A partnership in Timmins is in place to supply handmade crafts made by local and regional Aboriginal artisans and craft makers.
Niska Artisans is a program to assist Aboriginal artists by purchasing their handmade crafts such as moosehide moccasins and mitts, beaver hats, berets, tamarack birds and purses. The products are then sold at the Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre (OCCC) where anyone can purchase the items.
“It started several years ago because there was a demand for handmade products,” said Helen Kataquapit, Aboriginal artisans assistant.
She said once OCCC sells the items, more items are purchased from local artistans, who hail from James Bay coastal communities.
Kataquapit estimates the non-profit initiative has spent $20,000 in purchasing the items over the past three years, which helps to supplement the incomes of more than 20 participating artisans, including Elders.
Kataquapit said the initiative plays a role in helping to preserve cultural knowledge.
“The artisans strive to keep their culture and traditions alive through their hand-made products and teachings from their ancestors and Elders,” she said.
The program is a joint-initiative with OCCC, the Venture Centre, Mushkegowuk Employment and Training Services, the Timmins Native Friendship Centre and the Mennonite Central Committee, along with several local artisans.
Niska is the Cree word for goose and was chosen by the group for its life-giving qualities to those living in the Timmins-James Bay area. -LC
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