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An Enjoyable Shopping Excursion

Find unique gifts that are sure to please this holiday season

When buying gifts for the holidays, we always want to find those unique presents that will delight and surprise our family and friends. Luckily, there are so many small specialty shops in and around Minneapolis where we can find such treasures.

One of these local gems is Northland Visions. Although the store concentrates on products that represent Native tribes from the Midwest region including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, there really is something for everyone. 

“My father was an Ojibwe from Northern Minnesota, so we really wanted to showcase the art and other items that came from this area,” says owner Greg Bellanger, whose father Ken Bellanger started the business 21 years ago. “We have turquoise and silver jewelry, hand-made beaded jewelry, framed art work and original prints, pottery and more.”

In addition to these one-of-a-kind beautiful creations, there are also many non-tribal products that have been locally curated. They include hand-made soaps, candles, blankets, stationery and purses. For the kiddos, there are interesting finds such as puzzles and adorable stuffed animals.

“We also have all different kinds of unique rocks like amethyst, tourmaline, quartz, and other unique crystals - all those fun specimens,” he says.

Of course, food is always a popular gift during the holidays and Northland has plenty of delicious and amazing offerings. “Food is an appealing gift that brings people together,” says Greg. “Connecting with people is how we were designed. When we don’t connect with each other, it’s really hard on us. There’s just a healing aspect to connecting with your friends and loved ones that you just don’t get from anything else.”

One of Northland Visions food staples is its healthy and great tasting hand-harvested wild rice, which you can always find along with its wild rice soups and wild rice pancake mix. “Wild rice is a grain that grows in the wilds of Minnesota and it’s always been harvested traditionally by our Native people. It only grows here, into Wisconsin, and up into Canada. It’s not actually a rice but part of the water oat family, so it’s high in protein, high in riboflavin, niacin and lysine, and low in carbohydrates.”

You’ll also find tasty maple syrups, wild berry syrups, and wild berry jellies, plus a variety of teas and even multicolored organic popcorn. The kernels are all different colors but it still pops white.

Another unique offering is Greg’s family recipe for fry bread that has been turned into a complete dry bread mix. So, what exactly is fry bread?

“The history of fry bread comes out of the treaties that the tribes made with the U.S. government. In the agreement to move from a nomadic society to an agrarian society the government would provide food staples during the transition. One of the staples were the ingredients for making bread. The only problem was none of the northern tribes used baking as a method of cooking. Being creative, we took the ingredients along with the lard and fried it. You can put powdered sugar, honey, or my favorite – butter. But, you’ll find different variations of this fried bread between the tribes in the U.S.”

Some new food items this year include a whole line of smoked seasonings and smoked salts, and interesting dips and jams. Greg searches out small local food suppliers that have very special and unique products that shoppers are not going to find in big box stores.

“Also, we buy from local artists and local businesses, which helps the local economy,” he says. “When you buy local art from us, you’re buying from Native artists who are from this area and surrounding areas. You’re not buying something that is made in Taiwan or made in China. You’re buying from an Ojibwe artist in Northern Minnesota or a Crow artist out west, or a Cree artist right across the border in Canada. So, you’re supporting local artists who are actually making things to support themselves and their families.”

Another positive aspect of shopping local is being able to hear the stories behind the products. This makes a purchase so much more meaningful and Greg loves to share these tales.

The design of the store also lends itself to an extremely pleasant shopping experience. Its walls are made of beautiful river stone, the ceilings are crisscrossed with rough-hewn timbers, and the floors are wood plank. The whole design embodies nature and serenity.

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk and concern about the availability of merchandise coming from overseas and it not being available in time for the holidays. Since Greg gathers all his merchandise from local producers, he’s not worried.

“There’s plenty in stock and our store is big enough so that there is plenty of room for people to walk around,” says Greg.

However, if customers cannot visit Northland Visions in person, he has quite a bit of merchandise displayed online and every item is able to be shipped across the country. To view its wonderful offerings, go to https://northlandvisions.com/. 861 E. Hennepin, Minneapolis located in the Miller Textile building. (612) 872-0390.

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