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Urban Native Girl Takes Language Lessons

With the past weekend's Gathering of Nations, pow wow season is officially on! These warmer months also bring t-shirt weather, and a stylish tee is one of my favorite things to wear to all the cool pow wows across Turtle Island. When I was at the First Nations University of Canada pow wow in Regina a few weeks ago, I discovered a line that really captured my eye.

Tansi Clothing is a Saskatoon-based business led by the young and spirited entrepreneur Timothy Lewis. He started the company in his second year of college—he was studying marketing at the University of Saskatchewan—and hasn’t looked back since. His love of language and his passion for promoting North American Native language specifically have led him down this unique apparel path.

Tansi Tee

The Tansi tee is the core of the entire company. Tansi (tan-seh) is Cree for “hello” or “how are you?” depending on its context in a sentence. Either way, it’s a warm welcome to all of those around you when you’re wearing this shirt. Of course, the version shown here is for toddlers, but it’s also available for babies, ladies, and men. Lewis says that about sixty percent of his clientele are Native, meaning there’s a strong non-Native base too. It’s the kind of top that symbolizes openness when worn by our non-Native allies.

"Tansi" tee @Tansi Clothing. $20 CAD.

Retro Respect

As a tribute to our friends north of the tree line, this design features syllabics that translate into “respect” in Inuktitut. The style stands out to me because it gives the sense that you just found an old postcard style tee at some obscure vintage shop, and it's a great conversation starter when someone asks what your shirt says. All this scores you big-time hipster points, with the added bonus that you don’t have to deal with, you know, someone else's flimsy used vintage tee. Get into this one and sport it all summer.

"Inuktitut—Respect" tee @Tansi Clothing. $25 CAD.

Beauty Babe

I’m not sure there’s one woman out there who doesn’t want to be called a beauty, or at least seen as one. This tee says "beauty" in Ojibway and sports some stunning Woodland style artwork on the front. The baby blue version is made to fit your curves; it’s a slim cut, hangs longer and has shorter sleeves, so it’s flattering all the way. This is one stunner that’s sure to ruffle some feathers—in a good way—along the pow wow trail.

"Ojibway—Beauty" tee @Tansi Clothing. $25 CAD.

Lisa Charleyboy is Urban Native Girl—visit her at