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Lack of Indigenous representation in baby clothes led mom to push for change

Last Updated Jun 12, 2020 at 11:42 am EST

Entrepreneur Christine Marie in a supplied photo.

June is National Indigenous History Month. It is a time for all Canadians — Indigenous, non-Indigenous and newcomers — to reflect upon and learn the history, sacrifices, cultures, contributions, and strength of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. Throughout the month of June, CityNews will profile Indigenous people, and share their stories and voices, so that we can celebrate the difference they have made in their communities and to our country.


June 9: Today, we celebrate Christine Marie

Christine Marie is a Métis entrepreneur who calls Saskatchewan home. She was the first in her immediate family to be a  post-secondary graduate, then went on to teach Native studies and home economics for a few years before becoming a mom.

Marie is a proud mom of two boys. When she was pregnant was her first born, she tried shopping specifically for clothing and crib bedding with Indigenous themes, but had difficulty locating prints that represented Indigenous culture. When her second baby was born, there were more prints with Indigenous themes but the majority of them were not designed by Indigenous artists. Marie remembered the feeling of wanting to change the landscape with a variety of items that showcased the Indigenous culture. She had never taken a business course, but she “had a passion to fill the void.”

“I also want to help educate non-Indigenous people about the culture. It is one of the ways that others can see how beautiful our culture is and how every child matters.”

In 2018, Marie opened Awasis Boutique, an online store that unveiled Western Canada’s first Indigenous clothing line for babies and toddlers. Awasis means “child” in the Cree language. The boutique features custom aprons, bibs, blankets, onesies and toddler tees. They have phrases in both English and Cree like “Bannock Baby” and “I love kokum (Grandma),” In her first year, Marie partnered with 11 retailers and then in 2019, she released her own line of custom fabrics.

Baby clothes on Awasis Boutique in a supplied photo.

 

Another thing that occurred to Marie was that she rarely saw Indigenous babies and children in clothing advertisements, which is why she said she started her business.

“To provide products for baby and kids that highlight their culture. They can learn at a very young age that their culture is nothing to be ashamed of. As we know from Canadian history, being ashamed of our culture used to be the norm like residential schools. I also want to help educate non-Indigenous people about the culture. It is one of the ways that others can see how beautiful our culture is and how every child matters.”

“For Canada to truly embrace the Calls of Action for Reconciliation, we need to ensure we are supporting one another in anyway that we can.”

Marie specializes in Indigenous design. When asked what she would say to people who ask her if everyone can wear her designs, she said, “Go for it!”

“Sure, my main target audience is Indigenous customers. However, I also create designs for anyone to wear. As business owners, it is important to think ‘inclusive.’ For Canada to truly embrace the Calls of Action for Reconciliation, we need to ensure we are supporting one another in anyway that we can.”

Click here to learn more about Marie and to see her designs.

Baby clothes on Awasis Boutique in a supplied photo.