Indigenous culture, art, and music showcased at Calgary event 

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It is one thing to talk about Truth and Reconciliation, it is quite another to put it into action. Calgary-based Indigenous GenZ, and Millennial founders and entrepreneurs Tony, chief executive officer (CEO) and Melissa Tootoosis, chief operating officer (COO) created their start-up organization, Four Winds, this past March. After much success they hosted their second Four Winds Indigenous Market & Showcase on November 19 and 20 at the District at Beltline, in Calgary, Alberta. 

The Victoria Park Business Improvement Area (BIA), the District at Beltline and Cousins Skateboard Community were just a couple of the many sponsors that fuelled the fire for this event. Highly respected Indigenous artists and musicians from across Western Canada participated. Indigenous Elders were consulted on programming and were in attendance to advise throughout the weekend.

“We believe showcasing artists and entrepreneurs helps create networking opportunities and allows them to be more visible to the sectors they do business in the community and the media,” said Melissa in a November press release. “Our goal is to inspire the community — especially youth — to consider the opportunities available to them in the arts and acquire the information and connections to make their dream a reality.”

Melissa Tootoosis is one of the co-founders of Four Winds.

The Tootoosis’ held their first showcase this year in March, which brought more than 800 people from many different First Nations and non-Indigenous communities across western Canada. With Canadians on the path of Truth and Reconciliation, the event is building traction for all of western Canada’s Indigenous founders and organizations through their tangible and inclusive programming.

“The attendance at our first showcase was much wider than just Calgary’s Indigenous population,” said Tony. “We saw the support, the excitement, and the rallying of the non-Indigenous community come out, take part, and enjoy. That is exactly why we founded it. No more of ‘us and them’. We need to come together to create actionable change, especially for our Indigenous youth.”

Tapping into the heart and soul of Indigenous innovation and culture, the Tootoosis’ are paving the roadway to Truth and Reconciliation with action and tangible programming for all walks of life. Four Winds is designed to support artists, performers and entrepreneurs that may not otherwise have had access to such resources for promotion, mainstream media opportunities and networking touchpoints to create and build their businesses and start-ups.

“I think many Canadians feel Truth and Reconciliation should be about more than reading land acknowledgements during business functions and events,” said Tony. “Sadly, many people often don’t know where to start. Change making is coming from within our Indigenous communities. We often hear only about the negatives and it’s time to take back that story and shout our truths loud and proud — that’s part of the Four Winds’ mission.”

Tony, also known by the name Toosick, is a respected hip-hop artist, grass dancer, audio engineer, and a semi-professional skateboarder and father. He believes Indigenous initiatives need visibility, regionally and nationally, so that the next generation can see a path to thrive. He was recently received the 2022 National Changemaker Award from the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth (USAY) and New Tribe Magazine, an honour he’s proud of.

Tony Tootoosis one of the co-founders of Four Winds is also a respected hip hop artist in which he goes by the name Toosick.

The Tootoosis’ shared the concept behind Four Winds was not only inspired through their passion as artists and entrepreneurs but also as parents. 

“Our baby girl Aaliyah, and all Indigenous children like her, deserve and need to see themselves reflected in the leaders and icons we celebrate across Canada,” said Melissa. “Mentorship and elevation come from showing, not telling, and leading by example. Four Winds is on a mission to do just that.”