Twig & Squirrel’s Wild Goods Stands Solid on Sacred Treaty 6 Soil
How Creative Community Connection Builds a Business
by Jackie Jenson
Twig & Squirrel’s Wild Goods germinated in 2013 as 20th Street in Saskatoon was experiencing the beginning of a transformation. The name’s origins came from the novel The Shamanic Way of The Bee. Twig signifies one small branch on the great tree of life. Squirrels are industrious, but also known to forget the location of some of their nut stashes, resulting in new tree growth. This significance, combined with inspiration from a Wild Bill’s Pizza sign in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, resulted in the birth of Twig & Squirrel’s Wild Goods. We had no clue what we were going to sell, but I did have an inkling it would be wild and good.
The business plan was this question, “How do we serve this community?” Coupled with a deep desire to bring the medicine of the people back to the people, the foundation was laid. Twig & Squirrel has been built by the genuine folks who call the Riversdale community home.
It’s up for debate whether or not yoga training and the healing arts had prepared me to run a retail store. It grew on me, like moss on the north side of a tree. I was a misplaced gypsy soul from the east side, with the illusion that love and light was going to be enough to run a small business in the core of the city. After much trial and tribulation, it turns out that as unqualified as I was, love and light knew exactly what it was doing. Twig & Squirrel has had a pretty incredible evolution. From newborn to fledgling in eight fleeting years, the store now stands solid on the sacred Treaty 6 soil.
We started with zero inventory and an invitation on social media for local artists and entrepreneurs to bring in their creations. Dream catchers, herbal salves, and moccasins walked in the door. Word of mouth spread, and soon we were featuring locally-beaded jewelry, original paintings, natural body-care, and locally harvested chaga mushrooms. The store became filled to the brim with a colourful and unique array of products.
One summer day early on, a young First Nation’s man approached me in the store asking to learn the energy modality of reiki. He was studying with a medicine man up north and keen to expand his spiritual teachings. Thus began quiet evening sharing circles and a holistic healing arts practice in the store. Other students joined in, and over the next two years the store moved into a larger space next door, acquired the “Bead Corner” from the former downtown Trading Post, and was staffed by volunteers in exchange for reiki training. Eclectic is an understatement when it comes to Twig & Squirrel. It is a business, but much more than that, it is an integral hub of connection and a diverse dynamic of creativity and wellness in our community.
Str8Up members choosing to move forward from gang life have gained work experience in the store. Support meetings for families struggling with crystal meth addiction were meeting weekly before COVID-19 restrictions. Take-A-Break Tuesday sessions with holistic therapists, open to all at no cost, ran all last year. Crocus Co-op and the Lighthouse sell items on consignment made by their members. Opportunities to build and strengthen community surround us. Collaborating with an open heart meets needs that I never would have dreamed possible.
One of the first local artists whose amazing work we were privileged to acquire was Dallas Poundmaker. One day, Dallas sauntered in with a canvas he had painted, featuring a peace pipe and eagle, and in his quiet way asked, “Why did I paint this?” I thought it odd that the painter was asking that question, but on inquiry I came to realize he was painting intuitively from his spirit. He had felt guided to bring it to this small shop that in a way represents a bridge between worlds, where unlikely friends meet and mix. A few years later, Dallas suffered a head injury after an assault that left him in a coma for an extended period of time. He awoke paralyzed and now lives in the Sherbrooke Community Centre. To help raise funds for Dallas, we now can sell prints of some of his beautiful paintings that we were able to keep in digital form.
Today the bead corner has expanded to include leather and fur pelts from an Alberta trapper, a huge selection of ribbon for sewing ceremonial skirts and shirts, and all the findings necessary for jewelry making. The attached suite behind the store now hosts various community sharing circles, as well as serving as a space for local holistic practitioners to see their clients.
The expression of our creative nature is not just art. It is healing. Many survivors of terrible trauma have expressed to me that doing their art, whether it be painting, beading, writing, music, or dance, has helped them cope and survive the pain of deep loss. The flame of creativity that becomes dulled during trauma can be kindled. The spark never really goes out...all it needs is a small breeze of encouragement and a few supplies. At Twig & Squirrel, we endeavour to meet that need. We are thankful for the opportunity to be here, especially now through these bizarre times. Creativity and wellness go hand in hand. Many people are seeking gentler, nature-based ways to support their health. The interest in indigenous plant remedies, tinctures, and organic herbs attest to that. Much gratitude to the kind elders who have shared their wisdom and presence here on the corner of 20th Street and Avenue E.
Jackie Jenson lives in Saskatoon and has always loved the natural wildness of the windswept prairies and South Saskatchewan River. She has four grown daughters and nine beautiful spirited grandchildren. Together with her loving life partner, Kevin Rattlesnake, she operates Twig & Squirrel’s Wild Goods, 504–20th Street West, Saskatoon, SK, S7M 0X5, (306) 974-WILD. For more information see the display ad on page 15 of the 27.2 July/August issue of the WHOLifE Journal.