eagle & Hawk just released their first album in nine years (Liberty), and William Prince of Peguis First Nation is on a global tour with his album Reliever (his hit single The Spark was recently featured in Rolling Stone magazine).
Want some amazing Indigenous-themed holiday ornaments?
Check out JDM Indigenous Designs. In honour of their late sister, Kim and Gerri-Lee McPherson run an incredible online business, featuring original stained-glass designs and innovations on traditional motifs such as dreamcatchers and the medicine wheel.
Want to get away this holiday (or any) season?
Seek out the first Indigenous-owned travel company in Canada (based in Winnipeg): Indigeno Travel.
Winnipeg has some of the best Indigenous food in Canada at restaurants such as Feast Café Bistro (587 Ellice Ave.) and the Perfect Place (541 Selkirk Ave.), opened last month by local caterers Destiny Michell and Erica Contois.
Delve into some Indigenous literature this winter.
Governor General's Award-winning poet Katherena Vermette has released the second of her three-part graphic novel series A Girl Called Echo, which tells Métis (a.k.a. Manitoba) history through the experience of a young Winnipeg girl. It’s one of many Indigenous titles from Winnipeg-based Highwater Press — including the ground-breaking graphic novel anthology This Place: 150 Years Retold, which retells Canada through Indigenous eyes. (Disclosure: I’m one of its 10 authors.)
For home decorations, check out Indigo Arrows, a Winnipeg-based Indigenous designer whose pillow covers, table runners, towels, and blankets are remarkable.
I could spend this entire list talking about Indigenous clothing businesses, but it’s important to point out much Indigenous clothing is available in stores that are not Indigenous-owned.
So, when buying an Indigenous article, ask who the artist is and where they are from (geographically and First Nation). If the business owner doesn’t know, it’s likely mass-made, from a non-Indigenous corporation.
Some my favourite places to buy Indigenous clothing online is Ojibwe Apparel and Cosmetics, a local family that sells T-shirts, youth apparel, and women’s clothing that are hip, well-made, and amazing for work or the gym.
Another good place is MakadeMigizi.ca, a Selkirk-based Indigenous online business, featuring clothing with Indigenous languages.
For purses and accessories, try Nishiin Designs, an online business run by Cherie Fontane from Sagkeeng, whose original designs are always selling out. Another exceptional designer is Anne Mulaire, whose Métis fashions can be found at her boutique at 421 Mulvey Ave.
Some of the best jewelry in Manitoba can be found at Fat Daug, which features hand-carved antler earrings, pendants, and other jewelry available for purchase online or at Winnipeg retail locations.
One Indigenous clothing business getting a lot of attention is Étchiboy, a Métis-owned Winnipeg business that features Métis sashes, Voyageur toques, and dozens of sweater, blanket, and bag designs.
For footwear, the gold standard continues to be Manitobah Mukluks, which continues to work out of Winnipeg’s North End but ships across Canada. Its latest design, the "Belcourt Gatherer," featured the art of Christi Belcourt and sold out almost immediately.
There are also incredible moccasins, mitts, and sweaters available by local Winnipeg-based creators at Cree-Ations Gallery (586 Main St.), Teekca’s Aboriginal Boutique (at The Forks), and Winnipeg Trading Post (1128 Main St.).
All of these opportunities to buy Indigenous represent investments in ourselves. In Manitoba. In the future.
Niigaan Sinclair is Anishinaabe and is a columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press.
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