Supporting Indigenous Brands as a Non-Indigenous Person
Hello! My name is Melanie, and I’ve worked with Cheekbone Beauty for the last year. My role at Cheekbone started as the Executive Assistant to the Founder & CEO, Jenn Harper. I’ve since transitioned to Customer Service and Marketing Support.
While Cheekbone Beauty is an Indigenous-owned company, I am not Indigenous.
Years before starting my role, I followed Cheekbone Beauty on Instagram and was in awe of the brand – Canada’s first Indigenous-owned, clean beauty brand. How powerful! At the same time, I was doing my Undergraduate Degree. During those 4 years, I took every Indigenous Studies course that the school offered – a grand total of just 3 courses offered at the entire institution. While the school didn’t offer many options, the Indigenous professors who taught those courses made such a significant impact on me and helped me, as a non-Indigenous person, explore my understanding of Indigeneity, what that means, and how to thoughtfully ask questions, engage with, and support the Indigenous community.
One piece of advice that I’d share is the importance of amplifying Indigenous voices when possible. In many cultures, mine included, storytelling is essential for building community. I’ve grown to love hearing stories and reading stories.
If you are a story lover like me, I’d suggest the following books, written by Indigenous authors:
- 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph (Non-Fiction)
- The Round House by Louise Erdrich (Fiction)
- Birdie by Tracey Lindberg (Fiction)
- Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese (Fiction)
- Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer (Non-Fiction)
- From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle (Non-Fiction)
- Five Little Indians by Michelle Good (Fiction)
- LaRose by Louise Erdrich (Fiction)
- The Sentence by Louise Erdrich (Fiction)
- Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowel (Non-Fiction)
At Cheekbone Beauty, most of our team (including Jenn!) have also completed the Indigenous Canada course offered by the University of Alberta through Coursera. The course is 100% online and the 12 modules can be shaped around your schedule. The course is $66 CAD, and you receive a Certificate of Completion at the end. Coursera offers financial aid to students in need. You are also able to complete the course for free but will not receive the certificate.
Thankfully, my educational experiences have helped me prepare for my role at Cheekbone Beauty. As a non-Indigenous person who works for an Indigenous-owned company that aims to inspire Indigenous youth, I’ve learned that my job is more than makeup. My job is to understand that I will likely never understand the experiences of Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island, but to support in any way that I can, that feels genuine and authentic – I’ve learned that authenticity comes in the form of supporting Indigenous causes year-round. It's important to support Indigenous-owned brands to promote and celebrate their unique, rich, and vibrant cultures while also supporting growth within the community.
Here are some ways that you can support Indigenous-owned brands and businesses:
- Research: Take the time to learn about Indigenous-owned brands, businesses, and artisans in your area or online – you can start by checking out social media or doing a quick Google search.
- Shop Indigenous Brands: Nowadays, most brands have an online presence, which makes Indigenous-owned brands more accessible to the consumer. Whether you are looking for clothing, jewelry, skincare, or cosmetics, there are SO many amazing Indigenous-owned brands out there to choose from! By supporting these businesses, you're helping to create opportunities for Indigenous entrepreneurs and inspiring a future generation to see their potential, while also discovering unique and beautiful products!
- Attend Indigenous Events: Look for Indigenous events in your community, such as Pow Wows, craft fairs, or cultural festivals. If you are in Canada, you can find more information on events here. These events are often opportunities to meet Indigenous artisans and entrepreneurs and learn more about their culture. If you’re looking for more information on Pow Wow etiquette as a non-Indigenous person, we have some important content coming out soon from Indigenous creators who attend – stay tuned!
- Respect Indigenous Cultures: When buying from Indigenous-owned brands, it's important to respect the cultural significance of the products. Take the time to learn about the cultural significance of any names, designs, or symbols being used - for example, Cheekbone Beauty uses the word for “land” or “earth” from different Indigenous languages as the naming convention for our Sustain Lipstick collection. Remember to appreciate, not appropriate!
- Share Your Experience: After purchasing from an Indigenous-owned brand or attending an Indigenous event, share your experience with others! Social media is POWERFUL! Use your social platforms to share photos, tag the business, and encourage others to support Indigenous-owned brands.
By supporting Indigenous-owned brands, we can help to promote the power of representation through Indigenous entrepreneurship while celebrating and learning from their rich cultures.