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Decolonizing the Trading Post

 

Art: “Patience” by Chief Lady Bird.Art: “Patience” by Chief Lady Bird.

During the long drive to my new home in northwestern Ontario, I pass numerous Trading Posts that line the highway. I love Indigenous-made products and art but these places are often depressing, trading more in the fetishization and commercialization of Indigeneity for the amusement of colonial settlers.

The Trading Post I stopped into at Espanola featured an Indigenous section with leather products and some authentic traditional artwork. I picked out gorgeous moccasins but when I reached the checkout, I gagged at shelves lined with knock-offs—appropriated Indigeneity, Canada 150 promotional products, sweatshirts adorned with moose and Mounties, tacky souvenirs made who knows where.

Is a person meant to pair some Manitobah Mukluks with signature Hudson’s Bay Company striped mittens—one showing your appreciation of Indigenous culture, the other revealing just how deeply your thoughts are trapped in a colonial mindset? It’s a trendy look that makes me cringe.

I couldn’t buy the moccasins and couldn’t stop thinking about the colonial roots of Trading Posts—or Consumerism Posts as Chief Lady Bird of Mnjikaning First Nation (FN) calls them. I turned to her and Faith Redsky of Shoal Lake FN, two powerhouse Anishinabekwe artists, to help me  understand how we can support the Indigenous Femxle* & Two-Spirited economy across Turtle Island, while avoiding the colonial commodification, appropriation and racism often on glaring display alongside Indigenous-made products.


Both have travelled the same winding highway and are equally perplexed by the continued existence of Trading Posts. As Chief Lady Bird asked, “What are we trading when we go in? We are exchanging money for goods. It’s not really trading; it’s just capitalism and consumerism, you know what I mean?”

So what does it mean to enter a real trading post? Let’s strap on our non-binary lenses and delve into these waters together, in an act of decolonizing our thought processes while learning new ways of being, knowing and supporting one another. Understanding Indigeneity outside of a monolith is an important step. That means respecting the opinions and teachings of each community, each individual.

Is a person meant to pair some Manitobah Mukluks with signature Hudson’s Bay Company striped mittens—one showing your appreciation of Indigenous culture, the other revealing just how deeply your thoughts are trapped in a colonial mindset? It’s a trendy look that makes me cringe.

I couldn’t buy the moccasins and couldn’t stop thinking about the colonial roots of Trading Posts—or Consumerism Posts as Chief Lady Bird of Mnjikaning First Nation (FN) calls them. I turned to her and Faith Redsky of Shoal Lake FN, two powerhouse Anishinabekwe artists, to help me  understand how we can support the Indigenous Femxle* & Two-Spirited economy across Turtle Island, while avoiding the colonial commodification, appropriation and racism often on glaring display alongside Indigenous-made products.

Both have travelled the same winding highway and are equally perplexed by the continued existence of Trading Posts. As Chief Lady Bird asked, “What are we trading when we go in? We are exchanging money for goods. It’s not really trading; it’s just capitalism and consumerism, you know what I mean?”

So what does it mean to enter a real trading post? Let’s strap on our non-binary lenses and delve into these waters together, in an act of decolonizing our thought processes while learning new ways of being, knowing and supporting one another. Understanding Indigeneity outside of a monolith is an important step. That means respecting the opinions and teachings of each community, each individual.

Faith Redsky

Faith Redsky

Faith Redsky is a beader, designer, painter, and potter. She is inspired by traditional Ojibwe florals, contemporary and streetwear styles, and incorporates as many bright and beautiful colors into her work. One of her most recent pieces include the use of birch bark; earrings, pendants, bags etc.

How do we tell the difference between Indigenous-made and non-Indigenous-made products? Are Indigenous-made items merely a sum of their physical pieces?

Faith puts it this way: “I am not a sweatshop, I put my spirit and energy into my work.” Expecting Indigenous artists to create “on-demand” for others has negative impacts on mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. She shared the need for buyers to understand that purchasing from Indigenous makers may cost more than appropriated knock-offs—and that is because you are also paying for their teachings, spirit and the time to create for the world. To ignore this would be to undervalue the sacredness of the items. Faith shared her teachings that beaded jewellery should be treated as sacred and not be worn when consuming alcoholic or other mind-altering substances or in settings where those substances are present, such as night clubs. “Something that was authentically made and handmade…coming from materials that were hunted ethically, tracked ethically, tanned in the community by people who hold this knowledge from their ancestors and their family, there is just something about it. It kind of goes beyond words when you come in contact with something that is made Indigenously.”

