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Ashinaabe artist spends COVID-19 pandemic creating, launching Indigenous clothing line

During the coronavirus pandemic, Cody Coyote launched a clothing line that is completely Indigenous, from the featured artwork to the company's name.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Cody Coyote launched a clothing line that is completely Indigenous, from the featured artwork to the company's name. Brenden Purdy / Global News

At 28 years old, Cody Coyote already has a resume full of accomplishments, touring across North America as both a musician and a motivational speaker.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Coyote launched a clothing line that is completely Indigenous, from the featured artwork to the company’s name.

Read more: Global indigenous fashion show at Wanuskewin

“I’ve been doing music for about seven years, touring all over Canada and the United States,” Coyote said. “With that experience, I’ve been to multiple stores nationwide and I never saw Indigenous clothing brands represented in these major retail stores.”

From that moment, Bimaadiziwin Collective was born.

The name Bimaadiziwin means “Life” in Ojibwe, a nod to Coyote’s roots, which come from the Matachewan First Nation in northern Ontario.

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But Coyote isn’t just using this start-up as a profit-only venture. He has far greater plans for his new company.

Read more: National Indigenous Peoples Day in Saskatoon on June 21

“(I want to) take a portion of these proceeds that we make and put it back into disadvantaged communities,” he said, “communities that are facing homelessness, helping out folks who’re facing alcoholism and addiction. I’m really passionate about helping out our future generation, so finding different youth initiatives that we can help any way we can.”

It’s this business model that he believes sets him apart from traditional clothing companies.

“Forget the people who’ve been selling us clothing for years and have been making extreme amounts of profits and keeping it for themselves,” he said. “(I want) to get to a place where I can make a profit, but also give money back to the community.”

For Coyote, building a brand using Indigenous artwork and an Ojibwe word was extremely important to help him connect even closer to his culture.

“My father was apprehended, he was apart of the ’60s Scoop,” Coyote said. “I’m 28 now, and it took me 25 years to meet my blood relatives. I think to reclaim my language, reclaim my culture, it has been a very vital part of making me who I am today.”

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He hopes his company and his message will help to spark a change in society.

“People have been throwing around this word, reconciliation, and even during this time, during the pandemic, people are doing a lot of reflecting on what has happened in this country,” he said. “I just want to initiate a good message and a positive message that will initiate some change.”