Its been one month since my trip to Olympia.
In a nutshell, I was approved with the Kalispel Tribe to receive a state grant for planning a new business venture called the Native American Sewing Company.
It all started in Spring of 2015, when I created a native-inspired clothing design called the Polar Kuspuk. After I got funded on Kickstarter to further develop and market my Kuspuk pattern, I found that it had become very difficult to find US-based manufacturing for a small clothing line. I also ran into an ethical dilemma, how could I be selling a native design that originated from Inuit and Yupik tribes in Alaska without the tribes involved? Granted, I had made the pattern myself from scratch, and you can’t copy wright a clothing design, even with cultural heritage. But I didn’t want to take advantage of that, I wanted to have an ethical company.
Then I started seeing other Native American designs hitting the runways and big-box stores. The profit was NOT going back to the Native people, it was going to big corporate giants.
That’s when I went to the Kalispel Tribe with a proposal to start a Native-owned sewing business. Not just making my kuspuks, but expanding the whole concept of designing and manufacturing Indian apparel on tribal land. The Kalispel Tribe is a powerful tribe with commercial land in Spokane County. They had been investing in new business opportunities and could handle a project of this magnitude. Even though kuspuks were from Alaskan tribes, it made more sense to work with a tribe in the contiguous United States rather than deal with the high shipping costs of doing manufacturing in Alaska. Anyway the plan was to involve other tribes eventually for designs, so we would find another way to interface.
My business plan was progressive and novel. It resonated with everyone who heard it. The Kalispels had some creative women who already had ideas for designs to produce, and they were excited. Even the Economic Development board unanimously agreed it was worth investing state funds into.
On the 6-hour drive back from Olympia, I was lucky to have my new Native designer friends, Chett Bluff and Wilma Cullooyah, come with me.? There was a moment when we were crossing the desert under a blanket of stars, when our conversation turned to the future. We dream that people will be hopeful and one day we will all find a way to communicate and get along.
I am native, from the Cherokee tribe on my father’s side. You can see it in my dark eyes and my high cheekbones. But yes, my bloodline is mixed with other lineages, evident by my blonde hair. I still have a great affinity for the culture of the Native people, and feel connected on many levels.?My daughter TigerLily is enrolled in her second year at the Salish School of Spokane, where I also take weekly language classes.? But at the same time, I am part of the American melting pot lifestyle, and can just as easily get away with being Irish. For me, its not about what you look like as much as what’s in your heart that matters. And actions taken by the heart are truly beautiful creations.
Its been so hush-hush with the Kalispel Tribal negotiations following the grant approval. I have heard that it takes a long time to do business with tribes, and when it involves government contracts too, there is even more paperwork and red-tape. It has not been easy.?And its taking forever!!! In the last month, I’ve spent so much time working on the grant proposal for the Native American Sewing Company, that my income-producing projects got behind. I just keep on doing more and more work, hoping that eventually it will land me in the position I’ve asked for, the contractor for planning and starting the Native American Sewing Company.
In the meantime, there is so much to do!!! I still run a website company and am always juggling the needs of multiple clients. On top of that, this website is in dire need of work, and I still haven’t re-done the website for my company, Blue Tiger Studio.?Thank goodness I do have a couple of great subcontractors to work with; thanks Brian Golly for web development help, and Jeanette Hanson for pattern work.
BTW – I just completed a new website for Junkyard Bones, but that is another story…