Step into the new Intertribal Creatives Collective in Old Town Alexandria, and you’ll find yourself in a Western-style trading post with a touch of modern-day cool. Co-founders DeAnna Bear-Uphold, a member of the Lenape and Shawnee Nation, and Sydney Mills-Farhang, of the Oglala Lakota Nation, added barn doors, throw-covered tables, and a gleaming cement floor to an industrial-chic location inside Founders Hall. The result is a rare showcase for authentic jewelry and crafts made by Indigenous artists from tribal nations across the Americas.
The collective began as a holiday pop-up in this spot—located on ancestral Piscataway and Anacostan lands—but foot traffic fueled enough popularity for it to return as a permanent store this spring. Bear and Farhang set out to achieve multiple goals: establish a fair-trade marketplace with original artwork by Indigenous artists; strengthen tribal communities impacted by COVID; and introduce Northern Virginians, many of whom can effect governmental change through their work, to Indigenous culture and art. All proceeds support Running Strong for American Indian Youth, a nonprofit that’s also based in Alexandria.
That may not be top of mind as you covet the floral moosehide earrings made by Maybell Reiter (Anishinaabe) or the Jade Wildflowers print from Guatemalan artist José Flores (Mayan). The store is a gateway to learning about and owning the handiwork of artists who incorporate materials and regalia revered in their Native cultures. Expect to find vibrant seed-bead jewelry, shells, and deer hides, as well as crafts made with wood, copper, and silver. Consumable goods include Ekowah Coffee by Northern Virginia roaster Joshua Smith (Osage Nation), and soon the store will expand into soaps and lotions.
Among the treasures is a floral bolo tie handcrafted by Niio Perkins, of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation in upstate New York, whose necklaces blend Indigenous materials and European trade goods to symbolize the community’s survival and resurgence. Sandy Swallow of the Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota prints stirring giclées of the Black Hills landscape.
Some of the most eye-catching crafts are made by elders, who, with their decades of experience, create incredibly elaborate pieces. During the pandemic, these elders found their livelihoods challenged as powwows—the main outlet for selling their art—were canceled. Here, their work is taking on a life of its own. 106 N. Lee St., Alexandria, intertribalcreatives.org
What’s in Store
OST Beaded medallion necklace by David Jensen, $175
Leather medicine-bag necklace by Cynthia Holmes, $40
Floral medallion by Niio Perkins, $300
Girls Night Out watercolor print by Sandy Swallow, $40
Ring in sterling silver, turquoise, and black onyx (size 7.5) by Kassie Kussman, $225
This story originally ran in our July issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.