Good things do come out of the COVID-19 pandemic and one of them is a new brand of cleaning products that is owned and operated by a group of Saskatchewan First Nations. Nîkihk, which means “My Home” in Plains Cree, is a brainchild of the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs Investment Branch in collaboration with local manufacturers and the Federal government.
The cleaning kits — composed of hand soap, hand sanitizers, laundry detergent, and bathroom and kitchen cleaners — are being manufactured at the Corman Park Industrial Area where the workers 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.
Sweetgrass First Nation Chief Lorie Whitecalf said she was proud to see a locally-produced product by Indigenous people. “Growing up on Sweetgrass reserve, at that time, I never dreamed of seeing a product created by our people on the store shelf. To be able to participate in the economy of Saskatchewan, not only as consumers but also as suppliers is enormous.”
Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lead Man First Nation Elder Jenny Spyglass, who started Monday’s launching at Sobey’s Preston Crossing with a prayer in Cree, said Nîkihk has a special place in her heart and she recommends using the products.
“Nîkihk means a lot to me because that’s where we rest, that’s where we clean, and that’s where we cook.”
“These products have done a lot for me and my house. They are so easy and light for me to use. Us elderly people, we don’t want to carry heavy [things]. I carry a little spray, and I spray door knobs and other things,” added Spyglass, who is also a BATC and Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations senator.
BATC executive director Neil Sasakamoose said Nîkihk was born out of the pandemic after First Nations people experienced a shortage in cleaning materials.
“We couldn’t find bleaches or toilet paper and other [cleaning] necessities, because everything was sold out. [Nîkihk] comes out of the pandemic and what we tried to do is we started experimenting with a plant.”
“We want to make an Indigenous brand that had the plains and Indigenous sense that were ours. Colours that our people would recognize. We went to see our group of elders and tribal chiefs and we told them that we wanted to use certain berries and certain flowers that are special to the plains people. We talked to them and they said ‘if it would help our people, go ahead. We’re going to allow you to use them.’”
Sasakamoose, who is also the president of the company, added that they are also providing jobs and helping Indigenous peoples.
“We are creating new working opportunities for our members while selling much needed household retail products to keep them and the public safe.”
Nîkihk’s logo is a beadwork of flower and has Cree syllabics to denote its proud Plains Cree origins. Its scents are sourced from local flowers, plants, and herbs and has the Plains Cree language translation on their labels.
Aside from Sobeys Preston Crossing, Nîkihk products are also available online at nîkihk.ca or at Little Market Box, Wanuskewin Gift Shop, and Apollo Solutions in Saskatoon, Bee Plus in North Battleford, Miller’s Market in Melfort, Ochapawace Petro Canada and Cowessess Gas and Grocery, and Saddle Lake Building Supplies in Saddle Lake and Makaoo Mall in Onion Lake.