Progress Pics

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lakota Crafts Project

Haye Good People,

Last week I posted about the deplorable conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation and also touched upon some of the things that my friend and I do to make a difference.

This post will give you a basic outline of the who, what, where, how and why of what I do and will include info to help you get involved if you choose to do so. This will be a long post with a lot of photos of the kid’s craft items and of some of the families we help.

If you aren’t interested in this subject, you will find likely this post tedious and boring. If that is the case, I suggest that you skip my blog for today! But if you have interest, grab a cup of coffee or tea, pull up your chair and get comfortable, as this will be a LONG post. Get ready to learn all about the “LAKOTA CRAFTS PROJECT -- Where Gifts give twice.” which is what we named our eBay store.

We’ve been selling crafts on eBay for the kids (and sometimes elders) since February 2006. Prior to that we sold the crafts at pow wows and craft fairs, and we still do this to some extent.

We never wanted to co-mingle the kid’s craft money with our personal money, so we created a charitable trust account that has a checking account and a debit card attached to it. This is called the WHITE FEATHER CHARITABLE TRUST and is not the same thing as the non-profit we are beginning to form. The crafts project existed long before we ever thought of starting a non-profit. We may merge the two, or not. There are pros and cons in doing so and we are still thinking about it.

The name WHITE FEATHER for the trust account is in honor of the medicine man who was pouring water at the first sweat lodge that I ever attended. He is the first Lakota person whom I ever got to know and I will forever be grateful to him for many things, hence the name. Anyway, I am getting off track here already. LOL

In terms of the ebay sales, we pride ourselves on keeping our prices low and providing excellent customer service. Also, these are “spiritual” items to us and we pass them on with spiritual intent and prayers-- although the buyers on eBay are not aware of this.

Lakota people generally don’t speak publicly too much about spiritual things and also I don’t want to make our eBay listings seem hokey, so I don’t get into that aspect too much. Let’s just say that the eBay buyers receive much more than they realize. (If they only knew, LOL).

In terms of the materials used, I have spent years networking with people all over the country to get free or low cost supplies to help us keep prices low. For instance, people who keep parrots and macaws donate feathers. Men who hunt turkeys generally just throw out the wings and tail-- instead they can send them to us and the kids will use the feathers in crafts. Hence, there is a chain of generosity and good will attached to these items. Resources and efforts pass from hand-to-hand, are turned into a craft item by the kids, are sold by me and finally purchased by someone like you-- who either keeps the item to personally treasure it-- or passes it along as a gift.

Most of the craft items have a native, if not specifically Lakota theme and use natural or recycled materials. We avoid sources that are inhumane. For instance, “farms” that raise fox or other animals for their fur--we won’t buy fur from there. If someone donates craft supplies the kids will use them no matter what, but we personally do not support “fur farms.”

Feathers, deerskin, fur, bone -- these are used to make medicine bags, hair ornaments, prayer fans, jewelry and other items. When something dies-- it can either return to the earth or it (parts of it anyway) can be used to make something useful or beautiful. Thus, native crafts allow an animal or bird to continue life here in a new and beautiful form.

Traditionally, you’d treat these items with great respect, as if the animal were still alive. I could say more on this, but not today. You are all smart anyway and most of you are pretty spiritual and/or earth friendly-- so I am certain that you are getting all the layers in what I am saying here and I don’t have to write a book and spell it out for you.

Here’s a good place to share some pics of the kid's work and of some of the kids themselves:

Feather hair ties are one of our best selling items. I usually put them up in lots of five.

Necklaces like these are another item I commonly have available. This one was made by Nina Chase Alone, age 12

A horse necklace by Nina

Artist at work

Nina modeling a medicine bag she made

Medicine bag with buffalo fur on the front and buffalo tooth on the flap. We commonly have buffalo bags, usually similar to this one.

Wooden trinket box painted with hawk

This was a custom-ordered prayer fan

White fox medicine bag

This medicine bag was made by a 12-yr old. I think she did a great job

So many beads, so little time

Turkey wing prayer fan with buffalo hair

kangi Pejuta - Crow medicine

Mato pejuta - Bear medicine

This spiral theme is common and seems to sell well

Our bags often come with goodies

I fell in love with this buffalo bag last year and nearly kept it for myself! LOL

Macaw Prayer feather

Coyote Face bag. These are a good size and a popular item

This style of bag is commonly made by Jessica Chase Alone who is 15-years old. Later today, I'll be listing a bag that is similar to this, but has an agate horse as the focal. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the look of heavily fringed bags. This one was another that was hard for me to sell.

Someone bought this literally within minutes after I listed it. Pretty, Huh?

Abalone shell hair ties

Jesse, Margaret and Kelly Grass - These are good kids. Jesse drew a buffalo that we're using as a logo for the non-profit we are forming (Ahopa- Friends of the Lakota Nation) .

Here's Jesse's buffalo drawing

This one was done by Kelly

Arlette Loud Hawk

The image of a hawk wood burned onto a wooden box

Elaborate prayer fan

More to know about eBAY: My ebay user name is "Mitankala" which means Little Sister in Lakota, and the store name is the Lakota Crafts Project. I get at least one box of crafts per week from the rez so I am constantly listing new items. I have a ton of new stuff and will be listing a lot this week. During the holiday season I sell ornaments made by the kids and should have some soon. I have placed a link to the store in the sidebar on the right so that it will be easy to find.

