“Sovereign People on Sovereign Land”: Interview with Mississaugas of the Credit Medicine Wheel
A sovereign Indigenous cannabis dispensary is now operating at 1176 Danforth Ave. in downtown Toronto. Grand opening is on Oct 1st.
TORONTO – On September 23rd, 2021, Real People’s Media interviewed a representative from the Mississaugas of the Credit Medicine Wheel – the first sovereign Indigenous cannabis dispensary in Toronto. Like the hundreds of sovereign Indigenous cannabis shops that have opened up on reserves across so-called Canada, the store sells a wide variety of cannabis products outside of Canada’s regulatory system on unceded Indigenous lands.
On Friday, October 1st, Mississaugas of the Credit Medicine Wheel will be having its official grand opening from 4pm-7pm. The event will be a festive affair, with drumming, dancers, a moment of prayer, and a feast. On the menu is venison, corn soup, and fry bread. There will also be promotions and give-aways. Covid-19 protocols will be in effect.
The shop is located at 1176 Danforth Ave. in the east end of the city. Pre rolls will be given away to the first 1000 customers. The other main promotional deal is two ounces of quality cannabis for the low price of $100 – a deal virtually unheard of in Toronto. Purchases made at Medicine Wheel must be made with cash only, although there is an ATM onsite at the store. The business is in the process of establishing their social media presence. You can follow them @MCMedicineWheel on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay in touch. Their website is coming soon at https://mcmedicinewheel.com. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 647-977-9939. The store is currently open from 12pm-10pm every day.
Interview with Mississaugas of the Credit Medicine Wheel
What led you to open up this store in the first place?
The reserves are getting overrun by cannabis stores. The Danforth Avenue (in Toronto) is an unsurrendered piece of property of the Mississaugas of the Credit so I decided to open a store here. Simple as that. I felt I had a right to exercise my rights, and I’m doing it here on my traditional territory.
What’s been the response from people that have come into your store?
People love it. I haven’t had any negative comments about the store or product or why I am here. If someone can honestly come up with a negative reason why I should close then I wanna hear it. Who is going to give me the negative reasoning? The government? So if somebody can come up with a reason that this shouldn’t be here, that is a legitimate reason I want to hear it.
Do you have a primarily Indigenous clientele?
70% of our walk-ins have been Indigenous. Everyone is welcome, everyone is coming, but mostly it’s been people from our own community.
What sets you apart from other cannabis stores in the neighbourhood?
We have better product, plus our prices are cheaper and we have a good supply. People can visually see the product too so they can pick what they want, and we don’t put any restrictions on what they can take.
What are your thoughts and intentions in terms of where this will go? Do you see it happening in other cities in other territories?
I hope they’re opening up all over the GTA and every town, everyone has the right to do this that’s Native. So find your area and your territory, and get a group of people together and open a store. That’s what I think they should do. We shouldn’t confine ourselves to the reserves. It’s our country but they’re using it. The Canadian government and the Crown need to realize that they have to make room for us. It’s our land!
Do you have any apprehension about the police coming in to raid you?
I have a drill, a grinder and a set of bolt cutters and more supply to come back the next day. If they’re gonna shut me and lock me out then I am coming back, I have a lease, I have paid my rent. I have a right to be here. That’s what I’m gonna do.
What about in terms of your relationship with other Indigenous producers? Are you looking to sell other Indigenous products here?
We are, and we do sell other Native products. I believe in Nation-to-Nation trading and that everybody should have the opportunity to be in every market they can be in. If there’s other nations that bring their stuff here I am willing to look at it and put it on the shelf if it’s viable to do so.
This isn’t just about cannabis; if we can come here and sell cannabis we can sell whatever we want: it’s ours to do it. We don’t have to ask, we don’t have to get a license or a permit. Just do it the proper way. What I’m doing affects the collective in a positive way. As a collective those processes were destroyed by the Crown; through cultural genocide, economic genocide, social genocide, just genocide itself. They’ve taken it all away. Now we’re coming to get it back.
Can you explain a bit more about your rights?
This area was occupied by the Mississaugas of the Credit. The British wanted it so they could develop a city, and they moved us to stoney ground, to clay 70 miles away and they took this and developed it into a great big epicentre.
Toronto is world-renowned for trade, for business, but where are we in it? We get to watch it instead of being part of it, so we don’t get to develop the laws that come along, we don’t get to take part in the social development, the educational development. We’re pushed out of the picture and deprived of the benefits.
How can they even come and say that I don’t have the right to have a business here? You make all these rules and establishments and then you come and tell me what I can and can’t do? Nuh-uh-uh. No. No. That’s wrong.
There is something wrong with this picture when they wanna make their rules and take me to their court and tell me how I am wrong in their eyes. I think Lady Justice needs to leave the blindfold on, and really use the scales.
Why is it cannabis and not some other type of business?
My wife worked in a drug and alcohol treatment centre for 16 years, she uses cannabis for her aches and pains. She has a lot of arthritis and so do I, and cannabis has been a real benefit. I’ve talked to a number of people who have used cannabis to help them get off of opiates.
Here I am in the middle of Toronto’s Native community, I wanna help, the people can come here and get medicinal cannabis at a reasonable price. They wanna go down the street where they can pay and get taxed, or they can come here and get it at a reasonable price. Affordable. So you have to put something out for the people that are here.
Our friend was saying that what you are doing is like a social service, especially for low income or indigenous people in this city. Do you concur?
I hope it is, and I hope they can enjoy it and know that it is a safe supply, that it’s healthy. There is nothing else in it, it is just cannabis. There are no weird things, no other drugs, this is just about cannabis.
Tell us about your Grand Opening.
October 1st, we are having a Grand Opening. There’s going to be dancers, a feast and promotional giveaways. The store is already open every day from 12pm to 10pm, but the Grand Opening event starts at 4pm and goes until 7. We have made invites to lots of different people and all are welcome. The first 1000 people who come will get a free pre-roll.
You said that you’re open to partnering with other Native people and businesses?
I will work with anybody that’s Native and wants to come here, I will show them what I know or partner with them, there are lots of opportunities. I think that there should be more of us here, not just me. There should be more of us, and the more the merrier, if we don’t exercise our rights we won’t have them. If any other Natives want to open a place in the city, they are welcome to it, it’s a big city.
We have the knowledge now over the years of being oppressed, now we’ve become educated. We can look back on the scars on our people and see them and say you know what? Enough is enough. Let’s not do this anymore, let’s make ourselves healthy.
The Canadian government can sell cannabis down the street, how come I can’t sell it? What is the difference? Why can they and I can’t? There is no reason why I can’t so I am here.
So you did not ask the government, you did not ask the City, you did not ask any other authority whether you could set up or not?
Just my wife. That’s the only authority I ask, is my wife. The women are supposed to lead, right? You always have to weigh up everything. This is family oriented; if everybody agrees it’s a good idea and it feels right, then it’s right.
I asked my wife and she said, “you have been wanting to do it and now’s a good time to do it.” So I did. That’s true though, my biggest ally is my wife, she’s the driving force behind this.