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Indian Country is filled with amazing and inspired Native artists. Eighth Generation strives to support these artists and create more space for Indigenous art to thrive in mainstream markets today. One way we do that is through our Wool Blanket Design Contest, which we launched in 2017.
In 2021, we embarked on this creative journey once again, but this time greatly expanded so we could work with as many artists as possible. Our 2021 contest included three blanket categories: Warrior, Elder, and People’s Choice. Now, after much deliberation, anticipation, and a public vote, we are so excited to announce our 2021 Wool Blanket Contest People’s Choice winner: Johnnie Jae of the Choctaw and Otoe-Missouria peoples!
Johnnie Jae (Otoe-Missouria/Choctaw), our 2021 Wool Blanket Design Contest People's Choice Winner
A highly accomplished journalist, designer, community builder, and "Indigenerd," Johnnie Jae has already made many serious and inspiring contributions towards the advocacy for Indigenous representation in media today. In 2021, she was recognized as one of the top leaders in the field of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for her work. Most notably, Johnnie Jae is responsible for founding A Tribe Called Geek, a web platform that is a key source for news and content on Indigenous representation in the world of “pop culture, STEM, and Indigenerditry.”
Logo for A Tribe Called Geek
Johnnie Jae has been a long time fan of Eighth Generation and has followed our journey since founder Louie Gong began customizing and designing his shoes. Having been inspired by the likes of Louie, Stephen Paul Judd, Weshoyot Alvitre, Dr. Elizabeth Lapensee, and Jeffrey Veregge, Jae has gone on to design and create art that hinges on the feelings produced by the perfect combinations of color and shape. The shapes and colors she uses reflect her memories and experiences “without being too literal.”
Johnnie's Indigenous Flame design
Johnnie has established herself as a leading voice in the world of Native representation in STEM and pop culture. Science fiction is a central interest of Johnnie Jae, and although many see sci-fi as part of some future, Johnnie disagrees and continually promotes the current achievements of all Indigenerdity. Citing the Indigenous-led innovations across the country and even on Mars, she stated, “We are already the science fiction of our ancestors.” The work that Native people are doing today “using our traditional knowledge to innovate existing tech and creating new tech… will ensure the future of our knowledge, languages, and more.” With this work in mind, Johnnie Jae founded ATCG to build a stronger platform and network that would highlight these types of achievements and celebrate our existence in STEM and pop culture.
We Are The Science Fiction of Our Ancestors by Johnnie Jae
Despite her successes with ATCG, Johnnie says she was too intimidated to apply for our wool blanket contest the first few years we offered it. In 2021, however, Johnnie says she wanted to try something new that would take a lot of bravery. When we asked Johnnie what made her apply for this year’s contest, she had this to say:
“Every year since (the contest) began I would think about applying but never felt good enough, so I'd say "Someday" and then just vote for the artists brave enough to enter. This contest was different. My mom had just passed away from COVID-19 and so many other lives have been cut short and it brought a lot of things into razor sharp clarity. But mainly, we don't have the promise of someday and we miss out on a lot of beautiful moments and opportunities that could be when we doubt ourselves and put all our hopes on "Someday." So, I entered with no real hopes of winning. I just wanted to be able to say I tried, to know that I was brave enough and that I was enough, even if to no one else but me.”
Johnnie hopes the blanket she designs for Eighth Generation will be beautiful and reflective of her true experiences, family, tribes, and community. Equally, Johnnie expressed that “It's an opportunity to artistically express [her] gratitude and joy.”
As a hub at the center of female empowerment, science, art, and disability policy, we asked Johnnie what advice she has for new artists, Native women entering STEM fields, and all of Indigenerdity. She shared:
“Be unapologetically you, stay rooted. Uplift, empower, and invest in each other. We need to support and encourage each other, especially in STEM industries that are not always the healthiest work environments for women.
We need to look out for each, check in and make sure that we are taking care of ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. We need to help each other heal and empower each other to reclaim our power. We need to be invested in each other’s growth and success because we are not in competition with one another, there are no limits as to how many women can be successful. Celebrate each other, create opportunities for one another because when one rises, we all rise.”
We wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to every person who entered our 2021 Wool Blanket Design Contest, to everyone who voted, and each of you for your incredible support of Eighth Generation—your source for authentic Native-designed wool blankets and more.