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INDIGENOUS AT OCH: A Co-op or Non-Profit Gift Shop?

Updated: Jan 12

As a citizen seeking to raise funds for OCH's maintenance and the creation of a Museum of Toronto, I would nevertheless be happy if the City of Toronto granted a rent-free shop space to any Indigenous group willing to ensure that maximum profits from the sale of Ontario-made Indigenous art and artifacts go back to their makers.

International tourists interested in Canadian Indigenous culture would flock to such a store. Items could include jewelry, pottery and paintings in the Woodlands School of Art tradition invented by Ontario's own Norval Morrisseau.

Commercial galleries selling Indigenous Canadian art and artifacts from outside Ontario -- such as West Coast Native carvings and jewelry and Inuit prints and sculpture -- will find it profitable to rent shop space near the Ontario Indigenous co-op store.

Some of the most popular items in the Ontario shop could be tamarack goose decoys made by artists on northern reserves. The original design was invented in 1965 by John Blueboy, a 35-year-old Cree of the James Bay region, while recovering in a Moose Factory hospital from tuberculosis. For millenia, Native people have fashioned bird decoys from willow branches and mud, often with a gap in the head which shows up white against snow. Blueboy opted to fashion bird sculptures out of fragrant tamarack twigs, initially selling them to nurses. The Royal Ontario Museum later displayed them as an elegant art form. The Horchow Collection out of Texas even carried them for some time decades ago.

The decoys take about three days to make. An appropriate shop would cover the transportation costs of bringing them south, administering their sales and sending back much needed income.

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