A project named Operation Reclamation is purchasing Indigenous parkas found across Canada and redistributing them to Indigenous youth.
The parka project was created by a Denesüline person living in Treaty 8 territory who asked to be identified by the name they use on Instagram, Red Plume Woman.
They said young Indigenous people don’t always have the money to purchase coats like the ones the project is acquiring.
“Due to a lot of things, like generational wealth, we haven’t had the opportunity to grow our communities economically, and we still face so many barriers when it comes to employment, financial issues, and academia,” they told Cabin Radio.
“It’s really important to involve the northern youth, specifically, because the economic barriers are more prominent up there.”
The project stems from Red Plume Woman’s discovery of Indigenous parkas being sold on the likes of eBay and Facebook marketplace – mostly, they said, by non-Indigenous people.
“It seems like so many non-Indigenous people have these parkas just sitting in their closet because they are collector’s items or whatever,” they said.
“It’s like these parkas are, even though Indigenous, more accessible to non-Indigenous people than they are to Indigenous people.”
It wasn’t until they got their own traditional parka that they realized the importance of connecting youth with the jackets.
“It was so healing for me,” they explained.
“It connected me back to my culture and it really helped with my self-esteem and my sense of belonging.”
A grant from the Canadian Roots Exchange allowed the project to begin purchasing some parkas, while others have been donated to the cause. If they are damaged, Red Plume Woman fixes them before sending them to youth.
“It’s really cool because each parka tells a story, and you can tell where it’s from based on the tag or the embellishments on the sleeves,” they explained.
“And you can kind-of tell the way the jacket was worn just based on what spots in the jacket are worn down, or what spots are stained. They all have their own story, and I want to share those stories with Indigenous youth.”
Red Plume Woman said parkas will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, though preference will be given to northern Indigenous youth.
More information can be found on the project’s website.