The Art of Identity: Jenna Valiquette’s Visionary Quest to Revitalize Indigenous Heritage
In the heart of downtown Winnipeg, Jenna Valiquette’s dream took flight. With a degree in Indigenous Studies and a passion for music, one wouldn’t necessarily have expected Jenna, who belongs to the Poplar River First Nation, to dive into the world of visual arts. But as she discovered, sometimes our calling finds us in unexpected ways.
“I started out by illustrating the 7 Grandfather Teachings in a minimalist, eye-catching way,” Jenna recalls. At a youth drop-in centre, Jenna’s print bridged the gap between traditional knowledge and contemporary thinking, becoming a powerful conversation starter between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. “Art helps build a bridge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways of knowing,” she affirms.
This revelation led to the birth of Eagle Woman Prints – a small business that has rapidly grown in stature and reach within its first year. With an aim to make “Indigenous ways of knowing affordable, accessible and modern,” Jenna’s venture has breathed life into art that reflects the vibrant tapestry of Indigenous culture. Her pieces harmoniously fit into any setting.
The success of Eagle Woman Prints isn’t just measured in sales, but in the lives it touches. With prints shipped across continents, the enterprise’s impact is undeniable. Jenna shares, “Meeting Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Indigenous youth, parents, educators… has had a huge impact on my life.” One poignant moment for her was witnessing a young girl find representation in her art. “She ran over to the wall, pointed up at the art print and said, ‘Look, she looks like me!'” Jenna recounts. Such moments validate the profound significance of representation and the lasting influence of her prints.
Entrepreneurship is seldom a smooth ride, and Jenna faced her share of challenges. “Sometimes the feeling that you don’t belong in the ‘driver’s seat’ of your business sneaks up,” she admits, acknowledging the reality of impostor syndrome. Yet, her journey with Pow Wow Pitch instilled in her a newfound confidence and a clearer vision for Eagle Woman Prints. She expresses immense gratitude to her mentor Tammy Collins, who helped her hone her pitch to reflect her passion and mission.
A striking facet of Jenna’s entrepreneurial spirit is her community-first approach. “Instead of focusing solely on profit margins, I measure my success by ‘how have I helped my community this month?’,” she says. For her, Indigenous entrepreneurship is grounded in reciprocity, unity, and the celebration of every distinct Indigenous culture.
Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is heartfelt: “Build a strong support system… Staying grounded in your culture and beliefs will help shape your mindset. Be prepared to adapt and learn as you go. Set big goals and little goals – and celebrate all you have accomplished!”
Jenna’s story isn’t just hers; it’s an inspiration, a beacon, and a testament to the strength and resilience of Indigenous communities. Through Eagle Woman Prints, Jenna Valiquette has sown seeds that will continue to sprout, flourish, and make a difference in countless lives.
Register to watch Jenna pitch at the Consumer Semi-Final Online Watch Party on September 7, 2023, at 6 PM ET and vote for Eagle Woman Prints to win the 2023 People’s Choice Prize (#26) before September 17, 2023.