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The KwaTaqNuk Resort’s Holiday Bazaar offers crafts with a side of stories

By Alyssa Nenemay

Gigi and Curtis Yazzie have been married 24-years. The couple owns the Bitter Water Bead Work Company, which started as fundraising efforts for their daughter; right. (Alyssa Nenemay photo) Gigi and Curtis Yazzie have been married 24-years. The couple owns the Bitter Water Bead Work Company, which started as fundraising efforts for their daughter; right. (Alyssa Nenemay photo)

POLSON — Baked goods and homemade gifts were on full display at the KwaTaqNuk Resort & Casino’s annual Holiday Bazaar. 72 local vendors throughout region shared their work and smiles with potential customers. Some were even kind enough to share their stories.

Jan McClure began knitting as a hobby when she retired from her 40-year career as the enrollment manager for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. She describes herself as a “nifty-knitter,” meaning she uses a loom style of knitting to create scarves.

While much of her work has gone to keeping her nieces and nephews warm, McClure has also donated a scarf to the Fort Connah restoration efforts. Fort Connah is a historic trading post located in St. Ignatius. Established in 1846, it is believed to be the oldest standing building in Montana.

Because Fort Connah was the last Hudson Bay Trading post within the current US borders, McClure knitted and donated a scarf that replicated a Hudson Bay blanket. The 67-year-old retiree said she enjoys her hobby and will continue selling in the future.

The Yazzies have created an extravagant collection of Native American art, which has been sold throughout the world. (Alyssa Nenemay photo) The Yazzies have created an extravagant collection of Native American art, which has been sold throughout the world. (Alyssa Nenemay photo)

Other familiar faces on the Christmas Bazaar trail, were Bitter Water Bead Work owners Gigi and Curtis Yazzie. The couple had an elaborate display of Native American art, including beaded pouches, necklaces, and rattles.

Although Gigi learned the craft of Native American arts at the Salish Kootenai College, her commercial work began when her daughter’s artwork, a traditionally constructed oar paddle, was selected as a display in the Native American Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. “We made items to sell for fundraising and it just kind of took off from there,” said Gigi.

The couple has traveled throughout the nation selling their crafts and gathering items for their creations. Meeting during a hand game event, the Yazzies have been married for 24-years. They have three children (two of which have been trained in art at a collegiate level) and three grandchildren.

Jan McClure (far right) started “nifty-knitting” when she retired from her 40-year career as CSKT’s enrollment officer. (Alyssa Nenemay photo) Jan McClure (far right) started “nifty-knitting” when she retired from her 40-year career as CSKT’s enrollment officer. (Alyssa Nenemay photo)

Gigi said there is a spiritual process to creating her artwork: “I’m excited when I sell a piece. It’s a reward for me because I like to share. It’s healing. I just make the pieces with no real plan and then someone will find it and say: ‘That is just what I was looking for!’ It’s like the jewelry already has an owner before it’s made.”

There were a variety of crafts featured at the Holiday Bazaar and an assortment of stories behind each piece. Event organizer Louis Cross said he was satisfied with turnout. “Our local people had a place to come and show off and sell their personal crafts and we’re looking forward to doing it again next year,” he said.

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