Updated: Aug 8
Each First Nation community has a unique spiritual connection with the land. Their traditions tie intricately with the Earth in a deep respect that harnesses protection, dependency, and responsibility. In Indigenous cultures, land is not about ownership, but guardianship of all things that exist within it.
Having a deep respect for and understanding of Indigenous communities' long-standing relationship with their environment and land has become more important today than ever before. Nature is integral to their health and well-being and taking responsibility for its future is a belief system that gets passed on through generations. Sustainability is interwoven in their way of life. As a result, many Indigenous businesses are built on the same principles of sustainability and appreciation for their land.
“The people belong to the land, not the land belonging to the people.” - John Craighead George
There are over 50,000 Indigenous businesses in Canada, most of which have less than 10 employees. Not only are they often underrepresented in mainstream media, but many face unique challenges of being in rural or remote areas with limited access to support. Main sources of financing for privately- or community-owned Indigenous businesses are retained earnings, private savings, or development corporations – not traditional lenders.
At Good Earth Gifting, we acknowledge that we are living and operating on the traditional territory of the Mississauga’s of Scugog Island First Nations, the Anishnaabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples. While we cannot undo history, we must recognize it and use it as a source of strength to stand by the Indigenous communities of Canada. By supporting Indigenous brands that are also sustainable, we are able to actively show our support to their communities, values and presence, while protecting the lands they have been built on.
“I remember gathering plants and berries with my grandmother while she shared stories and her deep understanding of traditional plants and their uses.”
In 2018, Carrie Armstrong founded Mother Earth Essentials with the aim of educating Canadians on the beauty of Indigenous culture and the significant contributions made by Indigenous people. As a proud Métis from Alberta and a descendant of a long line of Cree Medicine Women, Carrie learned traditional teachings from her grandmother. When she realized that these valuable teachings were in danger of being lost, she worked together with her grandmother, elders and medicine people to lay the foundation for her company.
Mother Earth Essentials is a personal care product and tea company that brings to life the nature-inspired teachings rooted in the Medicine Wheel, a holistic representation of balance and life’s continuous cycle. Carrie is passionate about sharing her Indigenous culture and the spiritual properties passed down to her through generations, which is reflected in her book,
Mother Earth Plants for Health & Beauty: Indigenous Plants, Traditions, and Recipes. The book, published in 2020, shares recipes for a number of products, and traditions that reflect her grandmother's teachings on the culture and knowledge of the Medicine Wheel, showcasing 26 edible and medicinal plants that can be found and gathered in nature, including Sweetgrass, Tobacco, Sage, Cedar.
As a former teacher at Amiskwaciy Academy, Edmonton’s Indigenous high school, Carrie was able to provide her students with hands-on opportunities to connect with their history through the use of traditional plants in the school’s traditional plant garden. In the spirit of teaching, Mother Earth Essentials also offers hands-on workshops for making tea and mineral bath soaks.
Mother Earth Essentials is also a proud member of the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business, and is committed to promoting Indigenous culture and traditions in all its products and services.
Here is our list of 12 more Indigenous and sustainable Canadian brands - divided into the following categories for your reading pleasure:
East Vancouver, BC
“We are working hard to close that gap, pave the way, and inspire other Indigenous entrepreneurs.”
Created in 2018 by dynamic duo, Lynn-Marie and Melissa-Rae Angus, Sisters Sage focuses on using traditional ingredients to handcraft modern self-care and wellness products. They are of Gitxaala, Niga’a and Metis Nations, and began their business to help other Indigneous communities showcase their culture in a positive way.
Their most popular product is the Smokeless Smudge Spray, which is made of Sweet Grass and Tobacco Leaf. Smudging is a traditional ritual by most Indigenous Peoples for purifying or cleansing of negative thoughts by creating sacred smoke from burning medicinal or plants. Sisters Sage hopes to bring this practice to everyone’s home and create a calming aura, without any smoke.
“The company is all about a cleaner you and environment.”
The Yukon Soaps Company is a self-care shop for made-from-scratch natural soaps, shampoo bars, essential oil blends, and other bath and beauty products. Featuring ingredients like wild rose petals and juniper berries, as well as Na-cho Nyak Dun beadwork on their Indigenous Artisans Soap Bars, and a Yukon-shaped imprint, these uniquely created soap bars are literally infused and imprinted with the Spirit of the Yukon.
