To date, the coronavirus has taken over 700,000 lives worldwide and it is even spreading into remote places, threatening the health and safety of indigenous tribes and native communities.
In Brazil, the government’s COVID-19 response (or lack of) has shown incompetence to protect its tribal populations from the threat. According to Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), the death rate from coronavirus in indigenous communities has rise from 46 in May to 262 by early June.
Nepal is also struggling with protecting its indigenous people, who make make up around one-third of the country’s total population, approximately 11 million. Local language barriers and cultural differences in communicating health protocols such as observing social distancing, self-quarantine and hand washing (running water is also scarce in many parts of the country) have meant that people with disabilities and indigenous communities are most vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the Indigenous People of Mindanao in the Philippines are taking a different route, invoking the spirits of protection against the virus rather than wait for the government to provide health and safety protection to their tribes.
The sluggish response from various governments across the globe has triggered a lack of trust to deliver sufficient health and wellbeing services to indigenous peoples.
One way to protect and support indigenous communities and help in the development and independence of their economy is to shop Indigenous owned brands and conscious businesses that partner with indigenous collectives.
In light of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples celebrated on August 9, here is a curated list of some ethical brands that support indigenous people and help to preserve their arts and culture:
1. Rachael Sarra
A commercial Aboriginal artist and designer from Goreng Goreng Country, Rachael Sarra uses contemporary art as a tool to educate and share Aboriginal culture, explore Indigenous Australian identity and its evolution.
From custom designs, collaborations through to commissioned pieces, Sarra’s work can be found in jewellery, notebooks and even clothing. To view her portfolio or purchase canvas prints or merchandise featuring her distinctive bold and feminine style, visit rachaelsarra.com.
Australian brand Bundarra responsibly manufactures Indigenous-inspired clothing and sportswear and Aboriginal themed gifts showcasing authentic paintings and artwork from First Nations artists. The ethical brand also supplies custom corporate uniforms, teamwear and promotional products.
Over the last three years the company and its partners have been able to contribute A$1.5 million to Indigenous employment development, artist and direct sponsorship and donations for community development.
Canada based fashion and lifestyle brand SheNative was founded by Devon Fiddler a Cree woman from Saskatoon, with the aim of empowering Indigenous women and girls through employment, collaboration, co-creating designs with Indigenous communities and donating 10% of profits towards causes that positively impact the lives of Indigenous women. The brand specialises in crafting leather handbags and printed merchandise and apparel using Indigenous techniques and story-telling.
“We create inspiring leather handbags and apparel that shares Indigenous teachings embedded with positive values passed down by our ancestors.” – She Native
4. Indigenous Designs
Indigenous Designs sells and promotes beautiful organic and responsibly-made apparel for both men and women that feature the skills of indigenous artisans in Peru. Since launching in 1994, the brand has continued to go beyond the concept of ‘fair trade’ by fully committing to the economic empowerment of its artisans and their families, crafting a supply chain that focuses on the needs of its workers and helping to keep traditional artistry and ancient skills –hand looming, handweaving, knitting and farming techniques– alive.
Hiptipico is an ethical fashion brand located in Panajachel, Guatemala. The brand name comes from the Spanish word tipico, which is what the traditional clothing worn by the indigenous Maya people in Guatemala is called.
Hiptipico honors the Maya culture through the preservation of indigenous communities by promoting traditional weaving and embroidery by Guatemalan artisans.
“At Hiptipico, I always tell the women that I work for them. Not the other way around. My job is to share their story and products with the world in order to get them more orders to help support their family. Simple,” says Hiptipico founder Alyssa Yamamoto.
6. Clothing The Gap
Australian Aboriginal-owned and led social enterprise Clothing The Gap and fashion label producing merchandise such as tees, jumpers, masks and tote bags that celebrate Aboriginal people and culture. Some of the products are locally made and are accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA). Managed by a team with a background in health, 100% of the brand’s profits support Aboriginal health and education programs throughout the state of Victoria.
The social enterprise complements an existing Australian government health initiative ‘Closing the Gap’ that aims to remove the life expectancy gap between Indigenous Australians and non-indigenous Australians, though Clothing The Gap focuses on supporting the Indigenous community by uniting all Australians through fashion and cause.
