Let’s promote a “Buy Native” trend!

A lot of attention has been drawn to the native fashion trend in the past year or so.  From violations of the Navajo trademark, to No Doubt and Victoria’s Secret experiencing a long-overdue backlash to the all-too common misuse of Plains warbonnets; the issues surrounding ‘native inspired’ fashion are being talked about on a wider scale.

Go ahead and sate your hunger for native fashion, the legitimate way!

What a lot of people are asking is, “If we love native fashion, where can we get it without engaging in cultural appropriation?”

Jessica Metcalfe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) has been answering that question for quite some time on her blog, Beyond Buckskin.  Even more awesome, she launched the Beyond Buckskin Boutique which gives you instant access to legitimate native fashion, from haute couture to streetwear, modern and traditional.

In a recent article, Jessica Metcalfe was asked how launching a ‘native fashion’ boutique is any different than what Urban Outfitters and so many other companies are doing.  I think her response is well worth quoting here:

  1. I work with Native American artists – folks who are active members of Native communities.
  2. These artists are exceptionally talented.
  3. They are also very knowledgeable and smart about their cultures and cultural values and know which items (ie sacred items) are off-limits and shouldn’t be sold.
  4. They know how to translate the artistic traditions of their Native communities to be shared by people from ALL backgrounds.
  5. They don’t resort to stereotypes, and they present a new vision and a new version of ‘the Native’ in fashion.
  6. They are incredibly respectful of Native people.
  7. Profits from the Beyond Buckskin Boutique go directly to these artists and support small businesses, many of which are in Native communities and represent economic development strategies. I could go on.

This is pretty much as good as it gets, in my opinion.  There is a difference between appropriation and appreciation, and Metcalfe pretty clearly lays out what they are above.  Beyond Buckskin has a page devoted to a variety of native-run stores you can browse this holiday season for some kickass presents for you or others.  Take a look at some of what is available out there, for natives and non-natives alike!

Gorgeous hand made, beaded moccasins done in traditional Tlicho Dene style! These are a children’s size 1.

Edzerza Gallery, by Tahltan artist Alano Edzerza, bringing you urban style with traditional flair!

So whether you’re looking for someone awesome to spend your money on and treasure for always, or if you’re just sick of people asking you, “Are we allowed to wear ANYTHING AT ALL!?” you can use this resource as resounding, “YES PLEASE!”

Traditional porcupine quill earrings by Ista Ska (Lakota).


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20 Responses to Let’s promote a “Buy Native” trend!

  1. YES! Best ever Xmas gift I gave to my daughter were moccasins like those

  2. Sorry, but I can’t see a bunch of (largely) European-descendants wearing these commodities as much of an advance. And keep in mind that the shitstem is very anxious to develop Aboriginal capitalists.

    • You are certainly welcome to that opinion. I would much prefer to see these people supporting native-made products than purchasing mass-produced knock-offs from China. Why shouldn’t a Dene grandmother get a fair price for moccs that are made out of actual smoked moose hide, real fur and meticulous beading? Of course there are going to be a large percentage of people who don’t care about authenticity, beauty or craftsmanship and who will be just as happy with shitty faux-leather moccs. Sucks to be them.

      Should we tell native people that they can only ever sell to native people? How is that fair to us? Should we extend that to our artists as well? Christi Belcourt and Alex Janvier can’t sell their work to non-natives? Making it clear what it is not okay to wear/purchase, and what is acceptable cannot just be an abstract discussion. We have alternatives available, and I don’t see anything wrong with providing access to them.

      If you mean getting native artists to ‘okay’ mass-produced items, then I’m certainly on board with not supporting that.

      • Good words, Chelsea. I agree, agree, agree.

      • Julie says:

        I completely agree. As a person of mostly European descent, I can honestly say that I would be so sad if I never got to wear native designs. I grew up mostly in Wyoming with parents who encouraged learning about other cultures and celebrating the beauty of their work. Thank god they did because I think I’m pretty well rounded as a person and, also, I happen to have some gorgeous mukluks made by a store promoted on Beyond Buckskin. I live in them. I’m going to be heartbroken when it’s summer and they are too hot but maybe I can find something just as good to take their place. I also happen to have some really beautiful native artwork and jewelry that were purchased fairly and honestly. It’s a win-win situation when you purchase from native artisans. I get a gorgeous, authentic item and they make a sale.