Joella Hogan, founder and owner of Yukon Soaps Co., promotes inclusivity by getting elders and young ones to join in gathering wild botanicals. As a dedicated community builder and First Nation advocate, she employs local youth, offers crafting workshops to promote learning, and is a staple at Stewart Valley Farmers market.
After having been around for 20 years, the YSC soap bar has now become the staple souvenir from the Yukon Territory, and continues to support economic empowerment of the region. Try their Sample Soap Pack, which contains a selection of six 1oz soaps, made with completely natural ingredient - cleaner for you and the environment.
“Satya means a higher truth in Sanskrit, and every decision we make reflects that.”
With skin issues on the rise, we need more natural solutions, and Satya Organic Skincare, founded by Patrice Mousseau, believes ‘sometimes the most difficult problems have the simplest solutions.’ Works as a moisturizer and topical anti-inflammatory, it relieves and restores tired skin. Made with just 5 life-changing organic ingredients, Satya provides clean and Scientifically-proven effective skincare.
The two-pack Satya Basics is a great gift to keep skin protected throughout all seasons, including harsh Canadian winters. Packaged in sustainable materials, including glass jars, compostable pouches, recycled paper and printed veggie/soy-based inks, they are proud to be 100% carbon neutral.
To show their commitment to nature, Satya Organic joined the fight against poverty and ocean plastics through Plastic Bank, and have partnered with Coastal First Nations to protect the Great Bear Rainforest.
Wildcraft, founded by Laura Whitaker, is a Toronto-based company committed to providing accessible skincare for everyone with 100% natural, highly-effective products. Thoughtfully minimalist in their approach, their product line simplifies everyday routines through a multi-functional approach.
Create an at-home spa day to detox and nourish with Wildcraft’s pure bath essentials. Products like the Herbal Bath Blend, Cleanse Makeup Remover, Buff Face and Body Scrub, Luxe Body Oil and Detox Face Mask help to maximize time (and energy) for more important things.
Laura stays true to her roots (a Haudenosaunee and member of the Mohawk nation from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory) through Wildcraft’s eco-committments. Aside from plastic-free packaging to cruelty-free products, they’ve recently become a member of 1% for the Planet, donating 1% of sales towards environmental causes.
Wildcraft is among the few Indigenous-owned selfcare brands in Ontario; however, there are more across Canada. Handmade in small batches with plant or mineral-based, sustainably-sourced, organic ingredients, Wildcraft ensures high quality products from start to finish. Find their products in our Shop.
Fashion & Accessories
“Truly sustainable fashion creates a space for everyone. It all starts here.”
Sustainable fashion brand, richly inspired by their Ojibwe/French Métis Heritage, that promotes inclusivity and a space for everyone to feel confident in their own skin. Anne Mulaire is operated by designer Andréanne Mulaire Dandeneau, and runs her brand with strong ethics including fair trade, environmental protection, and ethical business practices.
Different collections like the Heritage Collection, Maternity Friendly and Designer Originals carry a wide-range of women’s clothing, from crop tops and drape dresses to Bamboo Bumwarmers and bamboo leggings, printed with Indigenous artwork - a style statement that catches your eye.
They created a Zero Waste Program to eliminate unnecessary waste of unused fabric pieces and to ensure that nothing in their production goes to waste. Anne and the team get together bi-annually - May 1st and January 1st - and create one-of-a-kind, super-comfortable eco-friendly outfits. Check out their Zero Waste Collection and excite your inner fashionista!
“By wearing my works, they will feel connected to our ancestors, our land, and our culture.”
Tania Larsson uses materials that come from the land of the Canadian Arctic. Operating from a studio in Yellowknife, she designs and handcrafts contemporary Gwich'in Fine jewellery. Parts used in her unique creations come from those shared within the community through subsistence hunting. As she was taught to use every part of an animal, it is important for Tania to uphold her culture in her colourful creations and designs.
As an artist and feminist, Tania Larsson hopes to empower women through her fine jewellery that transcends beyond time and culture. Her work also uses vintage, Indigenous beadwork that sets her jewellery apart from any other Canadian brand. Her latest line is yet to be released and we can’t wait!
