At the end of each school year, my family would load the Winnebago with guitars and vinyl records to head west on Route 66. My father, an accomplished musician and a high school band director, would spend the summer performing at music festivals and art fairs throughout the western United States. With my father backstage and my mother busy at the merchandise table, my brother and I would escape in search of Indiana Jones style adventure. I remember hoping that someday I could take my own family on similar experiences across the American Southwest.
In college, I studied art history and humanities at the University of Central Oklahoma under Dr. Margaret Flansberg. A member of the Chickasaw Hall of Fame, Dr. Flansberg is a celebrated art historian and philanthropist. Much of what I learned about Native American art from Dr. Flansberg is reflected in our company mission and business model. In 1997, I graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Arts degree in humanities and continued on to earn a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Oklahoma.
After passing the bar exam, I took a staff attorney position with Legal Aid in eastern Oklahoma. My job was to connect Native American clients in need with appropriate legal, governmental, and charitable services. While serving this community, I saw the destructive impact of Native American unemployment, which typically hovers over twice the national average.
During this time, I met a young man from West Texas who shared my love of travel and entrepreneurship. On our honeymoon through the Southwest, I was disappointed to find that commercial pressures on the reservation had been pushing Native American artists further away from the craftsmanship and cultural meaning of their work. Factories in New Mexico employ indifferently skilled workers to mass produce a bland “southwest” style devoid of traditional meaning. While these pieces, bound for large e-commerce sites and home shopping networks, may be Native American made by legal definition, they are completely devoid of what makes Native American jewelry special - the traditions, the process, and the meaning. These pieces, once proudly made by families on kitchen tables, risk no longer representing the culture from which they originated.
On that trip, my husband and I started to envision a company that would promote small batch, authentic Native American jewelry that would provide empowerment through employment to Native artists.
Our mission became:
1. To promote work from contemporary artists at the heart of the Native American economy for maximum social good, giving preference and support to disadvantaged and marginalized artists
2. To advance handmade Native American products created by traditional small batch processes for the preservation of authenticity and multi-generational cultural heritage
3. To strengthen and expand the worldwide market for Native American handmade goods through education and digital awareness
Thank you for supporting our artists!