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Three years ago when Eighth Generation became the first Native-owned company to offer wool blankets, we promised that 5% of profit from our retail blanket sales would go back to community. Last year - as a small part of our broader giving - we fulfilled this promise with the launch of an award for emerging Native arts entrepreneurs, administered yearly by our friends at the Evergreen State College Longhouse. For the first of the 2018 Inspired Natives Awards, we were very proud to recognize someone who consistently shows up for the community to do the heavy lifting - Yakama artist and activist Mariana Harvey.
Mariana and Eighth Generation Founder, Louie Gong (Nooksack) at the Inspired Natives Award ceremony at the Evergreen State College Longhouse
Mariana describes herself as a proud member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. Now based out of Olympia, Washington, she was born and raised in Seattle, saying, "My first job was at the Pike Place Market and having grown up in this city, I know the invisibility of Native people all too well. With those two thoughts alone, I was beyond excited just about the presence of Eighth Generation at the busiest tourist destination in Seattle."
Mariana takes to the streets of downtown Seattle as a part of a march against the Dakota Access Pipeline
Mariana's pathway into activism started in high school, following in the footsteps of her older sister Kira, who led a campaign at West Seattle High School to change the mascot from the "Indians". Their efforts eventually led to Seattle Public Schools banning all Indian mascots in 2002. She said, "This is what determined my path, I knew from then on that I wanted to make positive impacts and create change". Among her various projects, she now works to promote sustainable life long leadership initiatives for Native youth in the northwest and beyond through the Native Youth Leadership Alliance and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Youth Committee.
Mariana shares a song at this year's Indigenous People's Day March in Seattle.
In the last six years, Mariana has focused on growing her artistic practices, especially singing and earring making, two passions she first began to explore in college. She sings regularly with a group of Native women, some of whom are part of the ‘Indigenous Sisters Resistance,’ a local grassroots gathering of Indigenous Women decolonizing and bringing the gift of song to local movements. She says, "Song is very empowering and uplifting, especially with women. For me, supporting a safer space for Native women voices is an example of where art and activism meet."
Mariana with her "Yakamade" earrings at the Duwamish Longhouse holiday art market.
Through her business "Yakamade", Mariana makes beautiful earrings out of natural materials, selling them at local Native art markets, powwows, and other events. She says that she has felt very supported by the local Native arts community, describing how one of the things she is most looking forward to with the support of the Inspired Natives Award is the potential for community building with the expansion of her art. She says, "I am deeply grateful and honored to be a recipient of the Inspired Natives Award, and I hope that through this support the art I create will also have a reciprocal relationship with community."
Mariana and her partner Itsa share a song from their upcoming album
When we asked Mariana what's on the horizon for her and her work, she said her big goal is to finish the album of Native music her and her partner Itsa have been working on. They have been singing together for ten years, and are most excited about creating an album of songs that are intended to be open for anyone to learn and share. She also has visions for growing her earring business - getting them online, building confidence around her brand, and figuring out how to really sustain herself off of her craft. Along with mentorship around marketing and developing a healthy growth plan for her business, she is interested in artistic guidance around working with raw materials and executing the designs she envisions in her head but hasn't been able to actually create yet.
Mariana receives "The Companion" Wool Blanket at the Inspired Natives Award ceremony
In addition to the Inspired Natives Award that will provide support around her art and business goals, we gifted Mariana our newest blanket, "The Companion" (Little) Wool Blanket, as a symbol of comfort and protection for what may be the biggest thing on the horizon - her first child. She says, "We're always standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. I've been reaping the fruits of the labor of my parents' generation, so it's exciting to have the opportunity to invest all the love, support, and blessings I have into this child. I am extremely honored to receive this baby blanket along with the award."
Mariana speaks after receiving the Inspired Natives Award
Eighth Generation Founder, Louie Gong (Nooksack) says, "People always ask us how we choose the artists we work with, and how we choose Inspired Natives Award recipients. I think highlighting Mariana's work and community engagement is a great way to answer that question." Please join us in honoring Mariana for her powerful work, and keep up with with her on Instagram to see where she goes from here!