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The Yukon Soaps Company: Breaking barriers while celebrating Indigenous culture

Joella Hogan moved to Mayo, Yukon to live in her traditional territory of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun in order to reconnect with her heritage, community, elders, and the land. As a strong advocate for Northern Tutchone culture, Joella incorporates her passion into her business as the proud owner of The Yukon Soaps Company.

Mayo is a small town in the heart of central Yukon situated at the confluence of the Mayo and Stewart rivers. Ancestors of the First Nations of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun lived off the land by hunting and trapping throughout the area surrounding Mayo, and using various plants for food and medicinal purposes.

“My ancestors were nomadic, moved with the food sources and so the rivers formed a huge part of our lives. I wanted to be a part of reclaiming the economy down along the river. It’s about occupying the land and spaces that were taken away from us.”

– Joella Hogan
The Yukon Soaps Company, Owner

Joella’s product lines include essential oil blends, soap and shampoo bars that are handcrafted with plants gathered from the boreal forest like fireweed, juniper berries, Labrador tea, plantain, and rosehips. She draws on traditional Indigenous knowledge of the local flora to create products without the use of artificial dyes. Always looking for ways to promote and celebrate her cultural heritage, Joella has a special line of unscented soaps featuring the beautiful beadwork of Indigenous artisans.

When Joella wanted to grow her business, she was turned away by the bank she was dealing with all her life. Under the Indian Act, First Nations land is held by the Crown (Government of Canada) in trust for the community that lives on that land.1 This means First Nations members cannot own the land they live on, and they cannot own the homes built on that land until a First Nation has a Lands Act. The lack of property rights is a big barrier against financial progress when First Nations people cannot earn equity on a house or use it as collateral to borrow money. Since Joella lives on First Nations land without a Lands Act, securing a business loan was her biggest barrier to overcome.

When Cassandra Sole (Relationship Manager at BMO) first met Joella, she recognized Joella’s drive and dedication to bring her community and culture together through her business. Cassandra understood the barriers Joella was facing and worked together with her on a business case for securing a loan to build a workshop. A new partnership was born to boldly grow the good in the Mayo community. As Joella’s banking partner, BMO enabled Joella to move her home-based business to a location in downtown Mayo and increase production.

“Other banks were telling me no. BMO said ’tell me more.’”

– Joella Hogan
The Yukon Soaps Company, Owner

Joella finds other ways to connect with her community as a professional heritage worker including creating employment opportunities for young people in Mayo and enlisting the help of elders to source wild botanicals. For Joella, The Yukon Soaps Company is so much more than soaps; it is about partnerships and supporting people to be their best selves.


BMO | Celebrating Barrier-Breaking Businesses – The Yukon Soaps Company


1 Fraser Institute article: Property rights for all Canadians: the First Nations issue forgotten by all federal political parties | Fraser Institute

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