Alaska Native business owners invite you to shop small this holiday season

Published: Nov. 28, 2020 at 7:19 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -Supporting small businesses during this holiday season not only keeps the money in the community, but it also helps keep food on a neighbor’s tables, helps friends pay the rent, and keeps kids in extracurricular activities.

According to the United Nations, although Indigenous Peoples make up only 5% of the global population but they account for about 15% of the world’s lowest incomes.

In honor of National Native American Heritage month, we are featuring several Alaska Native owned small businesses on Small Business Saturday.

“I started beadworking when I was 11 or 12 making brick stitch” Deloole’aanh Erickson said. “Then when I was in high school I started learning skin stitching so you bead onto the moose hide.”

Copper Misty Moons: Moose hide with abalone and dentalium shell details by Deloole'aanh Erickson
Copper Misty Moons: Moose hide with abalone and dentalium shell details by Deloole'aanh Erickson(Sarah Hollister)

Erickson makes jewelry using mostly glass beads and moose hide. She said it allows her to get closer to her Athabascan roots.

“I was raised in Hoonah which is a Tlingit village. So I grew up learning Tlingit culture, practicing their language and their songs and their artwork, but I was never taught our traditional forms of artwork.” Erickson said. “So that’s one of the things that I enjoy about it is the connections and the mentors I’ve had through this process”

You can support Erickson by visiting her Instagram page, yukdena_llu.

“I think it’s important because this work that we do, it takes a lot of time and energy,” Erickson added. ”When you support our artwork, it helps us do extra fun things with our family and it also helps me fund my artwork to begin with.”

If jewelry is on your list, another unique indigenous artist to support is Bonnie Scheele. Scheele is Inupiaq and a third generation reindeer herder. She owns “Twenty Mile Trading Company” which makes and sells one of a kind rings and other crafts using reindeer byproducts.

Bonnie Scheele's grandfather, Lawrence Davis, began the reindeer herding business in the...
Bonnie Scheele's grandfather, Lawrence Davis, began the reindeer herding business in the 1960’s. Reindeer are the inspiration for Twenty Mile Trading Company.(Sarah Hollister)

Here grandfather started their family’s reindeer herd in the 1960′s and it remains a family business today.

“Being a herder and having a creative outlet is a blessing that I’m thankful for each and every day,” Scheele said.

The rings are made from male and female dropped antlers that occurs during the reindeers yearly life cycle. Each ring is unique, like each reindeer. With Scheels cultural background she said she uses as much of the animal as possible.

Every ring, like every reindeer, is unique.
Every ring, like every reindeer, is unique.(Sarah Hollister)

Her business can be found on Instagram at twenty_mile_trading_company.

If Athabascan art is what you are after then look no further than Carey Nollner. Nollner’s use of color and emotions in her paintings brings to life her culture and identity.

Carey Nollner artwork on a birch panel.
Carey Nollner artwork on a birch panel.(Sarah Hollister)

Her roots start in Kaltag, Nulato and Ruby Alaska, but she currently lives in Fairbanks. She uses oils and acrylics in her paintings and offers prints and cards of her work.

You can purchase her art on Instagram at 907koyukona.

If handmade ivory carvings are on your wish list, Joshua Menadelook is one to look for.

“I do ivory earrings in the shapes of animals like seals moose and caribou walrus, even teardrop.” Mendalook said.

Joshua Menadelook carvings made of walrus ivory.
Joshua Menadelook carvings made of walrus ivory.(Sarah Hollister)

Mendalook lives in Fairbanks but was raised on Little Diomede Island. He says his inspiration has been passed down.

“My grandparents used to do ivory bracelets when I was growing up,” Mendalook said. “The other inspiration was I got to do a lot of hunting when I was a kid. I hunted in a skin boat since I was three years old until we left the island.”

Mendalook’s art can be found on Facebook at Joshua Menadelook Carvings.

Alaskan has no shortage of amazing beaders. Another talented artist is Blanche Sam. Originally from Hughes, Alaska, Sam lives in Fairbanks now and runs Brilliant Beads By Blanche. She is Athabascan and Inupiaq decent.

Handmade Athabascan/Inupiaq earrings by Blanche Sam.
Handmade Athabascan/Inupiaq earrings by Blanche Sam.(Sarah Hollister)

“I originally learned to sew and bead in elementary [school] from my grandmothers and aunt,” Blanche said. “I picked up a needle and thread in 2016 and have been busy with it since.”

Her beads feature a mixture of traditional materials including beads, shells, fur and hide and her style is filled with color.

Her beadwork can be found on her Instagram page at brilliantbeadsbyblanche or on her website.

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