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We Wai Kai celebrate opening of Island’s first Indigenous-owned Starbucks

When ground broke last year, Campbell River area outlet was called the first of its type in Canada
Artist Jessica Chickite stands with the mural she painted for the new Starbucks run by the We Wai Kai first Nation. Photo courtesy Starbucks Canada

The We Wai Kai First Nation is opening of a new Starbucks cafe and drive-thru in Campbell River.

Situated on the We Wai Kai reserve at the Quinsam Crossing development at 101-125 Brant Drive in Campbell River, B.C., this 1,700 square ft. store will serve as a local cafe for the We Wai Kai’s 1,200 nation members and people from surrounding communities.

When ground broke last year, it was proclaimed as the first Indigenous-owned Starbucks licenced-store in Canada

With a focus on hiring local members of the community, the store has created new job opportunities, employing over 20 baristas so far. The business also plans to support the Campbell River food bank.

“The nation’s leadership fully understands that achieving true reconciliation will not be possible without vibrant Indigenous economies, characterized by economic self-sufficiency and socio-economic equality with the rest of Canada. Our new licensed Starbucks store helps us further move towards economic self-sufficiency as we continue to build our own-source revenues,” said Ronnie Chickite, We Wai Kai Nation Chief Councillor.

The store has been designed to pay homage to We Wai Kai culture, incorporating local materials and art by local artists. Inside the store is a hand-painted mural made by Jessica Chickite. The artwork draws from the Nation’s creation story of the Great Flood and honours and celebrates the Nation’s history and culture.

The mural also incorporates the Starbucks siren, which Chickite says “participates in this dramatic retelling of the We Wai Kai’s origins, swimming below two canoes – a reference to the canoes that first brought my ancestors to the We Wai Kai Nation. The mural celebrates our stories, symbols and traditions passed down over generations, even as it embraces new beginnings and possibilities.”

“We are proud to open this store to bring the Starbucks Experience to even more customers with the We Wai Kai Nation as its licensee to help serve the unique needs and priorities of this community,” said Shannon Leisz, Vice President, Store Development, Starbucks Canada. “This moment not only represents our continuous commitment to strengthen our understanding and relationships with Indigenous communities, but also demonstrates our desire to mutually thrive together.”

A release from Starbucks says that this new store is part of Starbucks Canada’s ongoing Reconciliation journey and continued effort to advance equity, diversity and inclusion, this store is part of the company’s approach to building respectful, meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities.

Last month, Starbucks also opened its first licensed store on ATR land (addition to reserve) with Saskatchewan’s Muskeg Lake Cree Nation.

READ ALSO:Canada’s first Indigenous-owned licensed Starbucks to open at Quinsam Reserve

READ ALSO:New land deal gives Homalco First Nation space for new businesses, housing

Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Campbell River Mirror in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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