'It's more than just a haircut': Indigenous stylist provides safe space, empowerment through her work

Trysta Cook, from Onion Lake, uses her job as a hairstylist to empower other Indigenous women in and around Lloydminster. She's now considering where to open her own permanent shop, where she hopes to collaborate with her artist friends while making her clients feel confident in themselves.

'A lot of people feel judged when they go into salons,' says Onion Lake Cree Nation's Trysta Cook

Cook travels to reserves around the Lloydminster area offering haircuts to people on reserve in the comfort of their own community. (Submitted by Trysta Cook)

A hairstylist from the Onion Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan says she wants to create a safe space for Indigenous people looking to get their hair trimmed or styled.

Trysta Cook, who has been cutting hair for 15 years, estimates 70 per cent of her clients are Indigenous — and she said her clients feel comfortable working with her because she provides an environment where they feel welcome.

"A lot of people feel judged when they go into salons. A lot of them get turned away," she told CBC Radio's Blue Sky.

Cook said she strives to bring her training, some of which was done in Los Angeles, home to her people by visiting reserves around Lloydminster and offering haircuts to people in those communities. She also offers her services at events like powwows and youth conferences.

One of Cook's clients brought in a photo she had created of a red dress and the northern lights for a missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls photo series she was working on. Cook said she drew inspiration from this photo to create the hairstyle featured on the left. (Submitted by Trysta Cook)

Having their hair done by another Indigenous woman is also a source of pride and empowerment for her clients, Cook said. It's a level of care and professionalism she feels happy to be able to provide.

After 15 years, she has no plans to stop any time soon.

"I'm going to open up a salon, a First Nations one, and I want to collaborate with some of my really good friends. They're really talented and they're in different cities," Cook said, adding she's still trying to decide where she'd like to set up shop.

Trysta Cook started her hairstyling and makeup work at the age of 19. She now aspires to open her own shop and collaborate with her friends to serve Indigenous people. (Submitted by Trysta Cook)

"At the end of the day, I love socializing, I love making these women feel good about themselves and reminding them about self care and self love," she said.

"It's more than just a haircut. It's taking time for themselves and making themselves feel better."

CBC Radio's Blue Sky is doing a monthly segment about good news happening in small communities around Saskatchewan. Have an idea for our next segment? Email us

With files from CBC Radio's Blue Sky