In the small, northern Alberta town of Lac La Biche, a group of talented artisans have set up a co-operative to help them use their talent and sell their goods.

The Nehiyawaskiy Indigenous Peoples Art Co-op showcases the talents of the Cree, Dene, and Metis artists in northeast Alberta. Originally inspired by the Aboriginal Art program at Portage College, the co-op is a way for artists to continue to use the skills they learned in the program, and partner with the Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre, Metis Crossing, and the University of Alberta gift store to sell the goods they make.

“The elevation of the Indigenous art of the region will further impact Indigenous peoples and community sustainability in the job creation opportunities within the retail, instruction, and hospitality and tourism industries,” a co-op representative said.

This co-operative, created with Indigenous artists in mind, ensures that the art often purchased by tourists is made by Indigenous craftspeople who are compensated for their work — not in factories overseas. It also aims to be an educational resource for cultural information by secondary and post-secondary institutions, community agencies, and government departments.

Co-operatives First is proud that it could assist the Nehiyawaskiy Indigenous Peoples Art Co-op to incorporate, write its bylaws, and train its first board of directors.