Selective Focus: Indigenous First Art and Gift Shop

Located in the AICHO building at 202 W. 2nd St. in downtown Duluth, Indiginous First opened in 2017, and has been promoting and investing in Indigenous artists and entrepreneurs through their physical space, and now through their online store. This week, Jazmin Wong, coordinator for Indiginous First, discusses the mission guiding the shop, challenges and adaptations due to COVID-19, and a new CSA partnership to bring farm fresh foods to Duluth and Superior.

JW: We sell quality gifts and goods with a mission of advancing, promoting, and investing in Indigenous and diverse artists, authors, agriculturalist and entrepreneurs! Indigenous First is a continuously expanding social enterprise run by the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) in Duluth, MN. Our doors opened in July 2017!

Our holistic, mission-based dedication to building opportunity for Indigenous people is rooted in a vision of health and vibrancy, honoring the resiliency of our community and perpetually acting with future generations in mind.
We currently help display the work of 80 Indigenous and diverse artists! Indigenous First has a wide variety of fine art including canvas and paper prints, beadwork including earrings and jewelry, hand crafted birch bark designs, ceramics, books, apparel, and Indigenous foods.

Creation by Karen Savage Blue

Indigenous First began because of the need of Indigenous and diverse peoples representation in art galleries in Duluth Minnesota. AICHO’S cultural programs would host 3 month art shows and people who attended those shows would come back and want to purchase art that was no longer at AICHO. Because of these demands Indigenous First opened to continuously carry work from our showcased artist. Now three summers later we continue to support our artist, authors and agriculturalist and have gotten to expand our book and food sections!

What are the challenges and rewards from coordinating the gallery and shop?

The rewards of what I do at Indigenous First are limitless! I get to support Indigenous, diverse and BIPOC though what I do by promoting, advertising, and speaking about their work! I get to make connections and build friendships with some of the most intelligent and artistic people in our area and I am grateful for that. Only a small percentage of all artist who make their living of of their art work are Native American and I am happy Indigenous First can help bridge that gap in Duluth MN.

Dances with Cranes by Rabbett Strickland

Currently we have we have closed our doors because of COVID-19 and it has been challenging to come up with new solutions to promoting our artist, authors and agriculturalist while our doors are closed. But what Ivy Vainio and myself have done to continue to promote them is incredible. We have launched our website, promoted online interviews with artist and authors, created artist spotlights, hosted zoom drum singing, language table, plant walks and even created a virtual art exhibition for Robert Desjarlait in the Dr. Robert Powless Center.

Indigenous First on Facebook
AICHO Galleries on Facebook
Location: 202 W. 2nd St. Duluth, MN

Birch Bark Women by Karen Savage Blue

What else do you have coming up?

Native Wise CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Boxes. Indigenous First Arts and Gift Shop is excited to be partnering with Native Wise LLC to bring farm fresh foods to Duluth and Superior! Native Wise LLC is a Native owned and operated farm that is organic based and located on the Fond Du Lac Reservation. Their philosophy is that good, clean food is the best medicine for your body and mind. “My ancestors have taught me that Food is Medicine. High quality food nourishes your body and mind and is the best method to prevent a variety of ailments.” – David Wise Owner (Patra Wise Co- Owner)

We are offering three different CSA boxes from Native Wise (Box 1, Box 2, and Box 3). Box 1 is our two month – 9-week package from August 5th – September 30th, which is our best deal! Box 2 is our Monthly Package, August cost $151 and September cost $184! Box 3 is our weekly deal of $37.75!

We at Indigenous First believe that healthy foods are more important now than ever! We are excited to promoting a local farm with vegetables, wild rice and fish harvested by one family! FROM OUR CURBSIDE PICKUP TO YOU! These Boxes are CURBSIDE PICK UP ONLY on every Wednesday from 2 PM – 6 PM! Please select curbside pickup when checking out!

Ordering info link

Week 1 August 5th – Mixed Greens, Radish, Kale, Zucchini, Cucumber, Crooked Neck Squash, Black Bell Pepper, Arugula and Tomato, 1 LB bag of Wild Rice
Week 2 August 12 – Kale, Zucchini, Crooked Neck Squash, Tomato, Corn, Cucumber, Smoked White Fish
Week 3 August 19 – Potato, Onion, Mixed Greens, Tomato, Mixed Peppers, String Beans, Granite Melon, Herb Sprigs
Week 4 August 26 – Tomato, Peppers, Onion, String Beans, Corn, Tomatillo, Granite Melon
Week 5. Sept. 2 – Broccoli, Herb Sprigs, String Beans, Tomato, Tomatillo, Mixed Peppers, Kale
Week 6. Sept. 9 – Carrots, Tomato, Tomatillo, Beets, Broccoli, Potato, Onion, Smoked WHITE FISH
Week 7. Sept. 16 – Cabbage, Zucchini Squash, Beets, Tomato, Carrots, Squash, Herb Sprigs
Week 8. Sept. 23 – Cabbage, Zucchini Squash, Apples, Beets, Carrots, Winter Squash
Week 9. Sept. 30 – Cabbage, Apples, Beets, Carrots, Dried Sage Bundle

We also have a virtual exhibit coming up, Ojibwe Manidoowiwin – Paintings Robert Desjarlait – July 10th – September 11th

Link at Artsteps:

Robert DesJarlait, Red Lake Nation Ojibwe tribal member and long time established artist, will show a collection of his recent watercolor/mixed media paintings along with a series of retrospective work from the 1980s in a virtual exhibition entitled, “Ojibwe Manidoowiwin” from July 10 – September 11. His works will be displayed in the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center Gallery. However, due to the global pandemic, his work will be showcased online on the AICHO Galleries Facebook event page under the same name as the Exhibition for greater access for the public to view. There will also be an online recorded Artist Talk, date and time to be announced. A majority of his work is for sale.

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