5 seasonally spectacular Indigenous businesses around Nanaimo

Ay Lelum’s pop-up Christmas market will feature Nanaimo-region favourites. This gifting season, don’t miss these local Indigenous businesses.
Ay Lelum - The Good House of Design's newly built studio and gallery features art work from the family and cedar posts.
Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design’s newly built studio and gallery located on Snuneymuxw First Nation territory will be open for a pop-up Christmas market Dec. 10 and 11. Photo courtesy of Ay Lelum/©Ay Lelum

Shopping local has become a regular holiday call, a way to show the talented artists and entrepreneurs in your area some extra love. Pop-up markets and small business networks are eager to share spaces and give back.

Sophia Seward-Good, co-director of Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design, tells The Discourse, “When you support Indigenous businesses you’re supporting more than just a business itself. You’re supporting the family, the cultural and knowledge preservation and also the sharing of knowledge. So, you get a lot more exchange happening than just monetary.”

Ay Lelum will host a pop-up Christmas market on Dec. 10 and 11 at their newly opened studio and culture centre on 1380B Raines Rd. The event hosts Indigenous and non-Indigenous creators they’ve collaborated with over the years.

Vancouver Island is home to numerous Indigenous-owned businesses. While you’ll be able to explore high-quality connections at Ay Lelum’s pop-up Christmas market, we also wanted to highlight five local Indigenous businesses you can shop at this season.

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Photo courtesy of Strong Nations

Strong Nations online bookstore

While Strong Nations, unfortunately, closed their physical store due to pandemic-related financial stressors, the bookstore still calls the Snuneymuxw area home. Operating out of Nanaimo, the online books and gifts store focuses on uplifting Indigenous voices, crafts and stories. 

Photo courtesy of JoJo’s Emporium

JoJo’s Emporium

JoAnn Adams, who is Cree, now calls Vancouver Island home having worked the last 22 years creating a business specializing in imported Indigenous handcrafted Fair Trade artisan clothing, jewelry and accessories. JoJo’s Emporium Collection is their upcycled in-house clothing line.

Photo courtesy of Sea Wisdom Design

Sea Wisdom Design

Located in Parksville and in the southern Comox valley, Sea Wisdom Design offers a range of silver and copper-crafted jewelry. Agnes Seaweed Wisden, of Kwakwaka’wakw and British heritage, has built Sea Wisdom Design from a fun hobby she practiced with her father to “a full-time job that has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”

Don’t Bannock food truck

Gift a loved one the ultimate bannock experience. Don’t Bannock Food Truck delivers “fry bread power” with delights like s’mores bannock, BBQ bannock burgers and a good ol’ First Nation taco. Owner and operator Eileen Ramirez, who is a member of Cowichan Tribes, provides menu and location updates on Facebook. Follow them to see what’s cooking where they’ll be waiting for you to drop by.

Photo courtesy of Don’t Bannock.

Copper Canoe Woman Creations 

Mother, scholar, owner and designer Vina Brown carries the ancestral Haíłzaqvḷa name ƛ̓áqva gḷ́w̓aqs, which roughly translates to Copper Canoe Woman. Her bold jewelry designs are inspired by the weavers and beaders of her Haíłzaqv and Nuu-chah-nulth families along with the striking forms found in her West Coast homelands.

Dom Winsor models Copper Canoe Woman creations. Photo by Fog Line

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