A passion for sharing their culture has inspired two Indigenous entrepreneurs to create a trading network open to everyone in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo area.
Jes Croucher and Sheena Bradley launched the Nistawâyâw Traditional Trading project on Facebook and Instagram in late November with the goal of teaching respectful trading.
Croucher, who is part of the Fort McMurray 468 First Nation, runs Pawâmiw Creative, which showcases Indigenous art and plans events. Pawâmiw is Cree for “she/he has a dream spirit.”
Bradley, who is part of McMurray Métis, runs Omisimâw Wellness, which sells locally-sourced herbal medicines. Omisimâw is Cree for “oldest daughter.” The Nistawâyâw Traditional Trading project is a collaboration between the two businesses.
“Trading is just one small piece of the systems we had in place before settler arrival,” said Croucher. “Through trading, we’re hopefully teaching the broader community about how part of Indigenous culture is about including everybody.”
The trading group accepts offerings such as plant medicines, smudging materials, beadwork, crafting supplies, homemade goods and harvested meats. Anyone can join as long as rules of respect and kindness are followed. For Bradley, the trading group is a chance to teach people about ethically sourcing and consuming Indigenous medicines.
“There has been a theme of selling and commodifying white sage and other sacred medicines,” said Bradley. “It’s even happened within our community where Indigenous women have spoken against it but have been silenced.”
“We want to show people that you can get these things and you can use them, but there are certain protocols you need to follow.”
Bradley is a traditional herbalist and an Indigenous birthwork student. She uses her knowledge of local medicines to create natural balms, bath salt blends and oils.
In the future, Bradley hopes Omisimâw Wellness will include medicine walks teaching people about honourable harvests, and workshops on handling harvested medicinal herbs and plants. Croucher hopes the Nistawâyâw Traditional Trading project will be a chance to teach Indigenous culture through the arts.
“I have a group of aunties who bead all day, every day,” said Croucher. “I originally started Pawâmiw as a way to get their work out there but it has turned into a lot more than that.”
Once the COVID-19 pandemic ends, Croucher hopes to organize in-person events, such as a market, an Indigenous cultural theatre production and fashion show.
“This is something I’m hoping will touch base with both the western community and Indigenous community,” she said.
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Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter