Supporting Indigenous Retail

A sector of retail posed for growth post pandemic

"Are we ready, are we willing, are we able?" 

Marnie Suitor, director of Edmonton's Aboriginal Business & Professional Association (AKSIS), asks these three questions before starting any community outreach project. And she believes that Edmonton is ready to support Indigenous businesses. The goal of AKSIS is to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous companies together to improve the socioeconomic status of Indigenous communities, part of that through economic reconciliation by supporting Indigenous businesses.

Edmonton is home to the second-largest Indigenous population in Canada and a large Metis community. One in four Indigenous people in Alberta lives in Edmonton, compared to only 16 percent of the Indigenous population living in Alberta, according to a 2016 Statistics Canada report. While grassroots support is swelling, the pandemic has significantly impacted small businesses, especially Indigenous businesses. The cultural values integrated into companies, such as coming together and utilizing group ceremonies, have been disallowed. 

Paul-Emile McNab, director of Business Development and Strategic Initiatives at the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business, points out that Indigenous businesses have been quite resilient by innovating and adapting despite these challenges. As Edmontonians come together to support each other during this time of need, we should also consider giving support to our community's marginalized groups. 

Ôte Nîkân Papaschase Petro Canada


Ôte Nîkân Papaschase Petro Canada has been in business for just over a year and has already created a community around them. Chief Calvin Bruneau was inspired to start the business after seeing other nations support themselves and provide for their community through business initiatives. In his opinion, as a member of the council, if you are "not there to create businesses and employment for your people, you have no use being here."

Papaschase Petro Canada integrates their core values into its business practices. They focus on fast, friendly service and making sure everyone who walks through the doors gets a genuine hello—the staff pride themselves on going above and beyond for their customers. Overall, Chief Bruneau wants to show people that Indigenous-owned and operated businesses can and will flourish in Edmonton.

Chief Bruneau has excellent visions for Papaschase Petro Canada's future, including Indigenous food and a daily menu item featuring local Indigenous events and potentially moving into green energy. 

Pei Pei Chei Ow Pop-ups and Caterings


Pei Pei Chei Ow (pronounced "pe-pe-s-chew") is a catering company based in Edmonton, Alberta, founded by Scott Jonathan Iserhoff. The name means "robin" in the Omushkegowin (Swampy Cree) language and was given to Iserhoff by his Moshom Louis Shisheesh in his childhood.

Iserhoff was inspired to start his business by his childhood memories of watching Chef David Wolfman on television — some of the only Indigenous representation he had at the time. The stories on how Indigenous people would respect their food captured his attention and inspired him to go to culinary school. Culinary school wasn't what Iserhoff had imagined, as there was no outlet to explore his cultural cooking. When running into Wolfman and having breakfast together, Iserhoff made the jump to focus on only Indigenous foods.

Pei Pei Chei Ow has managed to pivot during the pandemic and now offers food delivery packages, all curated around stories and journeys. Every meal is cooked with good intention: he believes intention puts energy into what you create. In the future, Iserhoff wants to see more Indigenous restaurants normalized and enter the mainstream. Regarding Pei Pei Chei Ow, he wants to host more events in his own space and learn about different regional Indigenous cooking techniques.

There is an incredible amount of growth in Indigenous businesses and much to pay attention to. McNab says there will be exciting growth in the resource and tech areas, and with Indigenous entrepreneurs looking for more opportunities, the sky's the limit.

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