June was, officially, Indigenous History Month, but the work does not stop on the 30th. Keen to continue supporting local Indigenous businesses, brands and products? Raven Reads is a premium subscription box filled with Indigenous literature and giftware, delivered right to your door. Offered seasonally, the gift box contains a curated collection of Indigenous stories and products, with all profits going back into the community and indigenous creators. We chatted with founder Nicole McLaren, and are giving you a chance to win! —Noa Nichol
Hi Nicole! When and why did you launch Raven Reads? What was your initial aim, and has that purpose evolved at all?
Raven Reads began as a workplace bookclub that focused exclusively on books written by First Nation, Métis and Inuit authors. It was here that I saw how well Indigenous stories resonated with my co-workers and helped them better understand Indigenous experiences far better than any classroom instruction. It was also here that I saw an opportunity to marry the concept of a subscription box with curated books and giftware to raise awareness of our past while supporting Indigenous authors and entrepreneurs.
What products and services do you currently offer, and what makes them unique?
Raven Reads is an Indigenous subscription box that connects global subscribers with authentic and contemporary Indigenous content and cultures. Utilizing our extensive network of Indigenous entrepreneurs, we curate books and giftware from Indigenous authors and entrepreneurs from across North America and ship to over 3,000 subscribers around the world from our warehouse and fulfillment centre in Kamloops, B.C.
For those who sign up to receive a Raven Reads subscription box (adults and kids!), what can they expect to receive seasonally?
Every three months subscribers will receive a curated box delivered straight to their doorstep. Our adult box features a new release novel written by an Indigenous author, plus two to three gift-like items curated from Indigenous entrepreneurs in Canada or the U.S. Our children’s box features two to three books written or illustrated by an Indigenous author or artist, plus a unique book journal made just for our little readers to record their favourite books.
What have some of your favourite box inclusions been so far?
Since our inception, Raven Reads has featured prominent Indigeous brands such as traditionally harvested maple syrup from Wabanaki Maple, coffee from Spirit Mountain Coffee, tea from Sarjesa, lip gloss from Cheekbone Beauty, leather medicine bags from SheNative, salve from Skwalwen Botanicals and lotion from Bison Star Naturals. In terms of authors, we have featured a mix of new and well-known authors such as Tommy Orange, Richard Wagamese, Eden Robinson, Bevann Fox and David Robertson.
Beyond the amazing subscription boxes, how do you use your platform/company to impact others? How do you remain a voice for and active within your Indigenous community?
Raven Reads was founded on the purpose of raising awareness of our collective past in Canada, Indigenous cultures and literature. Our boxes provide a conduit for global subscribers to learn more about Indigenous cultures while supporting the growth of Indigenous authors and entrepreneurs. Since our inception, we have invested over $300,000 back into the Indigenous economy through the procurement of our box contents. Eighty per cent of our suppliers are Indigenous-owned, and 60 per cent of our suppliers identify as woman-owned. Additionally, our sales allow us to improve the educational well-being of children across North America by allowing our business to donate to youth literacy programs.
What is your advice for those of us who are not part of the local Indigenous community, but wish to gain more knowledge/understanding and be allies?
Pick up a book. Many of us (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) were denied the truth about Canada’s history coming up through the western education system. Now is a perfect time for investing some time and energy into learning more about what really happened and how these historical wrongs and trauma have a ripple effect through entire generations and families. Check out our recommended book guides on our website for some excellent starting points. I also strongly recommend all Canadian’s to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions 94 Calls to Action: this is an easy read with very clear calls to action for all Canadians in all walks of life.
Reconciliation is a word that gets a lot of press. What does it mean to you, and what do you think Canadians can do to advance it/get involved in the movement?
The Truth & Reconciliation Committee’s report laid the foundation for a way to find common ground for moving forward for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. I know that reconciliation means different things to different people. To many, it is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in this country. I believe we have entered a phase of enlightenment for Canadians in beginning to understand the truth of our collective past. It is only after we share a common understanding of our past, can we work toward reconciliation.
Win! Two Raven Reads Boxes!
Congrats Katie M. @katiemac80 of Calgary, AB, who will receive two Raven Reads boxes (one adult and one child)! Please note: if you are the winner, you will receive a DM (direct message) in Instagram directly from @vitadaily.ca. Please be wary of fake accounts, which often use similar handles with an extra or missing letter, number or symbol. We will never ask for a payment or for your credit card number, and we will never ask you to click through a link. If you are unsure whether you have been contacted, via Instagram, by us or a fake account, email us before responding.