Curve Lake First Nation innovator receives $3K grant

·3 min read

CURVE LAKE — Robyn Ivory Pierson’s dream of turning her Curve Lake First Nation-based business into an immersive and educational tourism experience is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Pierson, along with five other participants of the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Spark mentorships and grants program — a collaborative partnership between the Tourism Innovation Lab, Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development and Peterborough and the Kawarthas Tourism — made winning pitches, outlining their tourism ideas, to a panel of judges on July 14.

Pierson and fellow winners from Peterborough city and county will be awarded a $3,000 seed grant and will receive mentorship to help them kick-start their projects.

Pierson, a mother of three and a teacher by trade, is the founder and owner of Indigenously Infused, an eco-friendly business that draws from traditional Anishinaabe teachings to create a variety of all-natural candles, melts, sprays and mists.

Operating out of her home in Curve Lake First Nation, Pierson uses locally harvested ingredients to marry the traditional with the modern — embedding generations of knowledge and culture into every hand-poured product. Pierson’s offerings are sold online and at powwows and other community events.

In promoting its handmade products, Indigenously Infused also promotes a traditional way of life — guided by a mission to support and expand the public’s knowledge of First Nations people, their teachings and their traditions. Through her business, Pierson also aims to preserve Indigenous teachings and identity — an identity that was stripped from so many as a result of colonialism.

What started as a personal pastime blossomed into a fully fledged, and growing, enterprise. Pierson began crafting candles in 2020 as a hobby.

“I found that the medicines were vital to my own mental, physical and emotional health, so I just started to make these candles for my own healing. I posted them on Facebook and a lot of people were interested. That’s how Indigenously Infused was born,” recalled Pierson.

It’s just the beginning for Pierson. She has an ambitious plan to use the budding business as a launch pad for educational programming to impart traditional Anishinaabe teachings to anyone willing to learn.

Pierson, who unveiled her goals to the panel of judges, plans to launch Mitigwaaki — a tourism experience “in the heart of Curve Lake” that will teach visitors about traditional harvesting, medicines and remedies, candle-making and Anishinaabe knowledge.

With Mitigwaaki, which means “forest” in Anishinaabemowin, Pierson aims to construct a visitor centre, cultivate a medicine wheel garden and forge a trail system — all at 36 Chemong St. N. in Curve Lake.

The idea is to invite and book students, tourists, corporate clients and other community groups to participate in candle-making workshops and engage in educational programming by experiencing first-hand how sacred medicines and plants used in Indigenously Infused products — including cedar, sage and sweetgrass — are harvested. Guests will also be able to explore the botanical trails.

Pierson hopes to begin construction on the visitor centre in September.

“I hope to spread awareness about traditional teachings and an appreciation for Mother Earth and Anishinaabe culture,” Pierson said.

The seed grant, she said, will be put toward nurturing the medicine wheel garden. While Pierson says the funding will be a helpful boost, she expects the mentorship to be just as valuable.

“Learning, education and knowledge — you really can’t buy that,” she said.

By living out her dreams, Pierson hopes other Indigenous entrepreneurs and business owners, particularly women who’ve long been made to feel “invisible” in society, will be inspired to follow their own dreams.

Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him at bburke@metroland.com.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner

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