What are the biggest barriers facing Indigenous womxn* and Two-Spirited entrepreneurs attempting to navigate these patriarchal colonial spaces?

Both Chief Lady Bird and Faith identified a myriad of barriers, including the transactional platforms themselves. Faith shared that the lack of a centralized space to find local Indigenous makers—such as a mass website where you could search for moccasins, mukluks, pieces of regalia, etc—poses a challenge for smaller makers seeking to sell their wares. However, a centralized site is not without issues, as Chief Lady Bird eloquently expresses. These systems of purchasing defy the traditional ways of reciprocal being and take the spirit out of the transaction. It’s why she doesn’t have a website for her artwork, but utilizes social media as the tool for both engagement and sale.

As womxn* from historically Matriarchal communities, they identified the consumeristic patriarchal society we exist in as the largest barrier. It places expectations on womxn*, Indigenous womxn* in particular, to take advice from non-Indigenous folks, meet unrealistic mechanical deadlines and follow the colonial ways of being. Boundary setting, and staying true to oneself and teachings, is challenging but also the most important part of being an Indigenous entrepreneur.

It’s an act of resisting appropriation. As Chief Lady Bird described, “the whole colonial consumeristic capitalist mindset is like ‘let’s make a bunch of this for less money so more people get it and we make more money’ and that’s never been the Indigenous way of making and selling our goods … This mentality is just so ingrained and a lot of people are stuck in the system without realizing that they are stuck in it.” She went on to discuss the personal impacts of appropriation when she publicly stood up against Amanda PL, a non Indigenous artist working in the style of an acclaimed Indigenous painter. The backlash she endured — horrendously abused online, degraded in public shopping centres—detrimentally affected her wellbeing. She felt isolated and alone against the colonial world despite the immense strength she knew she carries with her as a proud Anishinabekwe.

Chief Lady Bird

Chief Lady Bird

Chief Lady Bird is a Chippewa and Potawatomi artist from Rama First Nation and Moosedeer Point First Nation, who is currently based in Rama. She graduated from OCAD University in 2015 with a BFA in Drawing and Painting and a minor in Indigenous Visual Culture.

How can non-Indigenous folks respectfully participate in supporting Indigenous femxle* and Two-Spirited entrepreneurs?

Chief Lady Bird shared that when it comes to jewelry or artwork “the overall general rule and consensus from the community is for non-Indigenous people to simply do their research, do their work to make sure that they are forwarding, supporting and uplifting and purchasing wares from actual Indigenous artists.” However, she expressed that “in terms of something like ribbon skirts I feel like that it is a little bit different because that’s something we would wear to ceremony and I feel that if someone non-Indigenous is buying it, they are not necessarily wearing in the intended way” – that is unless they are accepted by an Indigenous community where they are welcomed to participate in ceremonies and hold the teachings to do so, like her sister-in-law.

Faith added that we must understand that not every Indigenous artist creates in the same ways. Buyers need to respect the teachings of makers and their spiritual journey as making products is not simply about their source of income. You can do this by politely asking questions and not belittling artists, which happens frequently when a non-Indigenous purchaser is told that something cannot be made exactly as they wish it to be.

And now that we have deepened our understanding and decolonized the trading post, where can we find and support Indigenous femxle* and Two-Spirited entrepreneurs?

This Indigenous Women’s Holiday Market is a great place to start your search.

The Indigenous Media Network has compiled this list of local makers.

The InuitArt Quarterly provides a search site,

And this CBC article provides a number of helpful links and search tags.

Faith Redsky is a self taught artist from Shoal Lake 40 First Nations. Currently living in Thunder Bay, and attending Lakehead University for her degree in Bachelor of Education and Visual arts. She is a beader, designer, painter, and potter. She is inspired by traditional Ojibwe florals, contemporary and streetwear styles, and incorporates as many bright and beautiful colors into her work. One of her most recent pieces include the use of birch bark; earrings, pendants, bags etc.

