Posted on October 11 2021
contributed by Harmony Pilobello
Columbus Day has always felt off for us. I remember being a young child and wondering how one man could be credited for discovering an entire continent people already lived on. I remember wondering why his crew and financial backer weren't highlighted more in our history books. There were so many unanswered questions during my time in the American school system that left me with a giant question mark.
Now as an adult, I’ve made the commitment to unlearning the things we’ve been taught. It feels especially poignant to dig my heels deeper after the recent events leading to the Black Lives Matter uprising.
This year, I decided to spend more time understanding how Indigenous Peoples’ of the Americas were impacted by the Euro-centric American history we were taught in elementary school. While this is a lifelong effort to growing and learning, here are some ways we (you and I) can take action now:
1. Acknowledge the Native Land you live on
I started my new intentions this year by regularly acknowledging the native land I live on with an amazing community on Clubhouse. At first, my introductions felt awkward and clunky. It took a few months to realize this stemmed from my own intersectional experiences as a woman and first generation Asian American. I was taught to take up as little space as possible and giving a long introduction made me feel "too seen". If this resonates with you in any way, I would encourage you to keep trying! Find some friends or loved ones to practice speaking with until you find a format that feels natural for you.
Here is an example of how I like to introduce myself:
Hi, my name is Harmony, my pronouns are she/her/they, and I would like to acknowledge the stolen lands I live on which is the Kuyam and Chumash territories. I’m also the co-founder of a sustainable shoe company called Alterre.
I understand this intro is well suited for an audio app like Clubhouse and not necessarily in person, however now that I'm acclimated it's become easier to integrate into an in-person conversation.
For example, when someone asks me where I'm from or where I live... I reply with something conversational like:
"I live in Los Angeles which I recently found out is comprised of several different Native American territories."
This almost always leads to an interesting conversation starter and a leaping point to acknowledge something important in my personal growth.
If you're not familiar with what territory you live on, here is a useful site you can reference: native-land.ca.
2. Follow and Engage with Leaders on Social Media
There are so many brilliant Indigenous leaders and activists on social media. For those who are growing their presence on social media, following and regularly engaging with their posts can give more visibility thats vital to anyone seeking financial independance as an influencer or thought leader. I would highly recommend doing research on any leaders in your own areas of interest.
In the mean time, here are some people I personally love following:
Michelle Chubb | Instagram @indigneous_baddie
What I love about her: She inspires me to think about the ways I can incorporate my own heritage into DIY fashion. There are several different cultural garments and accessories that are not readily available to me anymore. Seeing her style and informative posts motivate me to do the same! I also love learning more about her experiences as an Indigenous woman in Canada.
Jamie Okuma | Instagram @j.okuma
What I love about her: A Shoshone-Bannock and Luiseño artist who incorporates traditional Native American beadwork, leatherwork, and prints with modern silhouettes.
Quannah Chasinghorse | @quannah.rose
What I love about her: She is a model and activist with amazing style. She breaks the mold for me in the way she's been able to build her career without compromising the parts of her that are important. For example, I have yet to see her in recent years with anything but long straight hair, existing tattoos, and a septum piercing. Its refreshing to see brands work with her without (to my knowledge) photo shopping anything out.
3. Donate to a Cause
"Native American women make up a significant portion of the missing and murdered cases. Not only is the murder rate ten times higher than the national average for women living on reservations but murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women. This is startling as Native people only make up 2% of the US overall population." nativehope.org
Something we've always been passionate about is gender equity and lifting the voices of women. Lack of visibility and institutional racism has made it harder to build awareness and resources for missing Native women and while there are many great organizations to donate to here is one that really resonates with us at Alterre:
CSVANW is committed to advocating for Native women and children to live in a violence-free community. This organization is focused on bringing unity within the community.
4. Sign, Protest, or Volunteer
If you're new to understanding environmental racism, there has been a long history of companies threatening Indigenous rights. Some more publicized recent events include the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock and the Thirty Meter Telescope at Mauna Kea.
For those feeling particularly activated for social justice, the Line 3 Pipeline is not only an environmental concern but unconstitutionally threatening 400 miles of Indigenous Ojibwe land. Grassroots organizations are actively seeking volunteers to help in any way possible.
Here is where you can learn more and get involved:
5. Support an Indigenous owned business
Last but not least! Shopping with a purpose is always a good thing. Here are some brands we personally love that would support Indigenous small businesses.
Jamie Okuma | https://www.jokuma.com/indulge
We mentioned her earlier and were serious about loving her. She currently has an oversized coat with Butterfly print that we're obsessed with. It would pair perfectly with any of our White V Mules or Doe Slides combos.
B Yellowtail | https://byellowtail.com/
The coziest sweaters and versatile statement pieces. We love this brand's commitment to community and empowerment.
Ginew USA | https://ginewusa.com/collections/jeans
A menswear friendly brand with bandanas perfect for styling on yourself or your dog. Their jeans are also made in the USA and classic silhouettes.
Četáŋ Ská (pronounced chey-tahn ska) | https://www.cetanska.com/
Designed by Dyani White Hawk, a Sičangu Lakota artist. We are obsessed with her blanket collaboration with Ginew. They are cozy for curling up on the couch or taking out for car camping. She also makes statement earrings and jewelry.
Have any Indigenous brands, activists, or causes we should know about? We'd love to know! DM us on Instagram @alterreny or comment below.