The ByWard Market building has a new storefront, an all-Indigenous social enterprise called Adaawewigamig, or “the place of selling, trading, and shopping.”
Adaawewigamig is a social enterprise owned by the Assembly of Seven Generations (A7G), a grassroots, youth-led organization that provides support and community to Indigenous youth in the area. In addition to the new storefront, A7G hosts a series of weekly youth gatherings, barbecues, picnics, and the like. The organization also takes a more political stance, supporting issues central to Indigenous or BIPOC people, according to A7G member and store employee Mbombo Malonde Kapacala.
“It’s very social … and anytime there’s a concern when it comes to Indigenous or BIPOC issues, we’re always there to support, or anything regarding the government or the city,” Kapacala says. “A lot of Indigenous youth come to Ottawa for opportunities like school or moving off their reserves, and so A7G is a place where Indigenous youth can have that connection back to their community, though we’re all from different communities.”
The store came together through the hard work of a number of Indigenous youth, many of whom are women, who made the store a reality while serving with A7G and working day jobs. Kapacala told me the initial idea came from Gabrielle Fayant, but it grew to include many others. As a social enterprise, Adaawewigamig’s proceeds go back to A7G, and in turn, are invested back into Indigenous youth.
“The majority of proceeds are always going to go back to A7G, and it’s always going back to the youth,” says Kapacala. “Even though we’re a bunch of youth having fun, meeting, all this stuff, we’re always out helping the community in some way.”
In addition to grand opening of the store, Sunday’s block party featured dozens of other vendors and performances, such as Cree hand games, a small powwow, and shows by Cody Coyote and Silla + Rise. The powwow provided a sampling of dances, such as men’s traditional and grass dance and women’s jingle dress, with drumming by Spirit Wolf.
According to store co-manager Amanda Fox, who comes from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, an earlier holiday market in the ByWard was so successful that Ottawa Markets actually approached A7G with the offer of a space. And the ByWard Market is “the perfect spot,” Fox says.
The store is full of quality products, many of which are created by youth in A7G. The store sells an astounding amount of beadwork from many different artists, including earrings whose proceeds go to Families of Sisters in Spirit, soap (give the smoked moosehide scent a try!), clothing, mittens made in Attawapiskat, birch boxes, moccasins, visual art, and much more. The huge array of goods spilled out onto William Street. (I bought a deer-hide bracelet made by Pembroke-based artist Amber Hein, who hunts and prepares the hides herself.)
For those who missed the grand opening, don’t worry—Adaawewigamig and A7G will also be hosting vendors and events for the Summer Solstice on June 21, and will run a shuttle bus from 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 residential school survivors, day school survivors, ’60s scoop survivors, and their kids and their kids on and on, continue their traditions with the same pride, as if nothing happened,” says Kapacala. Even 50 years ago, powwows were outlawed—now they’re taking place in the ByWard Market.
If the exuberant opening day crowd is any indication, Adaawewigamig will be staying for a long time.
Adaawewigamig is located at 55 ByWard Market Square.