Another sign that Native people are becoming more involved within the fur market can be found in the wild fur production. The Nipissing First Nations Fur Dressers Inc. in North Bay, Ontario, recently reopened its door after a year of being closed in 1993.

Under new management, wholly owned by the Ojibways of Nipissing. The band hopes to make a go of the plant and avoid many of the pitfalls encountered by the previous Italian owners, namely breaking even and an expensive European dressing method that was impractical for North America.

General manager, George Lanouette, says that their main task is reestablishing their clientele and letting them know they are open for business.

“We’re working to get our customers we had before, and they’ll come back and that the quality is here,” said Lanouette.

Under the previous management of the Italian deMedici group, which owned 51 per cent of the company, and the remaining 49 per cent under the Nipissing band, the band had no say in the operation. But this time around they are doing things on their own.

The dressing plant recently held its grand opening on December 12 in conjunction with the North Bay Fur Auction. As part of the promotion, they are trying to attract customers at this and other auctions.

Jan MacLeod, customer representative, said buyers at the auctions are reluctant to give dressing contracts to the Fur Dressers plant, mainly because they work for manufactures who decide.

“Our goal is to target the manufactures and designers, give them an example of what they are looking for and then they can instruct the buyers to bring their furs here,” said MacLeod.

Under the Italian company, the majority of the furs were processed for an European market, where the quality fur dressing is higher than in North America.

“So part of the problem from before is there was no flexibility with the North American manufactures, even though European type of dressing is the best, but it isn’t what the North Americans are using,” said MacLeod.

But under the new management, their plan is to reach manufactures through a promotional campaign at fur auctions and visiting them in Montreal, Toronto and New York. Presently, there are seven people working on the plant floor, and the band hopes to be operating at a full capacity of 50 in a year.