There are countless historical examples of Native cultures and populations being stripped away through colonization efforts right here in North America. Thankfully, the spirit and identities of many of these groups remain intact, particularly through artistic traditions.
In an effort to undo some of the harm of colonialism and recognize the significance of Indigenous art, Etsy partnered with Nest, a nonprofit aimed at advancing global workforce inclusivity, to create the Indigenous Artisans Collective, which launched on Indigenous Peoples Day earlier this week.
Dinah Jean, senior manager of social innovation at Etsy, told HuffPost that historic artisan communities may have traditionally lacked access to the digital economy. As part of the online marketplace’s larger Uplift Makers Program, Jean hopes this initiative can help such makers connect with a thriving internet community in order to earn meaningful income and, most importantly, celebrate their own cultures in the process.
The program also provides peer mentors from a group of existing Indigenous artisans with Etsy shops to help the makers in the collective gain entrepreneurial advice and guidance.
For April Toledo, an Indigenous Artisans Collective member and owner of the shop Juniper Dreams by April, the deeply rooted practice of artisan crafts is essential to preserving the cultural biodiversity of indigenous peoples and ending the white-induced erasure of their identities.
“It’s a way for Native people to bring a piece of their culture into their day-to-day lives and honor it there, or for anyone to appreciate and wear it as well. Continuing the traditions of making these items means the culture is alive,” Toledo said.
The unique and handmade items produced by the collective range from intricately beaded jewelry to sewn moccasins to ornamental wood pieces. Each one utilizes traditional methods and materials unique to a specific community or tribe.