Tell me about yourselves and what Indi City is all about?
Alex- my name is Alex Manitopyes, I am a two-spirit non binary person that was born and raised in Calgary (Mohkinstsis). My paternal and maternal lineage is from Muskowekwan First Nation and Kawacatoose First Nation in Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan. I am Cree (Nehiyaw) and Objibway (Anishnawbek).
Angel- I’m a Nehiyaw/Metis mother and maker with maternal connection to Waterhen River, and paternal lineage from the Peepeepkisis Cree Nation, both in Saskatchewan. Mohkinstsis is home and has been for my adult life.
Indi City is an Indigenous brand dedicated to authentic representation. We work to inspire and uplift future generations by channelling the wisdom and artistry of the ancestors. Right now we make earrings, but that’s just the start.
Why did you want to start a jewelry brand?
Angel- Adornment is sacred. Beadwork has connected me to my Grandmothers. Earrings draw attention to the face, and people will look you in the eyes and start a conversation, and conversations around culture and connection are so important for daily life. We’d like to make designs that go from head to toe, but we’re still here making earrings for the time being.
Pow Wow culture is a huge representation of all the beauty that our culture encompasses. The designs, the colour and the life and love weaved into the regalia inspired me and connected me to my roots. I’m not a dancer but it’s kind of a “ life is a pow wow, so make a grand entry” sort of expression. The jewelry and beadwork is like DNA bringing us closer to the ones before us who fought so hard to exist. Our ancestors are the reason we’re here to share Indigenous fashion and collaborate with incredible companies such as H&B.
"The jewelry and beadwork is like DNA bringing us closer to the ones before us who fought so hard to exist. Our ancestors are the reason we’re here to share Indigenous fashion and collaborate with incredible companies such as H&B.“
Angel- Growing up as a native girl on the reserve I didn’t see our culture being represented in a positive light anywhere. The stereotypes and stigma surrounding our people were steeped in the trauma caused by colonization. Our people stood for much more than what recent history has dictated.
The beauty and power of Indigeneity is strong. We existed on this land before Canada was even a thought. Our people were abundant, and shared a sacred balance with the Earth and everything that encompassed the natural world.
Indi City is a reclamation, a statement and a love song to our Ancestors. We work for the Grandmothers and we work to storytell through visual adornment, which is an important aspect of Indigenous culture. Our blood memory is couture, and we live this as daily life. We want to take up space and create positive representation so that Indigenous youth know they belong anywhere their dreams lead them.
What does it mean to create Indigenous fashion and jewelry for Indigenous and non-Indigenous folx to wear?
We wanted to make sure that we could share appropriate aspects of Indigeneity with the global market. Indi City stands as a respectful nod to our ancestors, and we present our work in a way that allows a greater audience to appreciate Indigenous culture without worrying about appropriation. Our jewelry is meant to start important conversations and bring truth to the beauty and power of our culture.
Why was it important to make sure your jewelry could be worn by anyone? How did this influence your collaboration with Hillberg & Berk?
Humanity is about connection, and adornment is something we all have in common. Jewelry is a symbol of connection and can be passed down as heirlooms. We work to curate pieces that may carry these stories from the past and present forward into the future. Hillberg & Berk resonates with our brand for many reasons; we find resonance in the giving back, and the seeking to move forward in reciprocity. It’s neat that the founders of both companies share “home” being the Treaty 4 territory of Saskatchewan. We thought this was a great and synergistic opportunity to stand together as female entrepreneurs.
Each of your pieces tell such a story. What are your sources of inspiration for designing jewelry? What inspires the designs and colours of your pieces?
Indi City belongs to our Grandmothers, whose beadwork inspires our designs. We’re here as a channel to curate this divine feminine energy into contemporary design and share it in greater quantities. Our choices for design and colour are based on what sort of power and medicine is needed to support the Indigenous rising. Traditionally we upheld and respected the Matriarchy for the intuitive power it held.
"Indi City belongs to our Grandmothers, whose beadwork inspires our designs. We’re here as a channel to curate this divine feminine energy into contemporary design and share it in greater quantities.”
What's your biggest, boldest ambition for the future?
We’d like to see Indi City grow as a brand and move towards creating head-to-toe looks that can be taken to the global market. We’d also like to burst through and open doors for other Indigenous entrepreneurs to create a future of Indigenous economic sovereignty, authentic representation and sustainability across Turtle Island.
What’s your favourite thing about your career?
We love our supporters, and we love that they feel powerful in Indi City. The feedback we most often hear is how the earrings start important conversations. This is the backbone of our purpose because it means people are taking a moment to connect in an uplifting way.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting out?
Traditionally our people were mentored by elders and community right from childhood. They would observe the children playing and take notice of their innate talents and gifts. The children were then paired with the right people and taught everything they needed to know. I’d encourage entrepreneurs to always trust their intuition when it comes to business, and to seek mentors in a variety of vocations and aspects of life, not just business.
"I’d encourage entrepreneurs to always trust their intuition when it comes to business, and to seek mentors in a variety of vocations and aspects of life, not just business.”
Why did you want to collaborate with H&B? Describe the process of bringing two aesthetic styles together into one? What has this experience been like?
H&B is a staple of Canadian fashion. I am certain that most fashionistas have at least one pair of Sparkle Balls. We admire and adore all women in business, and seek to uphold the Matriarchy in any way we can. Indi City is all about bringing divine feminine energy together any way we can. Finding a way to add the signature Sparkle Ball to an Indi City design was an amazing journey. Bringing Sky and Water together through the creative collaboration was so exciting.
What is the design inspiration behind the Nîpîy earring? What does Nîpîy mean? Why was it important to you to name this product in Cree language?
Nîpîy means water in Nēhiyawēwin. Language reclamation and protecting the earth and water go hand in hand. They’re essential aspects of Indigeneity. Water is life, we are water and water is us. Please make sure to thank the water and let it know you love it. Speak into it everyday when you shower, brush your teeth, and fill your water bottle. This cycle of reciprocity and love will only bring about goodness.
June is National Indigenous History Month. What do you want to share with our community about the importance of acknowledging and celebrating Indigenous cultural history, Indigenous voices and creators like yourselves?
This land that we all live on has been under the loving care of Indigenous Peoples’ since time immemorial. Our blood memory connects us to songs and spirits that exist here. Indigenous History Month is a renewing of the moon cycle that comes 13 times a year. It’s a time to build relationships, to celebrate and acknowledge the Indigenous voices and creators who are vital to a healthy community. Innate wisdom and knowledge can be transferred so that we all have a beat on what sort of future we want to build together.
"This land that we all live on has been under the loving care of Indigenous Peoples’ since time immemorial. Our blood memory connects us to songs and spirits that exist here. Indigenous History Month is a renewing of the moon cycle that comes 13 times a year. It’s a time to build relationships, to celebrate and acknowledge the Indigenous voices and creators who are vital to a healthy community. ”
Writing: Carter Selinger