July 20th, 2024

University market showcases Indigenous entrepreneurs

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 13, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Students and visitors browse items at one of the displays at the Indigenous Merchants Market on Tuesday as part of the celebration of Indigenous Awareness Week at the University of Lethbridge.

As a part of the celebration of Indigenous Awareness Week at the University of Lethbridge a launch of “We are Iniskim” was showcased along with an Indigenous Merchant Market on Tuesday.

In 2002 Elder Bruce Wolf Child gifted University of Lethbridge with the Blackfoot name of Iniskim, meaning Sacred Buffalo Stone. University of Lethbridge has created a new design of a yellow buffalo to further honour the name Iniskim.

“We’ve been collaborating with Iniskim Indigenous relations, to create an official line of merchandise that features their logo. As soon as we heard that, they were designing a logo that was specific to an outcome,said University of Lethbridge operations bookstore manager Kari Tanaka.

“We wanted to work with them to create something to be a regular part of the store.”

Tanaka added that 15 per cent of all sales will be donated to Indigenous students for scholarships on campus.

“We’re hoping to be able to add to the line, keep growing the line as the years go by and keep refreshing it. So it’s new and exciting. But it will be a permanent fixture in the URL bookstore,” she said.

Shanda Webber, Director of Strategic Indigenous Learning Initiatives, said the buffalo has significance to the Blackfoot people.

“It’s a really important honor for us as an institution to have a name but also with that honour comes great significance of the role that we play.

“Here in Blackfoot territory, the buffalo used to be everything for our people. It used to be our food. . . it helped us survive,” but now education is the new buffalo, said Webber.

The Iniskim logo was launched Monday at the opening ceremony for Indigenous Awareness Week.

Tanaka said she is joyful that the university has a visual representation of Iniskim.

“I love that it tells our story at a glance. Like the sacred buffalo stone, and it’s just such an important part of our university and our campus and it’s nice that we can finally wear it and represent,” said Tanaka.

All the sales made at the Indigenous market go

Josie Grier, president of My All Relations Indigenous Student Association, said the university has a desire to showcase Indigenous entrepreneurs.

“We are really just wanting to showcase Indigenous entrepreneurs. We have various vendors today. We want to just really showcase our vibrant community that we have in the surrounding area and provide a platform for them,” said Grier.

Tanaka said they wanted the design launch of Iniskim to be alongside the Indigenous merchant market.

“We wanted actually be able to introduce ourselves to and meet some of the other local Indigenous artists that are here displaying their stuff,” she said.

Webber emphasized how the new buffalo is education and the impact it has on both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

“Education is the new buffalo. We’re really hoping to provide pathways for all of our indigenous as well as our non-Indigenous youth to strive and be successful for education.

Grier said the Indigenous merchant market not only supports Indigenous entrepreneurs but also educates people on the Indigenous culture.

“You can follow them moving forward and just maybe spark an interest of looking more into Indigenous people, Indigenous history, culture, and everything,” she said.

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