Shop Local: Gift Ideas From Canada’s Indigenous Artisans

Onquata Paddles

Keep up with the shop local trend and support Canada's vibrant Indigenous community this holiday season with these unique products. Photo: Courtesy of Onquata

The holidays are here and, with that, making those gift lists begins. More than ever, it’s important that we support local and show our true north spirit in support of the Indigenous artisans who cover this country far and wide. 

Did you know that there are more than 700 unique Indigenous communities across Canada? As small businesses and sole traders struggle with the fall-out of COVID-19, it’s important to shop local to support the stores and makers who are the creative foundation of our communities.

There are a variety of Indigenous artisans and makers that can introduce you to authentic Indigenous arts and crafts – all made with love by First Nations, Inuit and Métis People from across Canada. 

We asked our friends at the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) to give us a few of their favourites, as part of its holiday gift guide of unique Indigenous-made arts, crafts, fashions and treats, which offers shoppers an exciting way to support Indigenous communities within Canada, so many of which have been hard hit by the effects of the global pandemic. They even included a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who want to inspire wanderlust by giving the gift of travel (or just experiencing it themselves when we can all travel safely again!). Find out more at buyauthentic.ca.

 

For the Foodie

Wabanaki Traditional Maple Syrup, Tobique First Nation, New Brunswick

 

Photo: Courtesy of Wabanaki

 

Inspired by its roots, Wabanaki maple syrup is a sophisticated blend of pure, natural traditional flavours. Sophisticated because the 100 per cent Indigenous female-owned company has taken traditional methods – passed down from generation to generation that are shared by many Peoples of the Wabanaki Confederacy; Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq, Penobscot, Abenakie and Passamaquoddy, and before sugar arrived to North America – and borrowed from the spirits distilling trade. The maple syrup is barrel-aged in bourbon, whisky and toasted oak casks. Maple syrup is also considered by First Nations Peoples to have healing and nourishing powers. Sweet gift idea, indeed. 

For the Fashionista

Manitobah Mukluks, Winnipeg

 

Manitobah Mukluks
Photo: Manitobah Mukluks

 

Dashing through the fresh-fallen snow fills our dreams. We’re inspired to get out there and enjoy our natural world by this Indigenous-owned company with a vision to build a global brand that makes a significant impact in Indigenous communities. The mukluk is one of the original winter boots in Canada and has been known for generations as the warmest winter boot in the world. Many of Manitobah Mukluk’s boots, moccasins, slippers and accessories are made in keeping with tradition, including Métis culture, at the company’s HQ in Winnipeg, while reinvesting time and capital to contribute to Indigenous success. Of course, modern innovations such as AuthenTEC waterproofing (inspired by an ancestral coating made from pine pitch and spruce gum), Vibram soles (high-performance rubber and, in some cases, serves as a canvas for an Indigenous story subtly carved into the rubber) and fur sourced from farmers who sell the meat for food and the materials would otherwise be considered waste. For more, visit  manitobah.ca.

 

For the DIY Designer

Onquata Paddles, Wendake, Quebec

 

Onquata Paddles
Photo: Courtesy of Onquata

 

Up the creek without a paddle? A natural outdoorsy type? Why not marry their love of nature and an active life with these beautifully crafted paddles that marry form and function? Born from the inspiration of Lise and Lara, a Wendat mother-daughter duo, Onquata is renowned for its hand-painted paddles inspired by First Nations culture. Handmade in Wendake, each paddle is custom hand-painted and made to order. Paddles can be purely decorative and are available in different formats – but even better, they also retain their traditional purpose and can be adapted for use on the water.

Set of three paddles, 5 inches x 40 inches, available in multiple colours and designs. For more, visit onquata.com

For the Traveller 

Big Sand Lake Lodge, Manitoba

 

Big Sand Lake Lodge
Photo: Courtesy of Big Sand Lake Lodge

 

Be immersed in the hospitality of the First Nations from South Indian Lake (O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation) at this lodge located on an ancient glacier esker, deep within the subarctic wilderness of Manitoba. Fishing enthusiasts can cast a line in some of Canada’s most prized fishing waters more than 500 miles north of Winnipeg. Take the Canadian Trophy Gland Slam challenge and try to land all four sportfish in a single visit: Northern pike, lake trout, walleye and Arctic grayling, all in potential trophy sizes, thanks to 60,000 acres of pristine water surrounding the lodge – the only one on the lake. All fishing packages include round-trip flights on a twin-engine turbo-prop from Winnipeg direct to the lodge’s private landing strip (there are no roads leading in to the lodge), cosy five-star cabins with wood-burning stoves and jaw-dropping panoramic views of the lake and forest. For information, visit Bigsandlakelodge.com.