PRINCE ALBERT -- The president of a new Indigenous soap and cleaning product company says he hopes consumers across Saskatchewan and beyond will switch brands and make Nikihk products regular staples in their homes.

“We think there’s going to be more production. We think it’s going to go into a national product,” said Nikihk company president Neil Sasakamoose.

Nikihk is a cree word for “my home” and the name of a cleaning company founded by the Battleford Agency of Tribal Chiefs on behalf of seven first nations, less than a year ago.

Neil Sasakamoose says First Nations in the North Battleford area couldn’t find sanitation supplies to buy in the first part of the Covid-19 pandemic. This led the Battleford Agency of Tribal Chiefs to source their own supplies and eventually led them to form a company to create their own brand of hand sanitizer complete with sweet grass scent.

“We thought narrowly at first. We thought we are just providing our own households on reserves an opportunity to be safe during the pandemic, but now this is a great opportunity,” said Sasakamoose.

To date, the company has has manufactured 70,000 Nikihk sample packages. They consist of seven products such as sanitizer, hand lotion, dish soap, kitsch degreaser and bathroom cleaner.

The Nikihk sample kits are being distributed to all people who get a Covid-19 vaccination at one of the urban Indigenous Covid-19 vaccination centres in Saskatoon, North Battleford and Prince Albert.

Some of the funding for the Covid-19 kits was provided by Indigenous Services Canada and serves partially as a reconciliation gift, says Sasakamoose.

About 20,000 kits have been given out at vaccine clinics to members of the public like Harneet Kaur.

“If they started a new businesses, it’s good for them to give the free samples and so if people like it they will obviously purchase it for themselves,” said Kaur.

The kit includes a survey card asking people to try the product and email them back a photo of the paper survey.

“Now this is a great marketing opportunity for us. People are picking it up now. It’s in demand,” said Sasakamoose.

The Sobey’s grocery store in Preston Crossing became the first major retailer to sell Nikihk products in its store.

“There’s been many calls from companies across Canada that would like to carry an Indigenous product like Nikihk,” Sasakamoose said.

The company’s production plant is located in Cormand Industrial Park North of Saskatoon, SK.

Twenty people work full time with the company. The number of employees rises to about 50 during peak production and distribution.