A new catalog from the Minnesota Indigenous Business Alliance highlights Native artist products and shops in time for the busy shopping season.Reporter Leah Lemm has the story…
The MN Indigenous Business Alliance is in its 12th year of operations, with the last two as a nonprofit. This year they came out with their kick-off Winter Solstice Art Catalog.
“My name is Pamela Standing. I am the Executive Director for the Minnesota Indigenous Business Alliance, our mission is to ACT. And ACT is: align partners, connect our native businesses to resources and transform our tribal economies. What we really are is we’re a very extensive resource hub.” said Standing.
The MNIBA business directory supports about 250 Native businesses. Pamela Standing explains that MNIBA supports businesses and entrepreneurs in ways that are right for them, not pushing into a prescribed method of doing business. For example…
“Things are coded in our DNA. They’re so deeply engraved in our languages about how we conduct business, how we treat one another, how we market, you know, how we how we’re honest with one another when we trade.
What I love about the work that we’re doing right now is that we’re going much deeper into those principles and practices and processes that are engraved in our language.” said Standing.
Now, MNIBA is adding an artist catalog to the mix of ways it supports Native businesses. Through partnerships with several Native artists, as well as a working group of Native-led organizations that serve artists, the catalog was created.
The Winter Solstice 2020 Art Catalog is over 40 pages of photos of artists’ work and websites where purchases can be made. The cover is a photo of Northern Lights and the catalog colors reflect the blues and purples of the aurora borealis. Among the artists are Adrienne Benjamin her colorful ribbon skirts and Ben Spears with beautiful wood bowls, and so much more.
“The idea happened so quickly. When COVID first started, there was such a reluctance with a lot of the people that we were working with to engage in online marketing. And because we’re a people that everything’s, face-to-face, it’s about relationships all of that business that most of our artists do as it’s kind of a gig economy.” said Standing.
And the in-person gig economy has taken a bit hit due to the pandemic, with powwows, conferences, and other large get-togethers cancelled or moved to online. MNIBA is there to help businesses adapt, and specifically artists in this case with the catalog.
“When we think about the intricate networks of trade routes that our people developed long before contact, what we’re trying to do now is create a virtual network, a new, a new trade path that’s done virtually, and that can live on beyond COVID.” said Standing.
This particular tool, the catalog is already being put to good use, promoting Native artist business.
Artist Sunday is becoming a part of the shopping season, following Black Friday and Small Business Saturday as a way to encourage shoppers to buy from artists.
So far, Artists are seeing positive bumps in sales. Black Bears and Blueberries Publishing is a Native owned non-profit publisher of Native children’s books and is also included in the catalog. Black Bears and Blueberries has seen orders come in where they normally hadn’t before the catalog came out.
“He’s seeing orders coming from out East and they’re individual orders where normally their business has really relied on schools, but right now they can’t because schools are closed and they’re their biggest book buyers. Then bookstores are their secondary one. So they’re growing.” said Standing.
More and more artists will benefit too going forward. MNIBA plans to make the catalog a quarterly resource.
Leah Lemm reporting for Minnesota Native News