“Nationhood is knowing who your are and where you come from.”
SheNative is a lifestyle brand that is led and operated by Indigenous women, they produce leather bags, accessories and sustainable apparel.
Founder and CEO of SheNative, a Waterhen Lake First Nation, Devon Fiddler has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Aboriginal Public Administration from the University of Saskatchewan. She is vocal about the injustices that women face in her community, often finding themselves in a dark space from violence and discrimination that is all too common among the Indigenous peoples. Despite the negativity, she was able to grow a brand that empowered women like her - inspiring those around her.
In honour of the lives of 215 children whose remains were found buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. SheNative has began taking orders of in-house designed Orange Shirts. In 2013, the Orange Shirt Day was created by residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad, who shared her story at a St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion event held in Williams Lake, British Columbia, in the spring of 2013. Phyllis remembered her first day of residential schooling at six years old, when her new orange shirt—bought by her grandmother—was taken away from her. So now, all over Canada, the 30th of September is remembered as the Orange Shirt Day and signifies the time of year when Indigenous children were historically taken from their homes to residential schools.
All proceeds from the Orange Shirts by SheNative will be donated to the Orange Shirt Society. The orange shirts would make a great gift for any new immigrant in Canada, to help them learn about some of the country's realities and history.
“In my language, Kokom means Grandmother.”
Designed and handmade by young and talented, Mya Beaudry, Kokom Scrunchies are made using traditional Indigenous floral-patterned kokum scarves usually worn as a head covering by elders in Aboriginal communities. These colourful accessories share a little bit of their Algonquin culture with others.
Originating from the Kitigan Zibi Reserve near Gatineau, Quebec, Mya Beaudry began her scrunchie business in June 2020, when a dance competition at the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival in Ottawa got cancelled due to COVID-19. She turned an unfortunate situation into a thriving, innovative and sustainable business idea, reusing leftover kokum scarves.
To further honour each of her teachers, Mya names her scrunchie after the women in her life that have guided her and shared teachings with her throughout her journey. A popular Kokum scrunchie is the Mum Scrunchie which is named after the family’s matriarch and is dedicated to the member of the family that keeps everyone together. This accessory represents traits that Moms possess: strength, courage, love and guidance.
Port Coquitlam, BC
“Changing the world, one cup at a time.”
The Spirit Bear Coffee Company is a certified organic and fair trade Aboriginal coffee company from Port Coquitlam, BC. The founders were inspired by the Spirit Bear in Indigenous culture, a symbolic gift of peace and harmony to all creatures of the earth. Since their inception fifteen years ago Spirit Bear Coffee Company has grown to 600 stores nationwide, competing with mainstream coffee houses, such as Tim Hortons and Starbucks.
Aside from their 100% organic and fair traded coffee, Spirit Bear also manufactures and sells compostable coffee pods, oven-fired ceramics, t-shirts, hoodies, and soft toy bears. Their coffee bundles make the perfect gift - a convenient way to have Canadian, Indigenous coffee at home and in the office.
Paul Biglin, co-president of the company gets to travel from coast to coast to meet with different communities. “I meet Cree, Blackfoot, Mohawk people. What I’m learning is amazing. If you’re open-minded enough to experience what’s out there, you’ll find we live in an amazing country. We’re always trying to expand our marketplace and work with other nations. Our goal is to work with every nation in North America.”
Fun fact 1: Their roasts are named after other animals of the Indigenous legend: Raven - Espresso, Frog - Breakfast Blend, Eagle - Medium Roast Coffee, Orca - Dark Roast Coffee, Thunderbird - Dark French Roast Coffee, and the Dolphin - Decaffeinated Coffee.
Fun fact 2: The Spirit Bear Coffee Company is in partnership with the Ocean Alliance and helps fund the purchase and construction of new drones (called “SnotBots”) expeditions into the marine world through the sales of their Orca Dark Roast Coffee.
Art & Literature
North Vancouver, BC
“The fusion of West Coast Indigenous art into everything we create.”
