What is the Inspired Natives Project by Eighth Generation?
The Inspired Natives Project, launched by Louie Gong in May 2014, is both a business initiative and an educational initiative. By collaborating with select arts entrepreneurs to manufacture products under the Eighth Generation brand, we hope to expand regional appeal of the Eighth Generation brand while simultaneously increasing the capacity of the arts entrepreneurs and educating the public about the tangible costs of cultural appropriation.
Who are the Inspired Natives?
This is not another charity pitch. We are honored to work with a small group of successful artists who maintain a large following and strong web presence. Just like Louie a few years ago, they simply struggle to meet demand with their handmade goods because the knowledge about how to develop products based on their art -- and the capital needed to do so -- is largely absent in our communities. In collaboration with these arts entrepreneurs -- called "Inspired Natives" -- we will help each other grow.
Our Inspired Natives are the individuals whose work appears when in-house designers at mainstream companies Google "Native art" for inspiration. With the result being more "Native-inspired" goods on the market that ultimately squeeze out Native artists, this kind of creative mining makes bringing Native-made and designed products to market even more important.
MAY 2014 - The first artist selected to participate in the Inspired Natives Project is Michelle Lowden (Acoma Pueblo) of Milo Creations. She is renowned for her intricate and vibrant hand-painted jewelry. Read more about Michelle here. View Michelle's growing selection of Eighth Generation products here.
SEPT 2014 - The second artist selected to participate in the Inspired Natives Project is Sarah Agaton Howes (Anishinabe) of House of Howes. Sarah is best known for her beaded moccasins and regalia featuring Ojibwe floral design. Read more about Sarah here. View Sarah's growing selection of Eighth Generation products here.
2015 - If you are a highly skilled and self-motivated Native arts entrepreneur who struggles to meet demand for your hand made art, you could be the next Inspired Native. Feel free to send us a link, we would love to take a look at your website or Facebook page.
What are the goals of the Inspired Natives Project?
- Expand Eighth Generation product offerings to represent greater regional diversity.
- Build the business knowledge and capacity of popular Native arts entrepreneurs so they can meet demand for their work worldwide.
- Model methodologies for how companies can responsibly align with Native themes and aesthetics.
- Raise awareness about the cultural and economic impact of cultural appropriation and misrepresentation.
Why the Inspired Natives Project?
Louie Gong has grown increasingly frustrated with “Native-inspired” clothing and other products produced by large companies. He believes each "Native-inspired" product represents not only a missed opportunity for talented Native artists to build knowledge through collaboration, it also presents a tangible barrier to Native arts entrepreneurs who must compete for a spot on shelves already dominated by non-Native companies producing product featuring appropriated art. At the same time, socially conscious consumers who appreciate Native themes and aesthetics -- and tribal communities themselves -- are consuming these products without conscious awareness of how their patronage either supports or undermines the work of indigenous artists and entrepreneurs.
Above all, Louie Gong values action over talk. While Native people have become very adept at the important work of calling out cultural appropriation and misrepresentation, the war cannot be won until we can point to alternatives. Eighth Generation wants to play a proactive role in creating those alternatives.
How can we support the Inspired Natives Project?
- Spread the word about our business and the way we do things
- Use the hash tag #INSPIREDNATIVES
- Think before you buy a product featuring indigenous art.