There’s an increase in demand for Indigenous made goods at this holiday market

Vendors at a Tsuut’ina Nation holiday craft market this weekend say they are noticing an increased interest in Indigenous made products. 

The second annual Christmas at the Nation market kicked off Friday at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex and Jim Starlight Centre, which is about 20 kilometres southwest of downtown Calgary. 

Spokesperson and vendor Cieran Starlight said the market is offering many more activities and goods this year, adding that the number of vendors has grown from around 60 last December to more than 140 this year. 

“There is, like, 50 per cent more activities to do, there’s more vendors as well,” they said. “I think it’s grown exponentially since last year.” 

A person with long dark hair holds a hanger bearing a purple shirt with a flower print, which is one of the items they are selling at the holiday market.
Cieran Starlight, a spokesperson for Christmas at the Nation, says the the market allows Indigenous creators to have a space that’s both accessible and inclusive to share their work. (CBC)

Selling items ranging from clothing to jewelry to art, the vendors are hoping for big crowds through the weekend.

Inclusive & accessible

According to Starlight, the market gives Indigenous creators, makers and businesses an accessible and inclusive space to share their work.

“It’s not just Tsuut’ina Nation members that are using this opportunity,” they said. “There are many businesses across Treaty 7 and even across Alberta that are Indigenous owned. I think it’s super important, because it’s accessible for the business and for local Calgarians to be able to participate and learn a little bit more as they shop.”

Linda Johnston, who is Cree, has been selling Indigenous regalia for 12 years. She says her customer base has definitely diversified in recent years. 

“People ask me a lot of different questions about can I buy this or whatever, how should I wear it, and I say as long as it’s respectful, no problem,” she said. 

A woman in a gray sweatshirt lifts up the sleeve of a yellow jingle dress top embroidered with flowers.
Linda Johnston, who has been selling Indigenous regalia for more than a decade, says her customer base has diversified in recent years. (CBC)

It’s a growing trend for people to be respectfully engaging with Indigenous art, Johnston added. 

“Anybody who knows an Indigenous person … wants to be a part of the reconciliation and healing of our community,” she said. “No matter how small or how big.” 

Appropriation vs. appreciation 

For Starlight, it’s great to see a broad demand for Indigenous made products. 

And if appropriation is a concern, they say that people should stay away from traditional ceremonial items — such as headdresses or jingle dresses. 

“Those ones are to be worn by those who have Indigenous ancestry,” Starlight said. “But, that being said, there are opportunities for people to embellish themselves with Indigenous jewelry.” 

Another bit of advice: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

“I think now is such a great opportunity for neighbours to really get to know each other, and get to know what Tsuut’ina Nation’s businesses and facilities have to offer.” 

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