With the holiday shopping season going into overdrive, it is important to pay tribute to Native Americans. Now when we say to pay tribute, we literally mean pay, with money, by making purchases from Native American small businesses. Native Americans have one of the highest rates of business ownership but their 25.2% business ownership rate has not translated into broad economic prosperity. Native Americans also have the highest poverty rate and lowest income of the major racial/ethnic groups in the United States.
For years, our country has seen non-Native Americans profit off of the packaging and selling of Native American history, spirit and culture. We see Native-American-inspired outdoor clothing, health-related products and entertainment being packaged and sold, not by indigenous communities but by White Americans. Besides the disregard for the cultural context of these products, the profiting off of people who to this day remain economically disenfranchised tragically continues the history of profits being made off of that which belongs to Native Americans.
The Institute for Policy Studies found that at the current rate of wealth growth for Native Americans who live on reservations, it would take about 100 years for an individual to have only one half of the wealth that an average American citizen has. An NCRC snapshot on Native Americans showed the greatest economic disparity for Native Americans lies in reservations themselves. The median income on a reservation is $29,097, compared to the national median income for Native Americans, which is $40,315. This helps explain why there are more Native American citizens who live outside of reservations.
National policy change remains essential to address the centuries-old economic disenfranchisement of Native American people. But we can individually take action as well to ensure that some of our winter holiday shopping is spent with indigenous peoples. Here’s a list of books by Native Americans authors from The Booklist Reader. And here’s a list of ten Native American businesses where you can buy clothing, art, jewelry and health care. For more businesses that have not been listed below, please visit a list of Indigenous business’ websites provided by Beyond Buckskin.
- Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre Online Store
- Beyond Buckskin Boutique
- Manitobah Mukluks
- Jamie Okuma
- Neechie Gear
- Northwest Native Expressions
- Indigo Arrows
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad is NCRC’s Cheif of Race, Wealth and Community.
Emmanuelle Aruta is a Race, Wealth and Community intern.