Chief Lady Bird is a Chippewa and Potawatomi artist from Rama First Nation and Moosedeer Point First Nation, who is currently based in Rama. She graduated from OCAD University  in  2015  with  a  BFA  in  Drawing  and  Painting  and  a  minor  in  Indigenous  Visual Culture. Chief Lady Bird’s art practice is continuously shapeshifting, and is always heavily influenced by her passion for empowering and uplifting Indigenous folks through the subversion of colonial narratives. She utilizes her social media platform(s) along with digital illustration, acrylic painting,  mixed media portraits, and murals to centre contemporary truths and  envision  Indigenous  Futurisms  by  portraying  intersectional  Indigenous  experiences and asserting our presence on stolen land. Specifically, much of her work is based on the stories we tell through the reclamation of our bodies and sexuality, which often intersects with land sovereignty and language reclamation, and activates peripheral dialogues about tattooing practices, cultural appropriation, reconnection and various forms of love (self love,lateral love, ancestral love). She hopes that her images can be a catalyst for reimagining our relationship with the land, each other, and ourselves.
Chief  Lady  Bird  has  illustrated  for  notable  organizations  such  as  Chirp  Magazine,  Flare Magazine, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Scholastic and Vice News to name a few. In 2019 she provided  the  illustrations  for  the  animated  video  “Land  Acknowledgements  And  Why  Are They Important” by Selena Mills and Local Love, which has been circulated widely throughout  many  educational  institutions  to  guide  educators  toward  a  deeper  understanding  of Land Acknowledgements and their cultural significance. She also created the book cover design for Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves UK release, and designed the #IndigenousPeoplesDay Turtle Island emoji for Twitter in 2018. In 2019, Chief Lady Bird illustrated the Scholastic children’s book Nibi’s Water Song authored by Sunshine Tenasco of Her Braids. This book follows the journey of a young Indigenous girl who fights for clean water for her community. As quoted by Quill and Quire: “Tenasco writes openly and honestly about the unequal treatment of Indigenous communities in Canada. Nibi’s song conveys the powerful message that clean water is a basic human right that should be afforded to everyone regardless of their ethnicity. The book successfully functions as a catalyst for an important conversation between parents and children.

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What’s Up Minister Ng?

Join PK Mutch, publisher of LIisBeth Media in short (10 minutes) pop up interview with Canadian Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion where Minister Ng talks informally about her goals for women entrepreneurs in Canada and what’s next for the Canadian federal government’s  Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy.

 

For more information on The Fifth Wave, Canada’s first feminist business accelerator, click here. Fifth Wave is an initiative of the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) and supports womxn founders in digital media.

 

 


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https://www.liisbeth.com/2019/08/09/federal-government-announces-3-6-million-investment-in-women-led-social-enterprises-in-ontario/


 

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LIISBETH DISPATCH #48

“Comfort & Joy” photo by: Jack Jackson

VIEWPOINT

Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

That’s how I felt standing next to Gloria Steinem in Toronto last week. Steinem is now eighty-four years old and still wearing boots with five-inch heels.

The woman is beyond inspiration.

A powerful voice for feminism, as well as a professional and personal governance role model extraordinaire, Steinem makes no apologies about her views on patriarchy as a persistent rapacious force of devastation for both half the planet and the environment. She is genuine when she says she wants to (still) change the ridiculous situation in the US.

And at a time of year that can be a bowl of mixed nuts for many, it was grounding to hear the words from a woman who never gave up on the movement or the fight. She’s been ridiculed, criticized, heckled, and slammed for her ideas of equality and fairness. But she kept going, continually unearthing, learning, leveraging her incredible humanity, creativity, and wicked wit to advance gender equality.

During the panel session which followed her keynote, Steinem was asked if she believed that a gender just world would be possible by 2030. Seven hundred of us attending the “Courage of A Movement” event waited in suspense.

After a few moments, she replied “I’m a hopeaholic. Yes, we do need to be realistic. But I do think hope is kind of planning. I have to say that part of the good thing about being old and I am very old, is that we remember when it was worse. We can all see how bonkers [patriarchy] is and that’s why we need to work together-the young and the old. 

We each have something to bring. So I’ll bring hope. You bring anger. And there’s no stopping us.”

