Market a milestone for local tourism in Kanesatake

An Indigenous winter market planned for this weekend is set to be a boon for local artisans and an opportunity to promote Onkwehón:we talent and culture to a wave of visitors on Kanesatake’s ancestral territory.

“It’s really a new adventure,” said Véronique Vincent, tourism project manager at Kanesatake Business and Economic Development (KBED), the market’s organizer.

“I hope we can reunite with one mind and leave it open for another adventure, leave it open for a second edition, leave it open for us to improve and get better and create more opportunities, create more events, create more things.”

Months of work have gone into preparing the market, which will take place December 2-3 at Le Littoral Service Centre in Oka Park. More than 40 Indigenous vendors from a range of communities are expected to participate, including over 20 local stalls.

“It’s going to be one of the largest Indigenous markets the area has seen. There was no doubt I needed a table,” said Kanehsata’kehró:non artist Jasmin Gunn, who is also part of the organizing team.

In addition to her artwork, stickers and postcards featuring her designs will be on offer at the market.

“I hope that the community can come together and we all learn to find common ground to support our artists,” said Gunn.

Dina Filippelli, owner of Wolf Crafts, plans to sell soft-touch blankets, beads and beading supplies, earrings, and moccasins. “I wanted to participate because it’s a good way to make sales and have access to a different clientele,” she said.

Filippelli will also be giving beading demonstrations, just one of the activities on the agenda this weekend. There will also be wood-burning sessions, relief printing workshops, and basket weaving.

Musical performances are also planned, including a performance by the Kanehsatake Women Singers on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and a hip-hop show on Sunday at 4 p.m. featuring Kahnawa’kehró:non Will E. Skandalz.

Vendors from outside the community are also enthusiastic to participate. Kahnawa’kehró:non Jeremiah Johnson, owner of Mohawk Mushrooms, learned about the event by seeing the flyer on Facebook.

“I just started Mohawk Mushrooms and figured it would be a good way to do a little networking, sell a little bit of my product, and just have some fun,” said Johnson. He plans to be ready to educate visitors on the health benefits and traditional uses of mushrooms.

Vincent is already working on engagement sessions for Kanehsata’kehró:non to weigh in on the future of tourism in the community.

“Indigenous tourism is developing 30 times faster than regular tourism,” said Vincent.

“These tourists are looking for cultural components, they want to be in nature, they want to have something authentic, they want to have something sustainable,” she said, adding that this creates opportunities and income for local entrepreneurs and artists.

“Having more income means more self-sufficiency – more money to put in schools, more money to put in services, health services, more money to put into any cultural activities the community needs. It touches a lot of things,” she said.

While the economic benefits of tourism are well known, this is not the only advantage it brings, according to Vincent. “There’s also the big part of being in charge of the narrative,” she said. “We all know history hasn’t been representing all our truths, all our realities. If we start being proactive instead of being reactive, we can take charge of the narrative of our history.”

It can be tough to plan tourism events in the community due to challenges such as a lack of infrastructure and security, but Oka Park is well equipped to receive crowds.

“It’s the beginning of a story,” said Vincent. “It’s like a first trial of seeing how we can create events for Kanesatake, by Kanesatake, for Indigenous people, that would benefit Kanesatake.”

The market runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Visitors to the market will not be required to pay admission to Oka Park.

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door