If a particular animal hide is not allowed in every state, it cannot be listed on eBay or you risk getting the boot. For instance, BEAR pelt is not legal to own in all states so I cannot sell bear pelt medicine bags on eBay. But I DO HAVE bear pelt medicine bags, crow smudge fans and
other items that I cannot list there. So if you want something in particular and don't see it there, please ask me.

For my friends overseas: My eBay account is set to only accept bids from those living in the USA. Many countries have customs laws about animal pelts and feathers coming into their country and I had a HUGE headache with a European buyer over this.

IF you know that customs in your country won't seize the items, please contact me through one of my listings, say that you know me from here and ask me to place you on my exemptions list. Once I place you on the blocked bidder exemption list in my eBay settings, the system will always recognize you and allow you to bid on any of my items even though you don't live in the USA.

Christmas: If you're buying something and it is to be a gift, let me know when you are paying for the item. I'll include a note to give with the gift explaining how/why it is a gift that "gives twice" and why you purchased from us. It's a nice touch and let's people know what your values are and where your heart is.

Buy with confidence: After nearly FOUR YEARS of selling on ebay our feedbback is 100 perfect, as is our detailed seller rating. We work hard for these kids but we also strive to make positive buying experiences for the customers. You don't think of buying something as a spiritual experience--but we try to make it that way as much as possible. We ship quickly, usually within 24 hours of payment; and we package the items nicely, include free gifts and pics of the crafters and their families, etc.

We aren't merely selling "items" but providing an opportunity to do something positive for all concerned. You can feel good about sending your friends and family to our store to do some of their Christmas shopping -- and we hope that you will!

OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO: Each year, we select several Lakota families and try to make sure that they have a Christmas to remember. We also help as many as we can with heating fuel-- South Dakota winters are harsh and the people cannot afford propane every time they need it.

Each year we set up a chip-in page from October to Christmas to raise as much as we can for this objective. I am already being inundated with calls about families who are freezing! You can help by:

Visiting our Chip-in page to get the widget and placing it on your blog. Alternatively, you can email a link to our chip-in page to your friends and associates. I'll put the widget in my own sidebar-- check it out over at the right.

The 501 3c: Although we are in the process of forming a non-profit and have non-profit status at the state level, we haven't yet filed the federal paperwork -- so it would not be legal for me to request "donations" for our fledgling organization.

But it is perfectly legal for me to set up the chip-in page and appeal to my friends to help me in this effort. So that's what I am doing.

Another thing you can do to help is to buy environmentally-safe products from Let's Go Green and 25% of your purchase price will come to us for our work with the Lakota. I put a link to the Let's Go Green site in the sidebar on the right. At check out, designate us as the recipients - Ahopa - Friends of the Lakota Nation. They are pricey but for those who want to help this way, it is another option.


If you are a well-networked person who knows a lot of the kinds of people who would like these crafts, you could have a holiday open house to sell the crafts. I'd send you a box of stuff, you'd set a date for an OPEN HOUSE, invite your friends, sell the stuff, and send the money back to the trust fund in care of me.

This isn't worth the effort unless you're pretty sure you could get at least 15 people to stop over and buy something. Otherwise, we are just tying up items that could be sold elsewhere. And there's no point in your cleaning your house and opening your home and doing all of the invites if it isn't going to pay off.

This takes trust on my part as I am sending out hundreds of dollars worth of items and acting on faith that the kids will get the money for it. I've never been ripped off yet, thank heavens. I could get enough crafts together by November/early December to have a couple of people do this. Some lead time to get the kids working harder would be appreciated. Email me to start a dialogue about this and I'd be happy to send you my phone number if you want to chat.

It's a nice thing to do during the holiday season. People get unique gifts made with love and in the process they help someone be self-supporting when they otherwise wouldn't be. It's good for the earth as we recycle items and people aren't driving around to the malls --wasting gas and buying the same crap that everyone else is buying. It's nice to be a part of someting like this, to provide that opportunity for all involved.

People could take up collections at work or school. Someone in a warmer climate could have a tag sale to help the kids. Whatever............. Everyone who thinks up something to do means one less Lakota kid freezing their ass off or going to bed hungry.

CONFIDENTIALITY: A lot of you do not post pics of yourself or reveal your identity on your blogs and I can understand that-- especially with people in certain professions. If you buy from me on eBay or get involved with the Lakota projects on any level, I will NOT reveal your identity to ANYONE.

My ability to help my Lakota friends depends heavily on my ability to network and enlist the help of others. Betraying people's right to privacy would not only be wrong within itself but would certainly not help me in this work I am doing. Rest assured, I will not reveal any personal data about you unless you want me to share it and give permission.

I've written enough for today. This should have answered most of your questions about the crafts, but if you have other questions about the crafts or the families or my work with the Lakota, just email me. I'm on and off my computer all day creating eBay listings and whatnot and generally get back to people right away.

Hecel oyate kinipikte – So that the People May Live

Wakan Tanka Nici unweyepo - may the Creator walk with you

Here's a link to a You Tube video about people helping out on Pine Ridge:

1 comment:

  1. Hiya... Beautiful items! Even though I'm in the UK, I'm going to bookmark you as a 'favourite seller' and contact you about items I would like to buy... I wouldn't buy anything made from pelt, so customs wouldn't be a problem. But, I have a couple of shaman friends (along with many other 'spiritual' friends who would just LOVE some of these items (myself included!)

    Bye for now

    Patsy x


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