Wow. With that, I left feeling joyous and full of ambition for 2019.

Read the full VIEWPOINT here.

THIS WEEK ON LIISBETH 

The Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum 2018 snapshot review by Jack Jackson.
Music credit: This Changing Life by Joan Armatrading

What the EFF? Wow. The 2018 Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum was a jam-packed two days of provocative talks, lab sessions, “think and do” workshops, movement classes, and creative writing practice. Overall theme? CONNECT + TAKE ACTION. We’ll have a full report next year but for now, check out these SIX action items from the forum here.

Shecosystem coworking and wellness space, Toronto, Canada

If you’re working at an organization that is closing, the story of Shecosystem shutting their doors might give you renewed hope and a different perspective. As we usher in a new year, perhaps identifying what needs to end, change, or be “shecomposted” in your business (or life!) is worth a closer look. Read Sue Nador’s piece on how shecomposting is fertilizing new ground here.

It’s Campaign Season! If you think our advocacy for women and gender-non conforming entrepreneurs is worthy, or you find our content of value professionally, we hope you will consider contributing to our 2018 Patreon Fund Raising Campaign. Each online magazine refresh and newsletter takes a community to create and disseminate. We have 2000+ subscribers, but less than 30% contribute financially. We are open access and rely 100% on reader donations. Our impact is measurable. So if social justice and economic transformation are on your intentions and gratitude list this year, here’s your chance to donate to LiisBeth.

LIISBETH FIELD NOTES 

Carol Anne Hilton speaks at the EFF 2018 on Indigenomics

When Giants Break Free-A New Reality for Indigenous Relations in Canada

On Dec 5th, EFF speaker Carol Anne Hilton’s report on the indigenous economy in Canada and its potential to reach $100B by 2023 was released. The report says that if achieved, “total Aboriginal income would be greater than the level of nominal GDP of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island combined.” Hilton is the founder of the Indigenomics Institute, an economic advisory group launched in 2018 that works with public governments, Indigenous communities, and the private sector to overcome economic barriers imposed on Indigenous communities. You can read the full report here.

Photo credit: www.isachandra.com

Vegan Egg Nog?

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is the best-selling author of Isa Does It and Veganomicon, and her restaurant Modern Love has locations in Omaha and Brooklyn. Her recipes are equals parts humour and delight. Cheers to Isa’s Matrioshka Eggnog recipe for a creative twist on a holiday favourite!

Huge kudos to Christina Zeidler, Chief Alchemist and founder of Toronto’s hottest art hotel, the Gladstone Hotel, and their entire staff for developing and implementing a feminist business framework that guides business decision making and operational practice.  Zeilder and her colleague, Chris Mitchell presented their framework and the journey undertaken to get there at the recent Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum. You can read more about feminist business practice at the Gladstone here. Better yet–just go and stay there! You will feel the difference.

Food Starter entrepreneur Eden and founder of Coco and Al  promoting her Keto friendly baked goods at Food Starter’s booth at the St. Lawrence Farmer’s Market

One-Eyed Innovation Mindset At Work

On Dec 11th, Ontario’s only food processing startup incubator, Food Starter, announced the need to close its doors by January 31st, 2019, leaving 160 self-employed food entrepreneurs and growth stage companies without accessibly to well-priced food processing resources and a place to make their products. Over 65% of Food Starter’s clients were women and 80% were people of colour and/or newcomers. Programming which supported their market feasibility assessments and commercialization will also cease.

Meanwhile, just a few miles away, McMaster University announced another $1M in federal funding to expand its tech incubator. Down south, the city of Chicago proudly announced the opening of a new, 67,000 square foot, $34M food and beverage incubator known as “The Hatchery” — with shared kitchens, storage, and office space for roughly 100 startups.

Let’s be clear. Food Starter had sustainability issues from its inception—and not all of them were related to funding. They were however, not intractable. A longer runway would have gone a long way to provide the time needed to sort them out.

The enterprise needed just $500K per year to continue to advance food entrepreneurship in Toronto and beyond.  That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money poured into tech incubation–and conferences like Elevate in Toronto –and across the country every year.

You can’t eat a computer. Just sayin’.

Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

NEW! LIISBETH STORY VOTE 

HEY!  HAVE YOUR SAY! 

