Washington-based company will have products ready by November
PABLO — You may have noticed a social media post from The People's Center announcing a pre-sale promotion of its up and coming custom Eighth Generation blanket. The post and the promotion have since been canceled but Director Marie Torosian said the wool blanket is still in the works.
“We were so excited for this project we wanted to get the design out to the people,” she said. “After talking to the specialists at Eighth Generation, we had to cancel the sale because the manufacturing process takes time, especially dying the wool. We also have to approve the final product for mass production.”
The “Honoring Our People” design is three shades of blue and includes variations of floral and geometric prints. There are splashes of pink incorporated throughout the 100 percent New Zealand wool blanket. Torosian said the design honors the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille tribes of the Flathead Reservation. The blanket will also feature a custom emblem of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal seal.
“Each tribe is unique with unique histories,” she said. “We went back and forth with the company trying to figure out a design that would represent each tribe. We looked at historical stories and plants or animals that are significant to the area. We also consulted with both Culture Committees and people within our community. With all of that information, our People's Center staff was able to select a design. They are specialists at Eighth Generation and they made the process very enjoyable.”
Eighth Generation is a Native owned and operated company that is based in Seattle, Washington. Owner Louie Gong (Nooksack) founded the company in 2012 and operates a retail store at Pike’s Market. The company develops apparel, accessories, and wool blankets. In accordance with the company’s slogan “Support inspired Natives not Native-inspired,” they’ve collaborated with multiple Indigenous artists including traditional weaver Michele Reyes (Dine), graphic artist John Isaiah Pepion (Blackfeet), and designer Bethany Yellowtail (Northern Cheyenne/Crow).
The People's Center has released two other custom blankets in the past; the first “Dancing Boy” was released in 1998 and commemorated the 100th annual Arlee Powwow Celebration. The other, featured the museum/gift shop’s emblem and was released in 2005. Both were manufactured and released by the 150- year old non-Native company Pendleton, which according to its website, manufactures blankets, apparel, and merchandise “inspired by Native American designs and legends.”
Torosian said the project with Eighth Generation is unique. “We’re excited to have an opportunity to collaborate with a company like Eighth Generation because we are both Native organizations coming together to create this project,” she said. “Although we’ve released blankets with Pendleton in the past, our former gift shop manager Tammy applied for licenses to sell their merchandise in our gift shop and we were denied.”
The “Honoring Our People” blanket is currently in the manufacturing process. Torosian said The People’s Center ordered over 300 blankets, which is estimated to be available for purchase through the gift shop by late November. “This was a team effort. When we work on projects at (The People's Center) we like to work on them together. This is an exciting project and we’re happy that we’re able to share this with our community.”