By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY—A set of three porcupine quill medallions worth $2,500 was featured at the 15th Annual Christmas Aboriginal Fine Arts and Crafts Gift Show and Sale in Thunder Bay.
“One of my cousins made it,” says Martina Osawamick, a vendor from Wikwemikong. “We actually had two sets: one was the eagle and this one here [the bear]. It’s a choker and hair ties.”
Osawamick sold the eagle set for $3,000 at the Assembly of First Nations gathering a week before the Thunder Bay gathering, which was held from Dec. 13-17 at Victoriaville Centre. In addition to the medallions, Osawamick and partner Ron Yellowman had a variety of beadwork, Navaho blankets and kerchiefs, and candles with beadwork for sale.
“This year we got some of these kerchiefs from where my husband is from [in the Southwest United States],” Osawamick says. “It’s a good seller for the Elders that wear the kerchiefs.”
Fort William’s Brian Michon had a variety of large portraits featuring Pow Wow dancers and Elders for sale.
“I do a lot of portraits combining some Woodlands style with realism and some abstract,” Michon says. “I’ve been doing this ever since high school, but maybe the last two or three years I’ve started putting this body of work together.”
Michon says he was told to paint huge at one point, so he continues to follow that advice.
“If you do it well, you can get a much more striking painting,” Michon says. “A lot of people can’t afford the originals, so I brought some prints with me.”
Michon says he is available to paint portraits for anyone who is interested. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Garden River’s Anthony Perreault says this year’s gathering seems to be busier than last year’s.
“We did good last year; I think this year is better because [we’ve had] a lot of sales the first couple of days,” Perreault says. “This is the third day and we’re looking forward to a couple of more. We’re going to be tired.”
Perreault says he has a variety of new products for sale this year, such as sweetgrass hair shampoo and sweetgrass conditioner.
“Every day I switch it up,” Perreault says about how he displays his products. “I pulled my trailer up this year, so I brought a lot of stuff. Last year I almost ran out.”
Perreault says his purses and t-shirts have done well this year.
“The sweetgrass is going good,” Perreault says. “I’ve got some nice sweetgrass from Walpole Island.”
Perreault says his smudge kits are new for this year. They sell for $35 each.
“You get all the four medicines,” Perreault says. “You get a feather, an abalone shell.”
Wikwemikong’s Paul Francis, who lives in Thunder Bay, says this is about his 10th year at the gathering.
“It’s been going great,” Francis says. “I enjoy this show — it always brings lots of people in. And people are buying, so that is really good.”
Francis says his sweetgrass dreamcatchers have been his most popular product this year.
“There’s a full braid of sweetgrass in those,” Francis says. “They’re different.”
Francis also makes and sells a variety of dreamcatchers, necklaces, medicine pouches and Christmas wreathes and Christmas stars.
John Ferris, organizer of the gathering, says that it keeps growing larger each year.
“We have a lot of newer people from the south: London, Ottawa, Toronto and New Liskeard,” Ferris says. “And we even had a call from The Pas [Manitoba].”