Earlier this year, I was asked to participate in a design challenge sponsored by Columbia Gem House and MJSA. Five other designers and I were presented with a fictional story and a selection of responsibly sourced gemstones--four round turquoise pieces, four triangular peridots, four kite-shaped Anthill garnets, and one round Anthill garnet, which all come from Navajo land. The Anthill garnets are actually found on the ground’s surface by a Navajo “miner,” because he does not believe in putting holes in the earth. It doesn’t get more sustainable and ethical than that! I also encourage you to read the fictional story of Haseya, which is too long for me to share here, but although she is a fictional character, her story is based on true ideas and is very inspiring!
What clinched my interest in participating in this project was hearing that the pieces would be auctioned off with 100% of the donations supporting the Navajo Hopi Health Foundation. This is one small opportunity to give back to indigenous Americans who have suffered so much during the pandemic, not to mention since 1492. I have always loved Native American jewelry and largely thank their art for the reason I became a jewelry designer. I am grateful for this chance to give one nation a proportionally very small thank you for all they have given me.
I have always felt strongly about not appropriating their aesthetic in my work, and this is an opportunity to speak out about cultural appropriation, making sure that one is telling one’s own story through their designs, and not adopting the style of another culture that is not theirs.Thank you so much to everyone who participated by bidding in the auction and voting for my piece! My design is pictured here for you to see. Although this challenge is over, I encourage you to donate to support indigenous people by purchasing from indigenous owned-business, donating to their causes and of course purchasing Native American jewelry. Just make sure you are supporting pieces where the proceeds actually benefit indigenous peoples, rather than having their aesthetic or culture misappropriated by another culture. If you are not sure where to start, a great place to learn is the Indigenous Solidarity Network’s Rethinking Thanksgiving Toolkit.