Spirit Works is an Indigenous-owned, operated and staffed company focused on the creation and distribution of authentic Indigenous products. They educate their following on sustainable and responsible consumption and production. As an Aboriginal company with profound respect for Indigenous knowledge and Elder wisdom, Spirit Works is greatly involved in the community, protecting their heritage and the environment.
Founded by Shain Niniwum Selápem Jackson (shishálh First Nation), Spirit Works is a one-stop-shop for Indigenous products ranging from artwork and jewellery to cedar and bentwood boxes and vases - all inspired by Indigenous legends by artists from all around Canada.
Their sustainable practices include going out of their way to use upcycled materials in majority of their products, to create one-of-a-kind art pieces. Although this may not be the most cost-effective way to run their business, it is the one that gets approval from their communities and Elders.
Spirit Works has also installed large-scale artwork in public spaces, such as St. Mary’s Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario, (the first carbon-neutral hospital in North America), in British Columbia at the Squamish Chief in Squamish and at the BC Place in Vancouver.
“Reimagining the pottery and bone tool patterns of my ancestors for modern home decor.”
As a way to mix traditional with modern, and to revive ancestral heritage and practices, Destiny Seymour created Indigo Arrows in 2016. As an Anishinaabe interior designer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and a member of Peguis First Nation, Destiny upholds their thousand-year-old traditions in creating beautiful patterns and designing artisan textiles for interiors that respectfully reflect local Indigenous Peoples.
Indigo Arrows was created to integrate Indigenous art into our homes, through handcrafted goods that showcase 400 to over 3000 year old, local pottery and bone tool patterns. These cozy creations reflect their culture and identity, all hand printed using eco-friendly inks, in small batches on pre-washed 100% linen.
Their whole creative process promotes inclusivity and community engagement, like donating a portion of their proceeds to local organizations like Ka Ni Kanichik's Butterfly Club, empowering youth through different activities.
By reviving ancient patterns, Indigo Arrows picks up where their ancestors left off, helps us remember its people, and bridges the gap between the past, present, and future. Ringing true to her name, Destiny tells the story of an entire nation.
Logan Lake, BC
“Read your way through and amplify Indigenous literature to a broader audience, one page at a time.”
Founded by Nicole McLaren, the Raven Reads is a seasonal subscription box service that delivers to your door, custom curated books and giftware written or created by Indigenous peoples from around the world. It is 100% owned and operated by the Indigenous community.
Nicole is of mixed Métis, Cree and European ancestry and she is a member of the Métis Nation of British Columbia. She started Raven Reads with the ambition to educate others about the devastating impact of residential schools on Indigenous people in Canada. The stories she shares through her subscription box helps everyone better understand the historical context of Canadian Indigenous history, broadens perspectives and raises awareness.
A subscription to the Raven Reads box is a great gift for someone just learning about the residential school system and also for the book lovers in your social circle. Each quarterly subscription box contains curated award-winning Indigenous content.
RESOURCES and LAST WORDS
We live in a beautifully diverse world. Celebrating each other’s unique traditions and understanding one another’s belief systems help bring us all closer together. While our purchasing dollars can go some ways in supporting Indigenous businesses and communities, it is not the only way we can show support.
Good Earth Gifting aims to educate and give businesses options to think outside the box when it comes to corporate gifts. There are countless other Indigenous brands not mentioned in this article but definitely deserve to be supported. Check out our other blogs like Busy Moms and Canadian Clean Beauty Brands for other great Indigenous brands to support!
Some great educational resources that we have found to further our learning of Indigenous culture and history can be found below:
We are on a constant journey to learn about the history of our land and the people within it. If there are other important resources or Indigenous businesses that you think we should include in our list, please share in the comments below!
Indigenous communities continue to teach us the value of preserving our sacred earth. Making the conscious effort to add more environmentally-friendly practices in our lives takes time and Good Earth Gifting's simple tips on living sustainably can help you start this journey one step at a time. Share your favourite tips with us on our Facebook page, Instagram @goodearthgifting, and TikTok @goodearthgifting.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our team. Should you make a purchase from the included links, we may earn a small commission.
24-April-2023 correction: In our previous blog post, we included information that was inaccurate. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. We have removed the section containing this information and want to ensure our readers that we strive to provide only accurate and reliable information. Thank you for your understanding.