by Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative
(ANNews) – The Enoch Cree Nation is hosting their community’s first annual Holiday Market – maskêkosihk pipon atâwêwikamik at the River Cree Hotel and Casino to support emerging Indigenous Entrepreneurs and Indigenous commerce.
December 3-5, from 12 pm – 8 pm daily, holiday shoppers who attend the Holiday Market will meet emerging Indigenous businesses and first-time entrepreneurs showcasing products that are beyond the buckskin.
“We have over 49 top Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs as vendors at the holiday market. Guests can enjoy Indigenous cuisine and more,” explained Enoch Cree Nation Chief Billy Morin.
“We created an opportunity to showcase Indigenous entrepreneurship. Our goal is to support Indigenous businesses at the event, we have more than arts and crafts. We have new clothing apparel designers, t-shirt designers, skincare, and more,” said Amberly Morin, Tourism Director of Enoch Cree Nation.
The community is hoping this market event will build on the massive success that their Night Market had back in July. Over 25,000 visitors attended that event.
“These market events are an opportunity to educate others about our Indigenous cultures by showcasing, highlighting, and presenting beautiful craftsmanship, artwork, entertainment, and cuisine,” said Morin.
“More importantly, it’s an opportunity to support and honour our First Nation, Metis, & Inuit entrepreneurs, artists, and chefs.
Enoch opened up their Holiday Market to support a wide range of budding Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses. “Twenty percent of the vendors are from Enoch and the other 80 percent were open to all other Indigenous vendors,” said Morin.
During the middle of the pandemic, there was an increase in mental health and social issues but there was also an increase in creativity. Morin said that she noticed a lot of Cree creativity and brilliance on social media. Many Cree artisans were selling their items online and doing ribbon skirt raffles and showcasing their beautiful Indigenous art pieces.
“Many Indigenous people were using online platforms to showcase their culture, identity, and indigenous pride,” said Morin.
She said Enoch’s priority is to create an opportunity at their world-class venue for all emerging Indigenous artists to showcase their beautiful products and services at the Holiday Market.
The Enoch Cree Nation tourism department is designing events to showcase Indigenous products and services to both non-Indigenous and Indigenous customers, said Morin.
Albertans want to support new and young entrepreneurs who are Indigenous, she explained. There are not many options or stores available in Alberta to support Indigenous commerce.
Part of the process included education, added Morin. “We encourage our people to tell their stories, showcase their work and we will support them in that way because we want to do that for our communities.”
Many of the Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses participating in the market are first-time vendors and Indigenous Tourism Alberta provided an educational tool for vendors on how to be professional.
“During the Enoch Night Market we provided Indigenous vendors with an online video,” said Mackenzie Brown, Project Manager, Senior at Indigenous Tourism Alberta.
The video was extremely helpful and served as a guideline for first-time Indigenous entrepreneurs on sales techniques, point of sale, professionalism, and product pricing.
Morin encourages prospective non-indigenous customers to come and experience the Holiday Market. Not only will they be greeted by an array of beautiful gift items but supporting Indigenous entrepreneurship is also an act of reconciliation. The vast majority of Indigenous businesses are under-represented in Canada.
The Canadian Chambers of Commerce website states, “Building relationships with groups that are often under-represented in business is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also critical to our national competitiveness and well-being.
“A seismic shift is underway in the current and potential heft of Indigenous peoples in our society and economy. Indigenous peoples contribute billions of dollars to our economy annually and they are creating new businesses at five times the rate of non-Indigenous peoples.”
Chief Billy Morin explained that hosting events such as this market is part of practicing his Nation’s economic sovereignty. His nation is developing prosperity and at the same time they are providing opportunities to Alberta’s emerging Indigenous Commerce.
“Business is the universal language,” he said.
Masks are mandatory at the Holiday Market and all participants must show proof of double vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the past 72 hours. There are no exceptions. For more information visit www.rivercreeresort.com