Nîkihk store opens in Saskatoon mall
- NC Raine | November 26, 2021
Indigenous artisan products will join nîkihk cleaning products for sale at a new retail storefront in Saskatoon's Midtown Plaza.
The company, owned by the member First Nations of Battleford Agency Tribal Chiefs' (BATC) began creating essential cleaning products for their communities soon after the pandemic began and became known to people who received free products at three tribal council vaccination centres earlier this year,
The nîkihk store opened November 24 and is located just inside Midtown Plaza's front entrance, beside Starbucks – possibly the most heavily trafficked and visible area of the mall.
Since launching nîkihk as a way for BATC to create financial opportunities while providing products for their members, the brand has flourished and can be found in grocery stores in every city in Saskatchewan.
“I think a lot of the interest in nîkihk has to do with Canada looking more into Reconciliation and ways to support Indigenous people. Everything that happened over the summer with the discoveries at the Residential schools, people want to support Indigenous business,” said Alessandra Pooyak, assistant manager at nîkihk.
“I think a lot of (the success) has to do with people wanting to understand our culture,” she said.
Nîkihk, which started with eight cleaning products, now offers 28 different products, including personal care and hygiene products such as shampoo, conditioner and bubble bath soap.
The store also sells handmade jewelry and accessories, beaded hats and Indigenous branded clothing from about 40 Indigenous artisans, half of whom are from BATC communities. Artisans from around the province responded to a call for submissions from nîkihk, who then selected goods to feature in the store.
“We really want to showcase these artisans. We really have so many talented people, and I don't know if they know how really talented they are,” said Deb Albert, manager and cultural coordinator at nîkihk.
In the interest of supporting independent creators, the nîkihk store also has created space for a workshop where artisans will be able to work and hold community workshops, and Elders will have storytelling times for children.
“We have to talk about how important it is that we are here today, and that continue to rise despite the genocide, despite the barriers that are put in our way. This is what we are doing. Our people are coming together and working together to build each other up and build our success stories,” said Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Third Vice-Chief Aly Bear at the opening ceremony.
One of nîkihk's loyal customers is Saskatoon Deputy Mayor David Kirton, whose household is nîkihk-exclusive since receiving a free gift box of cleaning products after being vaccinated, he said.
“It isn't just from Indigenous to Indigenous. This is Indigenous to non-Indigenous as well. I hope to see so many non-Indigenous people in here. You learn as you shop, and that's the beauty of a place like this,” said Kirton.