Announcing our 2022 Inspired Natives Award winners

With the creation of our very first wool blanket in 2015, our founder Louie Gong (Nooksack) conceived of the Inspired Natives® Award as a way to support even more Native artists. Each year, we donate 5% of net retail blanket sales  back to the Native community as scholarships for community-engaged Native artists who are keeping Native values and culture thriving through their incredible artwork. These artists are nominated by partner organizations such as NDN Collective, the Evergreen Longhouse, and the Snoqualmie Tribe, and we are honored to be able to review incredibly worthy candidates each year. 
We had so many incredible artists that partner organizations nominated for our 2022 award, and we are so excited to announce that this year we were able to award four incredibly worthy applicants who are doing amazing things as Native artists. Scroll down to read about each winner and join us in congratulating these great Native artists. 

Finley Beckham Barehand, Gila River, Navajo,  Mono 

Beckham performing in the Nutcracker (far left)
Finley Beckham Barehand (Gila River/Navajo/Mono) has been studying ballet for ten years with Johansen's Dance Center in Olympia, Washington. He is currently cast in the ballet Don Quixote, as a Toreador, and has been part of the Ballet Northwest company for the past three years. He has performed in over twenty-five shows, including the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, American in Paris, and others.

Beckham has been accepted into the prestigious Milwaukee Ballet pre-professional summer intensive program, a concentrated, comprehensive course for serious dancers who have attained an intermediate to advanced level of ballet technique.
Beckham also enjoys singing with his school choir, and a performance singing group called the "Notables," where he competes in statewide singing competitions. For the past two years his group has made it to the final rounds of the state competition.


He started his acting career with Red Eagle Soaring, the Nation’s only Native youth theater group. As an actor, he has performed with the Olympia Family Theater's "Secret Garden" and the musical Les Misérables with Apple Seed productions and with his high school's productions of "Hammered: A Thor & Loki Play" and "Working."


Beckham’s dream is to be a principal dancer in a ballet company and this summer in the pre professional program will put him one step closer.


Bethany Fackrell, Snoqualmie 


wiʔaac (hello)! My name is Bethany Fackrell, and I am a Snoqualmie Tribe member, a veteran, and an artist.

My passion for art started at a young age, and after serving in the Navy I reconnected with my Native roots through art. It was then I began painting on deerskin drums, each of which I have gifted. Gifting is a huge part of our culture, and I love to carry on this tradition. As my experiences and teachings grow, so does my art. I use traditional Salish patterns in a contemporary way to bring my culture to light. My art pieces offer this by spreading teachings, stories, and real experiences. 

My tribe has always been my second home and my family. I have memories of our tribe’s office trailer, where my elders fought for our tribe's re-recognition. I remember catching salmon from night until morning, of gatherings at our sacred falls, of my canoe family. One of my most honorable moments was pulling with my canoe family from our home rivers to the ocean waters of Lummi in 2019. Another was being a part of the restoration of the Kokanee at Lake Sammamish.

Since my transition from the military to working for my tribe in 2017, I have become a very active tribal member once more. I am part of our tribal color guard, and I am very involved in our cultural ceremonies, gatherings, meetings, and harvests—being a Snoqualmie Tribal member is an overall way of life for me. For me, it is all about offering my hands whenever, wherever, or however I can. I raise my hands in thanks to the ones before us and our elders who paved the path for the generations to come.

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Sayokla (It Snows Again) Kindness, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin

Beadwork as an art form is time-consuming and detailed-oriented, but I love it. I have been in love with beadwork since I was eight years old and was told not to touch a gorgeous, fully-beaded Sioux-designed vest that was in my grandpa's room . . . which of course I just had to take off a shelf and admire, and wonder, "how was this made?" At that age, I didn't know what being unkwehuwe was about but I wanted to be Native and I wanted to dress Native and I wanted to wear beadwork! I knew we couldn't afford beadwork, so I set out to learn how to make it myself: in Oneida summer school and from anyone close to me who knew how to bead.

My beadwork projects are influenced by where I am at in my own personal journey. I made daisy-chain bracelets in high school and sold them at Santa Fe Indian School, wanting to be self-sufficient. I beaded powwow regalia for myself and then for others, so I could stay at home with my son when he was a newborn and nurse him. I learned from each and every piece of beadwork I made and my skills slowly improved. 

Today, my mission is a bit different: today, I combine activism and art. Elevating Indigenous resistance through my beadwork and beading designs/colors/themes that support and uphold Indigenous Peoples and our sovereignty. But what is sovereignty? That is a good question! I heard it explained very recently and this resonated with me: Mr. Flip White, Seneca Nation, described sovereignty as, "It's the responsibility and work that each of us are responsible for—to benefit the people, the environment, and the future." 

My part of upholding sovereignty is to create beadwork art with an intentional focus on building and maintaining Yunkwatista—Our Fire—our fire within and the fire of our People. I use Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse/ Six Nations) designs, colors, history, and teachings. The Tree of Peace, the Two Row Wampum, Hiawatha Belt, Our Clans, Sky Domes, Ohne:ka'nus, and plant life—common designs and themes which hold our culture, memories, history, connection to Yulkinulha Ohu'tsya?ke and our relationships to Creation and to each other, and Tsi Niyunkwaliho:ta—Our Ways.

Sayokla (It Snows Again) Kindness

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Robert Martinez, Northern Arapaho & Chicano

Robert Martinez was born on the Wind River Reservation in Riverton Wyoming. He attended Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design and in 3 years he graduated becoming the Youngest Native American to graduate at that time.

His Northern Arapaho & Chicano heritage remains a constant inspiration and source of ideas for his work.  Living in Wyoming amongst the hard working people of the west and experiencing their issues also influence his creations.  The past and present often resonate strongly throughout his work.  Using a strong contrast in of lights, darks, and painting in intense vibrant color, he creates striking imagery that is confronting and engages the viewer.

Robert was recently honored with his home state’s highest creative honor, the Wyoming Governors Art Award.  You can see select pieces of his work in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian National Museum for the American Indian in Washington DC, The Plains Indian Museum at the Bill Cody Center of the West, The Brinton Museum, the Red Cloud Heritage Museum and the Wyoming State Museum.

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Thank you to every artist who took the time to interview with us: each of you are fantastic and deserve so much praise and recognition for the work you do to keep Native culture and art thriving. Please join us in giving congratulations to Beckham, Bethany, Sayokla, and Robert in the comments below!