Business owner out to raise awareness of Indigenous issues

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Like any business owner and entrepreneur would, Brittany Grisdale wants her business to be successful and profitable, but she also hopes that what she is creating and selling might do a little to educate, and to start a few conversations around issues that are important to Indigenous people.

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“I wanted it to be more than someone that was just doing crafts,” Grisdale, a Winnipeg resident and Brokenhead Ojibway Nation (BON) band member said about her business Black WolfDog Productions.

“I wanted to make sure we were selling items that raised awareness and sparked conversations, and we wanted to make sure that what we were sharing with everyone would be impactful.”

Since the business first got off the ground last summer, Grisdale has worked alongside her brother to create and sell lines of Indigenous-focused merchandise and products, including handmade glassware, buttons and doormats.

Brittany Grisdale and her brother Russell are seen selling their handmade and Indigenous-themed products and merchandise at a conference that recently took place in Winnipeg.
Brittany Grisdale and her brother Russell are seen selling their handmade and Indigenous-themed products and merchandise at a conference that recently took place in Winnipeg. Photo by Handout /Winnipeg Sun/Local Journalism Initiative

But with messages including ‘Every Child Matters’, ‘Uncolonize your values,’ ‘You are on Indigenous land’ and ‘MMIWG,’ Grisdale also wants to bring to light ongoing issues facing Indigenous people, including systemic racism, the thousands of Indigenous women and girls that have been murdered or gone missing across Canada, and the abuse and mistreatment that Indigenous people faced for decades in residential schools.

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“We wanted to make products that people can use or see easily and that are highly visible in the community and in people’s homes,” Grisdale said. “So it works because there is home décor which you see in people’s homes, and then we have things that people can wear on their shirts or their backpacks, so it is highly visible out in the community.”

Grisdale is not going at the business alone, as she said she works closely with her brother Russell, who focuses on creating the line of buttons, and who she said she has an easy time working with because of how close they are, and what they have been through together in their lives.

“We live together now, and we grew up in the system together our whole lives,” Grisdale said.

“Since we were three, we were raised in homes together and we are still together, and that is what allows us to work so well together, because we have been attached for so long and lived together for so long.”

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Handmade and Indigenous-themed products created by Brittany Grisdale and her brother Russell are seen on display at a conference that recently took place in Winnipeg.
Handmade and Indigenous-themed products created by Brittany Grisdale and her brother Russell are seen on display at a conference that recently took place in Winnipeg. Photo by Handout /Winnipeg Sun/Local Journalism Initiative

According to Grisdale, when she started her business last summer, she said she had no expectations and no idea if there would be interest in her products, but it did not take her long to figure out that there was a market for what she was selling .

“I sold the buttons at a pow wow last year as a sort of one-off and couldn’t believe the response and the crowd we got, it was crazy,” she said.

“And it made me reflect on what I could do with this, but also that I needed to be doing craft shows and conferences and setting up in places where there is going to be Indigenous community members.”

“Indigenous people want to support other Indigenous people.”

Black WolfDog Productions creates and sells lines of handmade and Indigenous themed products and merchandise.
Black WolfDog Productions creates and sells lines of handmade and Indigenous themed products and merchandise. Photo by Handout /Winnipeg Sun/Local Journalism Initiative

Grisdale said she also hopes that what she and her brother are creating will sell and spread messages well beyond the Indigenous community.

“I really want this to be something that can be a bridge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities,” she said.

Black WolfDog Productions is active on a number of social media platforms, and Grisdale said the best way to connect with the business is to visit their Instagram page by searching for blackwolfdogx.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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