From mukluks to high heels, and from popcorn to body wash, there’s often a Native alternative to mainstream shopping. Here’s a list of 5 things you didn’t know you could buy Native:
At Manitobah Mukluks, based in Winnipeg, Canada, designers took the traditional aboriginal moccasin and evolved it into something “fit for pavement,” spokeswoman Tara Barnes said.
“We’ve developed a sole that is resistant for today’s world, but that’s basically the same as it’s been for thousands of years,” she said.
The brand, created in 2008 and crafted by a staff that is 35 percent aboriginal, often includes other Native elements like beadwork and fur. Its signature product is the Métis Mukluk, named for the indigenous inhabitants of Manitoba, the “flower beadwork people.”
The brand sells online and in retail outlets across the United States and Canada.
If she can find a flat surface, Joy Parton will paint on it.
The owner of Rez Hoofz, an online boutique of hand-painted shoes, boots and accessories “with Rez attitude,” Parton crafts all her wares from her home near Pine Ridge. She started Rez Hoofz in 1992 and sold her unique line of footwear at powwows and craft fairs. She launched her online business on Etsy in 2010.
“I call it Rez Hoofz because mostly what I do is shoes,” said Parton, a member of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. “I paint on leather and canvas and manmade materials. If it can be painted on, I’ll do it.”
Parton specializes in Native-themed and one-of-a-kind designs on boots and shoes. Although she has painted on spiked high-heels, she’s “more partial to the wedge heel because there’s more room to paint.”
“I do a whole range of designs,” she said. “Floral, tribal, all Native American-influenced. I do lots of sunrise colors, horses, feathers and stars.”
The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe grows about 17 million pounds of popcorn per year. Lakota Foods turns that into 45 million bags of microwave popcorn and 4 million bags of ready-to-eat snacks.
Established in 2006, Lakota Foods sells to concession stands, convenience stores and mainstream grocery stores. It also offers its signature yellow, white, butter-flavored and cheddar popcorn to customers online.
“We like to talk about the pop-ability of the corn grown right here on the reservation,” said Tim Azure, general manager of Lakota Foods. “The popcorn pops very large and has a nice texture.”
Arts and Crafts
If you like Etsy, the online marketplace for unique and handmade items, you’ll want to check out NDNCraft.com.
CEO and founder Christian Weaver launched the site in January 2013. Much like Etsy, NDNCraft charges a small fee for artists to post their items, then it takes a percentage of the selling price.
“This is a platform that allows indigenous artists, designers and crafters to have their own online stores,” said Weaver, a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.
A Native artist himself, Weaver launched the site as a way for artists to sell to a large customer base without traveling to art shows and powwows.
“It’s hard to make a living as an artist,” he said. “It’s hard to make a living if you’re always traveling. I wanted to create a vehicle that allowed Native artists to sell their work to the world, to be acknowledged and respected for their work and to give them a larger platform to really make a living from their craft.”
Products include fine arts, paintings, jewelry, quilts and beadwork. About 180 artists currently sell at NDNCraft, representing tribes from Alaska to Georgia, Weaver said.
“We’re like the Santa Fe Indian Market, but online,” he said.
Sisters Marina TurningRobe and Monica Simeon, co-owners of Sister Sky, started making lotions, candles and salves in 1999. Members of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, the women launched their online store to offer natural beauty products to a growing client base.
Then Simeon’s son was born with severe eczema, prompting the women to return to their Native roots for solutions.
“I was a young mother, going to doctors, but nothing seemed to penetrate his skin,” Simeon said of her son. “That put me in a place of getting back to the basics—to the time before Walgreens and Wal-Mart—to research traditional herbs.”
The result was a product line free of the chemicals found in commercial items. Sister Sky sells body and hair care products infused with Native herbs and coconut oil.
“We took the concept of getting back to the original medicine, to the things we use naturally,” Simeon said.