I wanted to share this campaign because it not only focuses on supporting Native communities, but also on a few other things that are near and dear to my heart, such as buying quality over quantity and choosing not to participate in ridiculous displays of capitalism, to name a few. We’ve all at least heard of Black Friday and some of us have even experienced the mayhem (not this girl though — Black Friday is the epitome of my own personal hell). And for some reason this year it seems to be worse than ever — apparently people started camping out over the weekend to get special deals that don’t start until Friday? I even got invited to “like” an anti-Black Friday page on Facebook this year.
The hungry consumerism displayed during this time of year always disgusts me, especially when it overlaps with “holidays” such as Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, and in between you get girls dressing up as “slutty Indians” for Halloween. It’s a lot to deal with. But Jessica Metcalfe from Beyond Buckskin came up with a brilliant answer — encouraging people to buy as many authentic, Native-made gifts as possible this holiday season, and specifically on the Friday after Thanksgiving (“Red Friday”). It’s kind of like Small Business Saturday but with an Indigenous twist.
Personally, my family has decided not to do gifts this year and I couldn’t be more relieved and proud. Don’t get me wrong — I love presents! But once we decided to forgo gifts and instead go home to Wyoming to be with family, my feelings about the winter holiday season realigned and refocused and it is so much more fulfilling and meaningful now, without the pressure to buy, buy, buy. I now only have a handful of people on my gift list — the children I nanny for and my girlfriends, all of whom I actually enjoy buying gifts for and do so for no reason anyway!
So, in the spirit of encouraging people to buy Native, I wanted to list some of my favorite products and companies. I get asked pretty often for recommendations, so as I find more products and companies I’ll try to remember to keep it updated! I will say however that the best source is pow wows, so if you can make it to a local pow wow (although it’s not really pow wow season right now…) I would highly encourage you to go and buy directly from the source, particularly for handmade moccasins and dream catchers. You can also check out Jessica’s list here.
First and foremost, my favorite place to buy jewelry is Beyond Buckskin itself. I particularly like this Rosette Nebula 8-Bit Neo-Traditional medallion ($50) by Autumn Dawn (Comanche/Taos) — she has other designs and colors on the website but this one is my favorite.
I’ve always been a sucker for quill work and these Large Sage Green Quill Hoop Earrings ($70, currently sold out) are no exception. I love the colors! Again, there are other colors and designs available on the website, but these are my favorite. They are made by Ista Ska, a Lakota quill work artist collective.
These are by far my favorite item and I’ve been meaning to buy them forever and just haven’t gotten around to it just yet (hint, hint). These beaded black sunglasses ($79) by Candace Halcro (Cree/Metis) are Wayfarer style and add some serious NDN swag to otherwise relatively plain sunglasses. My favorite thing, however, is that the beads are glass (not plastic!) and each pair is one of a kind.
If there was a baby in my life, he or she would be getting a pair of these this holiday season for sure. Made by Jamie Gentry (Kwakwaka’wakw) of Love In Everything, these fringe baby booties ($32) are freaking adorable and very reasonably priced. They also come in charcoal, purple, forest green and blue. There’s a similar pair made by the same company without the fringe, but I personally like it. I do wish there was a brown pair though!
If you want to get political, I’d highly suggest Demokratees, of Ryan Red Corn/Buffalo Nickel Creative fame. I have the Retire Indian Mascots t-shirt ($16.50) pictured above. The shirts are all American Apparel t-shirts — I ordered a size small in men’s and it fits perfectly and is incredibly soft. (I hate women’s fitted t-shirts.) That, and it showed up in my mailbox two days after I placed the order. They have a ton of other designs, not all of which are Native-themed, but this is my favorite particularly because I live in Atlanta and the old Braves mascot looks very similar to the silhouette on the t-shirt. Needless to say, I get a lot of attention if I happen to be wearing it (which is, of course, what I want).
I think probably the number one question I get from friends is where to buy decent moccasins. Personally, I have two pair from Target, a pair from Minnetonka, a handmade elk skin pair I bought at a pow wow and a pair of high-end, over-priced but not Native-made boot things. You can buy moccasin style shoes pretty much anywhere (ahem, Target) but if you want to be legit, I must recommend Manitobah Mukluks. These shoes are seriously gorgeous, made with real skins and furs, and made to last a lifetime. The soles are made from Vibram rubber and every element to these shoes has a story behind it. Manitobah is, hands down, the best. My three favorite styles are the Mid Classic Mukluk with Crepe Sole in Copper (top, $279), the Tipi Moccasin in Copper (middle, $69) and the Canoe Suede Moccasin in Chocolate (bottom, $69).
So I’m not really sure if giving people meat bars is really a thing, but I do know that if someone bought me a bunch of Tanka Bars I would be pretty pumped. These things are about as legit as it gets. The products are made from prairie-raised buffalo and cranberries (sounds weird but it’s not!) — there are bars ($6/two), sticks ($5/two), nuggets ($15/two bags) and even hot dogs ($24/dozen)! The company is actually on Pine Ridge, so it’s straight from the source. I can’t gush enough about these things — I have to reorder probably every two weeks. They are gluten free, nitrate free, hormone free and MSG free. If you know anything about my food habits, you’ll know that this is right up my alley. This is real food and it is absolutely delicious. I’m partial to the spicy bars/sticks/nuggets, but all are good. These are perfect if you stick to a Paleo diet!
Finally, and I hope this doesn’t ruffle any feathers, but I want to give an honorary mention to the Nike N7 collection. While Nike is obviously not Native-owned, the N7 fund provides product donations and grant money to Indigenous communities to help support an active and healthy lifestyle via sports. If you know me at all, you know how important a healthy lifestyle is to me, especially when it comes to children, so I am a big believer in the N7 fund. Not to mention the fact that that Nike N7 Graphic t-shirt ($32) up there is intense! They have men’s and women’s gear, ranging from shoes and t-shirts to leggings and sweatshirts. I like the older collections better than the current Holiday 2012 collection, but again, I love that t-shirt!
I hope this little roundup has provided some decent answers to your questions about where to find cool, authentically Native products. It can be hard, I know. You can only sort through so many howling wolf t-shirts before you give up and go back to the GAP. But if you really search and, quite honestly, if you’re willing to pay a little bit extra, you can find some seriously cool swag that keeps it tradish but is still modern and fresh.
As always, if you have any suggestions for other products and companies, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I am always on the hunt! And next up, Native authors and books! I recently stumbled upon some of the most perfect children’s books that I can’t wait to share with you — and the best part is, they’re probably hidden in some dusty corner of your public library. So look forward to that within the next week or so!