Gabrielle Fayant, a Métis woman from the Fishing Lake Métis Settlement in Alberta, moved to Ottawa as a teenager. In the early days, she struggled to find community in the city.
“It was really hard living in a new environment, so far away from my homelands and my family,” she says.
A few years later, not only had Fayant found lifelong friends, she and her community had created a youth group, Assembly of Seven Generations (A7G), to ensure nobody would have to experience that same sense of loneliness.
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Founded in 2014, A7G is an Indigenous-owned and youth-led non-profit focusing on cultural support and empowerment programs for Indigenous youth with traditional knowledge and guidance from Elders.
For eight years, A7G has been growing, expanding its networks to meet the needs of Indigenous youth. Despite this, it has never received core funding.
“There’s a lot of talk about, ‘We want to support Indigenous people,’ but it seems that we’re still carrying the weight of rebuilding our communities, languages and ceremonies,” Fayant says. “We keep growing, despite having very little resources.”
For A7G, one part of this growth includes the opening in June 2022 of Adaawewigamig, a social enterprise and ByWard Market storefront selling items created by Indigenous brands as well as by independent Indigenous artists and beaders.
“We’re able to employ Indigenous youth that are part of A7G, so that’s really awesome,” Fayant says. “We’re also supporting Indigenous brands, beaders and artists. Anytime you’re doing that, you can’t go wrong.”
Cedar Aisipi is a youth volunteer at A7G. Originally from Attawapiskat First Nation and Peawanuck First Nation, Aisipi came to Ottawa to study in 2017. She found out about A7G almost right away. “As someone who was far from home, I really craved that community,” she says. “When I needed support, they were there, and because of that, I just kept coming back.”
Today, Aisipi works at Adaawewigamig. As well as receiving lots of local customers, Adaawewigamig has become a hotspot for tourists. “It’s a really good opportunity for non-Indigenous folks to learn a little bit about who we are as Indigenous people,” Fayant says.
As well as ensuring that A7G has a sustainable source of funding, Adaawewigamig supports Indigenous businesses and artists. “For a very long time, Indigenous folks have had to undersell their beadwork, their moccasins, their handmade items,” Fayant says. “We want to get the value up, to get them the compensation that they really deserve.”
Running the social enterprise is a community effort, Fayant says, with support from Ottawa Markets and Indigenous Experiences, an event planning business that’s been presenting Indigenous culture, history, food and arts for over 25 years.
Looking ahead, Fayant says that Adaawewigamig will be offering workshops for Indigenous youth, as well as poetry nights and book readings. This holiday season, A7G is hosting special guest artists in their community space.
“The community (and) all of our allies (have) really supported us,” Fayant says. “It’s been really, really great.”
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