17th annual Christmas Aboriginal Fine Arts and Crafts show features authentic Indigenous art in Thunder Bay

Artists and artisans from northern Ontario and across Canada have come to Thunder Bay, Ont. to participate in the 17th Christmas Aboriginal Fine Arts & Crafts Gift Show and Sale.

The event is hosted every year by the Aboriginal Artworks Group of Northern Ontario (AAGNO) to showcase and promote authentic Indigenous art, from moccasins to jewelry to paintings and more.

“It’s really nice to see the elders and the artisans coming together … they get to visit each other and talk about their artwork. There’s a lot of laughter, a lot of happiness in this festive season,” said John Ferris, the founder of the AAGNO and coordinator of the arts and crafts shows.

He added that there are always new artisans coming to participate and sell their art at the craft show.

“It’s been 17 years of working with these people … we’ve lost a few elders, and we’ve gained a lot of younger people too, young artisans that are continuing their grandparents artwork style,” said Ferris.

Melanie Anderson and her family came all the way from remote, fly-in community of Wapekeka First Nation to participate in the event. (Logan Turner / CBC)

John Ivan Etherington, originally from Moosonee, drove all the way from Kapuskasing to participate in the show for his first time.

Etherington has been making soap stone carvings and tamarack birds for over 40 years, and said that he enjoys coming to these events to showcase some of his art.

“It’s just to show everyone my work … and they really like it, and that gives me satisfaction knowing that I am doing something great that people enjoy.”

Melanie Anderson, now participating in her third Christmas craft show, brought her whole family to the event from Wapekeka First Nation.

She said that she keeps returning to the craft show because it “gives [them] a chance to get [their] work noticed and advertised.”

It’s especially important, Anderson added, because living in a fly-in remote community limits her opportunity to sell her handmade crafts.

This year’s event is taking place December 19-21 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Lakehead University gymnasium.