‘Interact with culture’: 2nd annual Indigenous artisan market kicks off in New Westminster

Click to play video: 'New West Craft Indigenous Market is back'
New West Craft Indigenous Market is back
The New West Craft Indigenous Market is back in the city for its second year. The event celebrates Indigenous art - music - and storytelling. Our Travis Prasad has a preview. – Jun 9, 2023

Shop First Nations and the Arts Council of New Westminster are kicking off their second collaborative New West Craft Indigenous Market on Saturday, with more vendors, food trucks and performers than ever before.

The market will take place at the River Market on the boardwalk of the Westminster Quay between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., with “double” the number of storytellers, singers and dancers, according to Shop First Nations founder Rob Schulz.

“In addition to the shopping opportunities, it’s an opportunity to interact with culture and learn more about Indigenous culture and connect with it,” he told Global News on Friday.

“We had a really good turnout last year and we’re hoping for even more this year from the community. We appreciate everyone’s support.”

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The market will feature beadwork, paintings, carvings, culinary products and more from over 35 Indigenous entrepreneurs and artists. It will also include an art and performance space — a “safe and welcome” environment for the public to learn about Indigenous practices and creative expression.

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S^yowah, curator of that reclamation space, said it also gives emerging Indigenous artists space and exposure.

“There’s more to Indigenous art than just painting,” he said. “(Visitors) will experience the other side of the products and the items that artists create.

“They’re also going to get some more in-depth ideas and teachings and concepts of why Indigenous artists create the items that they create … Art is one of the last safest places to express what they need to share and express, especially around reconciliation. ”

That exposure is particularly important, he added, given historical bans on all forms of cultural, spiritual and artistic expression by Indigenous Peoples, enforced by the state and churches in Canada.

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Both Schulz and S^yowah said the New West Craft Indigenous Market is an opportunity to engage in “financial reconciliation.”

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The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the atrocities of Canada’s harrowing residential school system, released a public call to action demanding equitable financial, educational and employment opportunities for Indigenous Peoples that would result in long-term, sustainable benefits.

“I think it’s a huge opportunity and I think it’s really part of truth and reconciliation,” said Schulz.

“If you’re a consumer or just someone looking to do your weekend shopping, it’s a really easy step you can take to support Indigenous entrepreneurs. In turn that supports Indigenous communities and their families, and helps grow the Indigenous economy.”

“We need to look at the City of New Westminster, where they’re located,” added S^yowah.

“There are businesses that are in this market behind us that are occupying this territory that was once a trading spot for the Indigenous people who would use the Fraser River and to use the river system to share their goods.”

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Illustrator and designer Tristan Wright, whose artwork can be seen in multiple New Westminster locations, will be speaking at an artist talk at the market at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. She said initiatives like the  New West Craft Indigenous Market are “wildly important,”, particularly for younger artists, and sends a message they can pursue their passion as viable careers.

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“It’s been kind of pushed away from them for so long, so now that we’re kind of bringing it back and letting them engage with the community and themselves and their work is really important,” she told Global News.

“It just proves that art is very much so important. It’s all around us.”

Performances begin at 11:15 a.m. Admission to the market is free.

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