SASKATOON — Indigenous artists will soon have their own place to promote their artwork where Indigenous products, like Nikihk cleaning kits, are also going to be sold. The location is near the Midtown mall entrance on First Avenue just across from Starbucks.
Battlefords Agency Tribal Council Executive Director Neil Sasakamoose told SASKTODAY at Tuesday’s ceremonial handling of the key by Midtown executives that the location will work to their advantage as they try to further promote Indigenous and locally produced items.
“The location is in central Saskatchewan and in the largest city of the province. We have 27,000 First Nations members that live in Saskatoon. A lot of our artists, right now, don’t have a central place where they can get their goods to a quality location. Soon, this is going to be their location,” said Sasakamoose.
“This [Midtown] is where a lot of our First Nations and Indigenous artists, Métis as well, will come. It’s in the Midtown Plaza, you can’t ask for a better location in terms of body traffic and people coming in to purchase goods and services here. We’re hoping that even non-First Nations, and I know they will, will come here and look at the products that are being produced locally and will support us. I see a lot of non-First Nations people that will come in the store.”
Sasakamoose added that they are just helping Indigenous artists break through the mainstream market.
“We’re hopefully putting it in a place. Like a nice and clean place where people will appreciate their work and Indigenous crafts. It takes time to create our Indigenous crafts, it takes a lot of effort.
“And we’re hoping that this will be a good place for them where people will spend the right amount to get high value products and respect the value that’s being purchased. That’s what we’re trying to do. Plus, we get to promote our language and we get to promote ‘Every Child Matters’ here.”
Project to promote reconciliation
Aside from being a store where you can find and buy Indigenous-made products, the location will also have a workshop and exhibits about the culture of First Nations and other Indigenous peoples.They will also be selling orange shirts that symbolize the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
“We get to promote reconciliation and where non-First Nations and Indigenous Peoples will go through a partnership," said Sasakamoose. "You come in here and you will get to learn more about our culture through our arts and crafts. There will be a workshop here where people can watch Indigenous artists work on their artwork and other items. They can ask questions and learn more about it and at the same time, we’re here to support our Indigenous entrepreneurs.”
Nikihk, which means “My Home” in Plains Cree, cleaning products like hand soap, hand sanitizers, laundry detergent and bathroom and kitchen cleaners will also be sold at the store. Nikihk is a brainchild of BATC’s Investment Branch in co-operation with local manufacturers and the federal government.
“All of our Nikihk products will be sold here, from household to personal care. It is the basis of this business. So, this is where people can purchase all First Nations products,” said Sasakamoose.
Nikihk cleaning products are being manufactured at the Corman Park Industrial Area where the workers are from member First Nations who went through the Atoskiwin Training and Employment Program. Nîkihk’s hand sanitizer is Health Canada approved and is made from pharmaceutical grade ethanol that’s from locally grown Saskatchewan wheat.
Last July, BATC made Nikihk products available to a bigger market in co-operation with Sobeys Preston Crossing. Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Second Vice-Chief David Pratt, Moosomin First Nation Chief Bradley Swiftwolfe, Cree language translator Randy Morin, Deb Albert (store manager), Glenna Henderson (assistant store manager), Rupa Tandon, and Midtown Plaza general manager Janice Sander and specialty leasing manager Linda Young were also at the event.