“Inspired by Traditional Teachings”
In the year 2000, we started a home-based business creating Native jewelry and moccasins, travelling to many, many pow-wows and conferences to market our goods.
In 2003, we purchased a commercial embroidery machine to be able to put our Native artwork onto clothing. Something surprising happened! When people in the Creston Valley found out that we had a commercial embroidery machine, they started to stop by our home unexpectedly to order embroidery for their businesses (Yes! We were the first ones to have an embroidery machine in town). Soon, we were meeting customers at restaurants to show garments samples, embroidery thread colors, etc. As business increased, this method became complicated and time-consuming. So, my husband and I gave thought to either building a storefront or refusing to do commercial embroidery and turning people away. We decided to build.
And so, the journey to our building began. It was very difficult to arrange financing for a building on Lower Kootenay Reserve as the building could not be used as collateral for the mortgage due to the “Indian Act”. This meant that if the mortgage was defaulted on, the bank could not take the building or land. We met with several possible funding agencies and heard the word ‘NO’. The mortgage companies did not want the terms dictated by the Indian Act. In September 2003, I remember crying on the way home from one of these meetings. It was so unfair.
When my sister-in-law, Christine Louie, heard what happened she told me “Don’t worry. It’s going to happen.” These were powerful words from a powerful matriarch of our community.
So, we continued to work with Kootenay Aboriginal Business Advocates to achieve our dream. Our contact at KABAS, Don R., had an idea for us to purchase another larger embroidery machine and use that as collateral for the building. Since it was portable, it could be used as collateral; however, the LKB Council had to sign a Band Council Resolution to allow the collateral to be taken if the loan was defaulted on. It worked! We were called the first week of December 2003 and told if we could get our business plan and application submitted within 2 weeks, we might be able to receive slippage funds ($ not used by another applicant) before the fiscal year end of March 31. We spent our Christmas holidays getting it ready!
In January 2004, we received notification that our business proposal was approved and we would receive the loan. That was just the beginning of seeing our dream fulfilled. It was quite an event on the Reserve to see the building go up. We built to an existing roof on the property… a very basic simple building. Because the existing roof was so large, we ended up with a beautiful home for many of our dreams. Upon receiving the good news on our financing, we decided to create space within our building for the Yaqan Nuki Heritage Centre which is a place where our people can share the history and traditional teachings. The YN Heritage Centre is owned by the people and acts as an incubator for learning… we have had many summer students and employees who helped create exhibits and document traditional knowledge for the Centre.
Our dream could not have happened without being inspired by our traditional teachings. The teachings that have shown us – self-reliance, hard work, unity, humor, sharing, caring, respect, family relations, wisdom, spirituality. Many family and community members strengthened our journey.
While we were building, Robert’s mother Isobel started making a canoe for the Yaqan Nuki Heritage Center. We were so excited as this was very special; there was not many canoe builders left. Just before she finished the canoe, tragedy struck; she had a stroke. She lost her speech and the movement on one side of her body. She never gave up. Within 6 months, she had 95% recovery and finished the canoe and gifted it to her people for the YNHC. Today, it is displayed at the center of the Heritage Center.
There were many challenges while building. Delays and cost over-runs were the main ones. We were fortunate to both have full-time jobs, low living expenses, and extremely good credit. By the time the building was opened, we had racked up about $60,000 on our credit cards in addition to the mortgage on the building.
The day we opened the building of Legend Logos, the doors flew open and we were surprised to see Wilf & Agatha Jacobs bringing in the drum and singers to bless the building. Wilf Jacobs was ‘the entrepreneur’ of Lower Kootenay; he had started many businesses in his lifetime and most notably the Ktunaxa Tipi Company – which sold tipis all over the world. What a beautiful way for our journey in the building to begin.
And, it didn’t stop there. I’ll never forget when our first embroidery customer came into the store. I’m like this is so much easier. Today, our business has expanded to include specialized embroidery and screen printing, promotional products, signs, a retail gift shop and an Indigenous wholesale gift manufacturing. Our market area is the Kootenays, British Columbia and Alberta.
As well, we have a strong tourist business with travelers from all over the world. My husband Robert has written 3 books on his traditional knowledge and often takes the time to share his stories with tourists.
He has a unique and distinct presence due to the way in which he was traditionally raised by his grandmother.
Legend Lake Tours, another offshoot of Legend Logos, has been taking interested people on boat tours on Kootenay Lake to share these traditional historical legends. Other tours and workshops are available also.
The traditional teachings of our ancestors have guided our journey in life and in business. While developing our business, many of our decisions have been guided by these teachings, inspiring us to try new things.
Today, my husband is retired (he still works pretty hard for me LOL!) and I work mostly from home now for Legend Logos. We recently named one of the LKB members, Janine Basil, to manage Legend Logos for us. And, we are bringing on a few other young people to learn the business, our way of giving back to the community.