Nîkihk Cleaning Products to open store, art workshop in Saskatoon
- NC Raine | September 23, 2021
The creation and success of First Nations-owned nîkihk Cleaning Products has been a silver lining in the grey cloud of the pandemic.
The company, owned by Battleford Agency Tribal Chiefs (BATC), will open its own store at Midtown Plaza in downtown Saskatoon in mid-October.
Nîkihk has grown like wildflowers since beginning in March 2020. It has already sold about 80,000 cleaning kits, and their products can be found in about 25 retail stores in most Saskatchewan cities.
“This location is perfect. This will be a place that hopefully will act as a learning place, where we can promote our languages, customs, our arts and our gifts,” said Neil Sasakamoose, BATC Executive Director and President of nîkihk.
The Midtown location will be more than a retail space: it will also house a workshop for local Indigenous artisans and craftspeople to work on and showcase their products. Because nîkihk has provided the opportunity for Indigenous people to create products grounded in local traditions and customs, they want to make space for others to do the same, Sasakamoose said.
“We will bring people who are great with their artistic vision. People who can interpret culture and traditions into art. This is what this place will represent. This will be a place where local artists can come and create,” he said.
Vice Chief David Pratt of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) applauds the business, which he says is good for everyone.
“Things like this are so important for our Tribal Councils and for our 74 First Nations. We start to see our people get involved in the economy. That's so good because it just doesn't benefit Indigenous people, it benefits non-Indigenous people as well. So we're really happy and pleased to see entities like this get developed and business opportunities get created for our people. We know this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Nîkihk's success was born out of a necessity to supply First Nations with cleaning and sanitation products at the beginning of the pandemic, when supplies were short. After meeting with Saskatoon-based cleaning company EnvironWay, BATC sought Elders and Knowledge Keepers to collaborate on a product that incorporates local plants.
Women are at the forefront of the company, from the beginning and going forward, Sasakamoose said.
“I can't say enough about our strong women leaders,” he said.
“They have been essential. It's our Elders, women and ladies, who named it, they gave us permission to use the products… as long as you listen and follow things in order, you'll be fine. When you get out of that order, you'll get in trouble.”