Founded in 2015 by fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail who hails from the Crow (Apsaalooke) and Northern Cheyenne (Tsetsehestahese and So’taeo’o) Nations in southeastern Montana, B.Yellowtail is a Native American owned fashion and accessories label that stocks handmade, heirloom quality jewelry, textiles and accessories and specializes in storytelling through wearable art.
Offering women’s clothing and an extensive collection of accessories handmade by a collective of Native American, First Nation and Indigenous creators who all come from Tribal Nations throughout North America such as Etkie, Bison Star Naturals, and QUW’UTSUN’MADE. All products are created using traditional methods which are passed down from one generation to the next. With this, the tale that lingers in every piece lives on through the wearer.
“With tradition and culture at the heart of what we do, we’ve set out to share authentic indigenous creativity with the world, while providing an empowering, entrepreneurial platform for Native peoples.” – b.Yellowtail
8. Lillardia Briggs-Houston
For Indigenous Australian wearable artwork and hand printed textiles, you can’t go past Wiradjuri Yorta Yorta Gangalu woman Lillardia Briggs-Houston who uses fashion design to explore identity, culture, sovereignty and self-determination. Producing eye-catching authentic Aboriginal textile designs on linen fabrics on unceded Wiradjuri land, it’s little wonder she was shortlisted alongside 32 other talented artists and makers, for the first ever National Indigenous Fashion Awards.
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Tomorrow is the inaugural National Indigenous Fashion Awards! ? I’m so grateful and excited to be a dual nominee and more importantly share a platform with a bunch of incredibly talented Mob in our industry. I’m a freshwater woman from a small rural community with the hopes of creating change through Indigenous fashion and textiles. To me, Fashion is a catalyst for change. Seeing, listening and wearing our culture helps showcase our rich and thriving connections to these lands (always was, always will be). Regardless of the outcome, I feel proud to do what I do and create every step of my work entirely on country and actively contribute to an Indigenous led industry. My processes are long and time consuming but it’s so fundamental that I respect my cultural integrity and storytelling to ensure us mob lead our own spaces after decades of being ignored, pushed aside and taken advantage of. My blood, connection and country is woven into each stitch, print and design and I don’t want it any other way. Mandaang guwu/Thank you to all for following my journey exploring my culture, self determination and sovereignty through fashion and textiles . . . . . #AusIndigenousfashion #Aboriginalfashion #Fashion #culture #wearableart #firstnationfashion #firstnationfashionanddesign #sustainablefashion #ethicalfashion #madebymob #oncountry #visualstorytelling #handprinted #handmade #sovereigntyneverceded #Wiradjuricountry #nationalindigenousfashionawards #indigenousfashionprojects
9. Cambio & Co.
Cambio & Co. is dedicated to showcasing contemporary, conscious fashion that are designed and handcrafted by Filipino artisans with the aim to preserve Filipino culture by blending Indigenous traditions with modern designs while maintaining the authenticity of the craft and the community where it came from.
Its curated collection of Filipino jewelry and sustainably-made bags are carefully curated to elevate how people see the Philippines and see that each product carries the soul, beauty and the Filipino story.
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A pusô is a rice cake packed in a pouch of woven palm leaves ? In precolonial Philippines, people made pusô as an offering to diwatas (spirits). Today, the pusô is still used in religious rituals, but it can also be found as street food! Our Pusô Hardin Clutch by @rags2richesinc is woven with #upcycled overstock fabric instead of palm leaves ? And instead of rice, there’s plenty of room for your essentials in there!????????? .????????? Read more about “Filipino Legends and the Surprising Ways They Influence Fashion” on the Cambio & Co. blog! #WearYourHeritage #Halloween2019 #PhilippineMythology ?@rags2richesinc
10. Home Plush Toys
Creatively designed and stitched together using remnant fabrics and textile waste, Home Plush Toys, an ANTHILL community sewing enterprise of home artisans in Tisa and Gawad Kalinga Minglanilla, Cebu in the Philippines, are handcrafted toys that celebrate different indigenous communities in the regions of Lumad, Moro and Katutubo.
Its signature toy, the Kapwa Doll, is a symbol of interconnectedness, teaching the younger generation about respecting diversity, promoting inclusivity as well as acknowledging the identities of tribal communities in the country and understanding that each one is a part of a shared Filipino heritage.
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Cover image via B.Yellowtail.