Maskwiomin company founders recognized at annual Discovery Awards

Dr. Matthias Bierenstiel and Tuma Young, Q.C., continue to gain attention for the development and commercialization of maskwiomin, a product derived from birch bark and captured through the rediscovery of a traditional Mi’kmaq skin remedy. Their company is called Maskwiomin, and was presented with the Innovation Award during this year’s Discovery Awards, an annual event sponsored by the Halifax Discovery Centre.

The company’s name derives from the Mi’kmaq words maskwi (birch bark) and omin (oil). The bark extract is compounded as cream or infused into soap, now made in their commercial site in Sydney for customers all over Canada. Tuma Young, Director of the Marshall Institute at CBU, says a conversation with colleague Dr. Matthias Bierenstiel back in 2013 set them on this amazing path of rediscovery.

“It’s an honour for our company to be recognized with this Innovation Award,” says Young. “We’ve engaged elders from Membertou First Nation throughout our journey, capturing the essence of two-eyed seeing when it comes to scientific discovery, or in this case, rediscovery.”

More than 25 years ago, Young heard the 1920s story of maskwiomin from two Elders in Membertou First Nation. Young and Bierenstiel worked with the Indigenous community to re-discover maskwiomin through stories and recreation while exploring the remedy through science.

Dr. Bierenstiel is a Professor of Chemistry at CBU and says he is grateful that this award provides an opportunity to draw attention to traditional knowledge when it comes to scientific discovery. “We are overjoyed to be featured as the recipient of the Innovation Award,” says Dr. Bierenstiel. “It puts a spotlight on the importance of engaging with Indigenous communities to establish open and ongoing communication and gain an understanding of traditional knowledge.”

Join us in celebrating Maskwiomin and its founders, Tuma Young and Dr. Matthias Bierenstiel for receiving this prestigious award!