Indigenous Culture Has Been Appropriated For Too Long. Here Are 7 Artists to Support
As the pandemic consumed the world in 2020, our buying power became an important tool within our communities. When restaurants struggled to get by without any stimulus or aid, we called on each other to order takeout so that they could stay afloat. When small businesses were at risk of closing permanently, we rallied around them and bought merchandise and contributed to GoFundMe campaigns.
It’s both a beautiful and profoundly tragic symptom of our modern-day capitalist society. Where the government could have been helping, our only hope was the generosity of one another. And while it may be hard to come to terms with, reclaiming control of this power has been a good thing, especially in the wake of social justice movements like Black Lives Matter.
Calls to action like the 15% Pledge and Remake's #NoNewClothes helped consumers understand that they could refuse to give their money to companies that weren’t doing anything to help those in need and instead, give it directly to the brands and companies owned by marginalized groups. But this consumer awakening is just the beginning.
At almost ten months into this pandemic, without a second stimulus check in sight, communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, like indigenous communities, are still struggling with rising cases and lack of basic aid from the government. On top of that, even with pushes toward buying small, Native artisans — whose work and traditions have long been appropriated by large companies — still aren't getting the support or attention they deserve.
For example, if you search for moccasins, a traditional Native shoe, you're going to get dozens of results from non-indigenous brands like L.L. Bean. If you look for Native beading-style jewelry, you will see fast fashion brands like Shein or Urban Outfitters. Pendleton, whose blankets are often touted as great gifts during the holiday season, has been using Native design for decades, but the family who owns it is not indigenous. The list goes on and on.
So with that in mind as we head into the final stretch of the holiday season, here are some incredible indigenous designers and creators for you to support. Bonus: Their works make fantastic gifts.
Maka Moonture is a Lingít, Kanien’kehá:ka, and Filipina artist and designer whose handmade jewelry is equal parts adornment and history. With each piece, she tells a story of her life and traditions to coincide with it.
Jamie Okuma is a Luiseno, Shoshone-Bannock, Wailaki, and Okinawan fashion artist. Many of her pieces meld traditional artistry and ready-to-wear. Much of her work is also size-inclusive.
OXDX clothing by Navajo designer Jared Yazzie goes beyond traditional dress, and also includes Native-focused graphic T-shirts with phrases like "Native Americans Discovered Columbus."
Running Fox Beads was created by Dene artist Skye Paul and combines traditional beadwork with pop art styles. She sells everything from patches to jewelry and vintage items.
Artist Charlene Holy Bear, a member of the Standing Rock Lakota Sioux Tribe, is well known for the custom beading she has done on Vans sneakers. She also makes gorgeous seed bead jewelry and dolls.
Mocassins have been appropriated by big companies for decades. Jaimie Gentry of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation creates custom pairs to bring tradition back to the style.