        Honestly, I think education like this is key. It can be intimidating and difficult to know what is acceptable and what is not. I was a bit afraid when I bought my muks that I would be judged harshly when, really, I was absolutely loving the look and FUNCTION of my mukluks. Do you have any idea how cold it is letting your dogs out at 4am at 8500 feet above sea level in the mountains? It’s super, super cold and snowy and, since we have a condo, well, we don’t have a yard of our own…which means we have to walk in that snow to pick up after them. My mukluks look gorgeous and keep me warm even in extreme temps.

        I’m so glad I bought them. I’m so glad that I discovered the brand I purchased because I probably would have bought some mass produced wannabe mukluk otherwise. And I’m ever so glad people are having these discussions.

  3. daveM says:

    My thinking is that there has to be more exposure for this merchandise. I am sure things would sell with more exposure. Sometimes craftsmen are not marketers and do not promote as well as perhaps they could.

    • We’re working on it Dave! BUT, as I just found out this past weekend, sometimes you can do awesome work, but media outlets continue to partake in favoritism and are comfortable with handing out favors to buddies (cough cough, CNN) and feature non-Native companies and non-Native versions of Native cultures OVER the awesome work done by the artists that Chelsea highlights above.

      • daveM says:

        Ms Metcalfe;
        Would you mind if I put a little article on one of my sites pointing to your site, perhaps a couple of my visitors would be interested in some of the lovely merchandise.. I spent quite a bit of time on the site yesterday, beautiful items!


  4. Joshua says:

    I’d like to see a website showing a bigger range for Native artist and artisans, for instance my medium is cabinets and woodwork and mainly custom woodwork. I’m an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, and though deadly in a wood shop my marketing needs a lot of help. I focus all of my efforts on my craft and being one of the best at it, lol, though I have no intrest in marketing… it’s a necessaty in keeping work comming in.

    • JazzFest says:

      Is there a business school near you? I know that students are always looking for internship and practicuum opportunities, maybe you could work something out?

      (there is the whole subject of unpaid labour and exploitation of students that happens at learning institutions but YOU wouldn’t do that…)

    • daveM says:

      Perhaps you can enter into a collaborative effort to have your product marketed along with that of someone else. When you have time, search on the net for sites that do marketing of similar merchandise and email the site owner to ask about a joint venture

  5. JazzFest says:

    UGH. I should have checked your “About” section. Please delete this ignorant comment and the one at 11:42. Thanks! You have a new twitter follower 🙂

  6. Cynthia Preston says:

    I know this doesn’t have anything to do with supporting native crafting and innovation, but it does have everything to do with native youth and opportunities. My daughter worked for Canada world youth for several years, her last contract was an all female one out of Victoria BC with the Ukraine a good number of the Canadian contingent were from Native communites across Canada in the first of its kind with Canada world youth and over seen by Native liasons, higher ups in CWY and other interested parties, my daughter being the Canadian faciltator who worked directly with the girls and community volunteer groups. She posted this on her facebook page today:
    http://cwy-jcm.com/apply/we-are-recruiting/ I hope there will be many interested parties from the native and metis communities around the country If you would like to speak with my daughter just let me know and I will give you her email.

  7. kezia says:

    “Ok’ I’m gonna rant right now but please read what i’m going to say carefully and really think about what i say before your bleeding heart tears me apart. Thank you.”

    Edit: Nope. Take your abrasive ignorance and ignorant suppositions elsewhere. You refusal to listen to what actual native people have to saying favour of lecturing us about ‘reality’ is ridiculous.

    • elle says:

      I would have liked to have the opportunity to hear what kezia had to say, but sadly we were not given the opportunity to hear an opposing view.

      • Feel free to voice an opposing view without engaging in racist slurs, otherwise, kindly go elsewhere. If you really need exposure to that ‘quality’ of view, help yourself to other platforms where bigots are not moderated.

  8. Appreciate your work. I cited your blog in my TED talk:

  9. joy greyblues fairweather says:

    I’m Navajo/Iroquois mix I support & buy native American made. Pleasure to see artist my culture being recognize for there beautiful work. A’HO

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