We receive MANY queries and asked you last month to choose your favourite from our top 3 but…only got ONE vote 🙁 

So let’s give it another try!

Below are the top 3 story ideas we’ve received recently: VOTE HERE  for your TOP PICK.
OR tell us what you want to read in LiisBeth 2.019!

1. The Duality of Entrepreneurial “Struggle Porn” and Unseen Women’s Labor from a business owner in the gaming industry
2. Portrait of Swedish Feminist Party leader Gudrun Shyman
3. Women are the backbone of Africa’s labor force but lack of opportunities to advance. Why a conducive environment for African women to thrive makes sense.

FEMINIST FREEBIES

LAST CALL! 2 x SIGNED COPIES of Gender Physics by Betty-Ann Heggie. Share our Patreon page on the social media platform of your choice and email us your mailing address here and you got yourself a sweet holiday read.

WHAT WE’RE READING 

Essential for everyone who feels overwhelmed and anxious about our hyper-connected world—whether you’re a corporate lawyer, a student, a sales person, or a yoga instructor—How to Not Always Be Working includes practical suggestions and thoughtful musings that prompt you to honestly examine your behavior—how you burn yourself out and why you’re doing it. A creative manifesto for living better, it shows you how to carve sacred space in your life. This book is a quiet revolution, a guide filled with practical advice to help you curb your obsessions and build boundaries between your work, your job, and your life. – Indiebound.org
Marlee Grace lives on the rural coast of California. She works with improvisation as a method for navigating being alive and making work through movement, quilting, writing, and podcasting.

By effortlessly telling this short, intense tale in the voice of an unnamed, ungendered (and brilliantly unreliable) narrator, Dionne Brand makes a bold statement not only about love and personhood, but about race and gender–and what can and cannot be articulated in prose when the forces that inhabit the space between words are greater than words themselves. – Penguin Random House Canada

Theory is a book for those who are intrigued by how a brilliant thinker approaches lost love, unmet potential and unreliable narration. But if none of that appeals to you, Brand’s gorgeous prose and sly humour will definitely win you over. ” – Sadiya Ansari, The Star

AND FINALLY . . . IN CASE YOU MISSED IT! 

  • New $9M Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Announced!  And the Hub grant was given to Ryerson University. What do people think? Read all about it here.

  • Women human rights defenders are under threat worldwide and Amnesty International has chosen to focus all of this year’s Write for Rights cases on courageous women peacefully advocating for human rights. December 10th was International Human Rights Day but the Writeathon.ca continues. Take action here

  • On the lighter side, looking for something different to make for dessert this holiday season? Check out this amazing sweet potato pie recipe by Eden Hagos, founder of Black Foodie. Brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, sweet potatoes…mmmmm.

  • Jennifer Armbrust, founder of Sister and an L.A. based feminist business school and a coach for embodied business practice has launched a new book called Proposals for the Feminine Economy! Check out her website and the book which offers 100 pages of proposals, principles and photos here 

  • Baby, It’s Cold Outside Controversy–Innocent Traditional Song? Or Precursor to Date Rape? “I think the song has always been creepy, but we didn’t have the words to explain why,” said Lydia Liza, 24, a singer-songwriter. Check out this New York Times article and let us know what you think by tweeting us @LiisBethHQ 

That brings us to the end of our December newsletter, the last of 2018! It’s time for the LiisBeth team –and you–to take a break, allow time for self care and reflect on where to take this work in 2019.

To date, we have published 49 newsletters and 168 original feminist business practice stories along with advocacy pieces to help shine a light on this growing community. We have mounted two Entrepreneurial Feminist Forums with our partner, Feminists At Work, and have loved every minute of serving this community and others, working to advance gender and social justice.

As our holiday offering this year, the LiisBeth editorial team (Lana, Margaret and I) donated $200 to help advance the mission of Match International-an international women’s fund working at the intersection of women’s rights and innovation.

Thank you all for your support, volunteer time, feedback, participation, and encouragement. We could not continue to do this work with out you and your readership.

Have a great holiday season, no matter what you celebrate.

We will be back mid-January–with pens and hearts a blazin’–and a lot of good news for 2019!

NamasteCheers, and Peace,