The ByWard Market building has a new storefront, an all-Indigenous social enterprise called Adaawewigamig, or “the place to sell, trade and shop”.
Adaawewigamig is a social enterprise owned by the Assembly of Seven Generations (A7G), a youth-led grassroots organization that provides support and community to indigenous youth in the area. In addition to the new showcase, A7G is hosting a series of weekly youth gatherings, barbecues, picnics, and more. The organization is also taking a more political stance, supporting issues central to indigenous peoples or BIPOC, according to Mbombo Malonde Kapacala, A7G member and store employee.
“It’s very social…and whenever there’s a concern about Indigenous issues or BIPOC, we’re always there to support them, or anything about the government or the city,” Kapacala says. “Many Aboriginal youth come to Ottawa for opportunities such as going to school or leaving their reserves. A7G is therefore a place where young indigenous people can find this connection with their community, although we are all from different communities.
The store came about through the hard work of a number of young indigenous people, many of whom are women, who made the store a reality while serving with A7G and working day labor. Kapacala told me that the initial idea came from Gabrielle Fayant, but has grown to include many others. As a social enterprise, profits from Adaawewigamig are donated to A7G and, in turn, are reinvested in Indigenous youth.
“The majority of revenue is always going to go to A7G, and it always goes to the young people,” Kapacala says. “Even though we’re a group of young people having fun, meeting each other, all that stuff, we still help the community in some way.”
In addition to the store grand opening, Sunday’s block party featured dozens of other vendors and performances, such as screaming hand games, a small powwow, and performances by Cody Coyote and Silla + Rise. The powwow provided a sampling of dances, such as the men’s folk dance and grass dance and the women’s jingle dress, with drumming by Spirit Wolf.
According to store co-manager Amanda Fox, who comes from unceded Wiikwemkoong territory, a former holiday market in the ByWard district has been so successful that Ottawa markets have actually approached A7G with the offer of a space. . And the ByWard Market is “the perfect place,” says Fox.
The store is full of quality products, many of which are created by young people from A7G. The store sells an incredible amount of beads from many different artists, including earrings with proceeds going to the families of Sisters-in-Spirit, soap (try the smoked moose hide scent!), clothing, mittens made in Attawapiskat, birch boxes, moccasins, artistic visuals, and much more. The vast array of goods spilled onto William Street. (I purchased a deer skin bracelet made by Pembroke-based artist Amber Hein, who hunts and prepares the skins herself.)
For those who missed the grand opening, don’t worry: Adaawewigamig and A7G will also be hosting summer solstice vendors and events on June 21, and running a shuttle from the ByWard Market to Mādahòkì Farm for the main events of the evening. .
The importance of a new store owned by and for Indigenous youth (and those of all ages) is not lost on Fox, Kapacala or any of the organizers.
“It’s cool to see survivors of boarding schools, day schools, Sixties Roundups and their children and children over and over carrying on their traditions with the same pride as if nothing had happened,” Kapacala says. 50 years ago pow-wows were banned. Today they are held in the ByWard Market.
If the exuberant opening day crowd is any indication, Adaawewigamig will be around for a long time.
Adaawewigamig is located at 55 Byward Market Square.