By Colin MacDougall, CWCF Ontario Delegate to The Co-operators and Past Treasurer, CWCF &
Greg O’Neill, CWCF Neechi Support Committee member, past CEO of Arctic Co-op Development Fund
5 April 2017
There is a miracle unfolding in Winnipeg. It is Neechi Foods Co-operative (865 Main Street, at Euclid). This Co-op needs your support. Neechi means “friend”, “sister” or “brother” in Cree and Ojibwa.
Neechi is based on the principle that economic healing is needed to sustain personal and social healing for many among the urban native population of Winnipeg. Neechi Commons needs your help to achieve its goals. Selling groceries and aboriginal artisanal products, the Co-op seeks to become the cornerstone for the revitalization of commerce in a Winnipeg neighbourhood that has faced long-term economic hardship. Neechi has created new employment opportunities for 45 primarily aboriginal youth and other neighbourhood residents and provides income to about 150 artisans and others. Winnipeg is home to the largest number of urban Aboriginal people: nearly 80,0000 people, more than 10% of Winnipeg’s population. Neechi employs the most aboriginal people of any retail operation in the country. Perhaps the most important thing it provides is hope where hope is hard to find.
In the words of Louise Champagne, co-founder of the enterprise: “Neechi Commons symbolizes how Aboriginal People can regain control of land and economic decision-making within a modern community context.” It has persisted and operated over the past 27 years.
In the face of the many huge challenges which Neechi Co-op currently faces, it is a shining example of an indigenous social and co-operative approach to successfully meeting local economic challenges.
The Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation (“CWCF”) has a long-standing Neechi Support Committee. The Committee is urgently seeking donations for Neechi from organizations and individuals, for a total of about $25,000. The funds will be used to support charitable activities associated with Neechi Commons in low-income neighborhoods of Winnipeg. Time is of the essence. Charitable tax receipts are available. Please make cheques out to Vancity Community Foundation with the memo line of “Neechi Project”. You may donate on-line at: http://www.vancitycommunityfoundation.ca/donor-advised-funds/Neechi-Commons-Fund, or mail it to the Foundation: Vancity Community Foundation / 810 – 815 West Hastings Street / Vancouver, BC V6C 1B4. Further, if you can, please patronize Neechi.
Thank you / Meegwich!