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What better way to cap off a difficult year than to shine a spotlight on Native excellence!
Our Inspired Natives Award – funds given to arts entrepreneurs provided by 5% of profit from our retail blanket sales – is one component of our broad effort to give back.
This year, the Inspired Natives Award comes after other historic donations. Eighth Generation delivered 10,000 masks and 300 face shields to Seattle Indian Health board; launched the “Sacred Sisters” Special Edition Silk Scarf designed by Starr Warner (Diné), where 100% of profits were donated to National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) to end violence against womxn and children; and donated nearly $10K worth of wool blankets to victims of the west coast wildfires.
We reviewed over 200 nominations for the Inspired Natives Award and are honored to select Cynthia Begay (Hopi & Diné), Jaimie Davis (Gitxsan/Nisgaa) and Steve Wikviya LaRance (Hopi-Assiniboine) and his family! See why these artists inspired us below.
Cynthia is a silversmith who owns Hopi Girl Silver and is also pursuing her PhD in Preventive Medicine. Coming from both a Hopi and Navajo family of weavers, pottery makers, carvers and silversmiths, Cynthia is carrying on the tradition of silversmithing and weaving.
Some of Cynthia's favorite silversmith pieces are those inspired by Star Wars because they transcend generations and cross cultures. When she first saw Star Wars it was translated in the Navajo language, Diné Bizaad.
In academics and outreach, Cynthia is working on research projects and visibility for Native communities. She is also a co-founder of Native American Pathways, a non-profit that provides practical resources for achievement, health and happiness. Native American Pathways donated PPE kits for every employee of the Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District.
"Yeah I want to sit at the table but I also want to bring another chair, too – 95% of everything I do is for community," Cynthia says.
Cynthia will be investing the award funds back into her art. Though she works and studies full time, she wants to nurture her artistic side.
“I’m always learning no matter what I’m doing,” Cynthia says. “Getting the award itself is reinvigorating.”
Jaimie is a cedar weaver, jewelry designer, sculptor and painter who owns Jada Creations. Her original jewelry designs are made of cedar bark she harvests locally and sustainably on traditional laxyip (territory). Another material she works with often is Abalone shell. In all of her creations and especially through wearable art, Jaimie is passionate in sharing a piece of her culture with the world.
Jaimie was the Artist in Residence at the Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a (Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provinical Park, Visitor Info Center) before attending the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast art, Coast Mountain College.
"Receiving this award is going to fuel my fire as I step into the new year with a big and exciting project underway!" Jaimie says.
In January, she will create a large scale mural in Northwest Coast Art formline design with all four sides of a building to be painted the following summer.
"This project is extremely important to me because it is our Gitlaxdax Terrace Nisga’a Society office building here in my home community of Terrace, BC," Jaimie says. "An honor in itself to be chosen to design it."
The Inspired Natives award will also help Jaimie acquire jewelry and art supplies – like engraving tools – for her small business.
Steve and his wife Marian Denipah (Navajo-Ohkay Owingeh) are award-winning artists who work primarily as jewelers and are well-known for their use of a technique called tufa-casting.
This Inspired Natives Award also honors one of Steve and Marian's children, Nakotah LaRance (1989-2020).
Nakotah was a nine-time winner of the World Championship of Hoop Dance who dedicated his time to mentoring and passing on the cultural dance to Native youth with Lightning Boy Foundation. Nakotah inspired countless folks around the world. He toured as a Principal Dancer with Cirque du Soleil, appeared on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and was a talented actor in film and television.
Steve says he shares the Inspired Natives Award with the accomplishments and support of his family, who have been a huge part of their outreach and success. For 2021, Steve plans to participate in virtual art shows. Most significantly, a special event to honor Nakotah and his legacy is in the works.
"We hope to create a unique event for our youth Hoop Dancers here in N. New Mexico celebrating and sharing the beauty and meaning of this cultural dance," Steve says.