Artist Spotlight: 19 Indigenous Creatives You Should Know

NOV 24, 2021 updated Nov 30, 2021
A smiling adult holds a small child while both wear beaded headpieces and enjoy each other’s company at the Alutiiq Museum in Alaska. The Alutiiq Museum or Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository is a non-profit museum and cultural center dedicated to preserving and sharing the cultural traditions of the Koniag Alutiiq branch of Sugpiaq ~ Alutiiq of the Alaska Native people.
Original artwork by George Curtis Levi entitled ‘Old Friends’. The drawing shows 4 indigenous figures facing one another and is based on traditional Cheyenne Ledger Art.

A few months ago, Lorna Emmy Her Many Horses shared her Indigenous Designed Fabrics List with us on social media. The list was made with the help of Indigenous peoples all over the U.S. and Canada for all to access and includes a number of Spoonflower artists. 

Emmy uses Indigenous patterned fabrics designed by Indigenous peoples in her work and explains further, “within this curated list, are Indigenous designers whose ancestral knowledge and artistic practices influence their designs, with an understanding of what these designs mean to them and their respective tribal nations and histories. These patterns often tell the stories of nations, the lands they hail from and the artists themselves. 

When seeking out “Native American” designs, it is important for all to seek authentic Indigenous voices and designs created by Indigenous creators today and into the future, and to step away from the often appropriated designs created by those not in our communities. 

Centered here you will find Indigenous designers who not only are citizens and members of Indigenous communities, but also give back to and uplift their communities in many ways.”

Below are some of the Spoonflower artists from Emmy’s list, starting with Emmy herself.

Emmy Her Many Horses portrait

Lorna "Emmy" Her Many Horses

Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/thesicangusewist
Instagram: @ehermanyhorses

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Emmy Her Many Horses, a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, is an educator, musician, sewist and creator. Raised in a large family on the Rosebud Reservation, she watched and learned from her parents who uplifted Indigenous creatives and tirelessly served the community.

This led to her following a career in service as an educator, while utilizing her artistic creativity through her small business, The Sicangu Sewist. Growing up, Emmy saw so many Indigenous-inspired patterns created by non-Indigenous people.

These were sold without uplifting the communities that brought them to the world, by people who often didn’t understand the significance of the designs within Indigenous communities.

As a rule, Emmy’s creations utilize Indigenous patterned fabrics designed by Indigenous peoples that give back to Indigenous peoples, communities, and businesses, bringing forward what she always wants the chance to purchase from other creators.

A group of handmade book sleeves created by Lorna "Emmy" Her Many Horses in a range of colors featuring some designs by the Indigenous artists featured in this blog post. Select styles are available on Emmy’s Etsy shop, The Sičángu Sewist.

A group of handmade book sleeves created by Emmy in a range of colors featuring some designs by the Indigenous artists featured in this blog post. Select styles are available on Emmy’s Etsy shop, The Sičángu Sewist.

Alt text: A medium-sized handmade book sleeve created by Lorna "Emmy" Her Many Horses out of a fabric that features playful grey seals (or sea lions) and small plant-like shapes in an aqua color. Available on Emmy’s Etsy shop, The Sičángu Sewist for USD$22.

A medium-sized handmade book sleeve created by Emmy available on Emmy’s Etsy shop, The Sičángu Sewist.

Greg Biskakone Johnson portrait

Greg Biskakone Johnson

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/biskakone
Instagram: @biskakonej
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/biskakone

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Greg Johnson is a cultural practitioner and art educator in the Anishinaabe tradition. He works with youth and others to teach the skills and knowledge of his culture.

He has been making traditional baskets for 15 years and also creates detailed beadwork and moccasin sewing as well as fabric designing.

He is an Ojibwe language teacher and stays busy hunting, fishing and raising four kids.

KweSkirtSet*

*To make the full Kwe Skirt set, Greg recommends ordering 2 yards.

OjibweClothing*

*To make the full Ojibwe Clothing set, Greg recommends ordering 2 yards.

Shana Yellow Calf Lukinich portrait

Shana Yellow Calf Lukinich

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/10buffalosart
Website: https://www.10buffalos.com
Instagram: @10buffalosartwrk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/10BuffalosArt

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Shana Yellow Calf Lukinich is an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho in Wyoming and has produced art in various mediums since the 90s.

Her contemporary style reflects her plains heritage, her mother’s Chippewa/Metis ancestry, along with a Pacific Northwest Coastal influence from the Puget Sound area of Washington where she grew up.

Shana is a registered member of the Department of the Interior Source Directory for Native American Artists. As a community service, 10buffalos.com continues to provide free masks for adults and children throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don D Basina portrait

Don D Basina

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/dd_baz
Instagram: @DDBaz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Don.Basina

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Don D Basina is an enrolled member of the Red Cliff Ojibwe Tribe located in Northern Wisconsin.

DDBaz Designs reflect Health & Wellness, Indigenous, Native gaming and the Creator’s Game of Lacrosse.

Photograph portrait of Don D Basina smiling and crouched down in the grass on a sunny day in front of a pair of lacrosse sticks that inspired some dd_baz designs.

Don D Basina in front of a pair of lacrosse sticks that inspired some dd_baz designs.

Don’s design entitled ‘Crossed Lacrosse Sticks’ is presented on bed sheets in this photo, but can be purchased on any fabric, wallpaper or other home decor item. Design features lacrosse equipment line drawing in black, grey and yellow on a white background in a simple repeating pattern.

Don D Basina’s design entitled Crossed Lacrosse Sticks.

Hillary Kempenich portrait

Hillary Kempenich

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/hillarykempenich
Website: http://www.hillarykempenich.com
Instagram: @zazegaadesigns
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HillaryKempenich

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Multidisciplinary artist Hillary Kempenich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and currently resides in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Kempenich is an established studio artist and advocate for the arts, education, social justice, and Indigenous issues.

Hillary Kempenich is fluent in many mediums with a collaborative style influenced by her independent spirit as a creative woman and her deep connection to her cultural heritage.

“In Anishinaabemowin, there is no word for art; our daily lives are part of the creative process. I am a storyteller; my creations tell stories from personal experiences, identity, historical knowledge, and observations. As we work to decolonize the spaces that we are part of, it is imperative that we self-actualize.

My work intertwines my traditional customs into modern sensibilities. My work is inspired also by the teachings given to me by foraging, gardening, and self-sustainability—I believe one of the most radical ideas of bringing balance is through the act of connecting with Aki, the earth.”

– Hillary Kempenich

Alutiiq Museum Archeological Repository logo

April G.L. Counceller, Alutiiq Museum

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/alutiiqmuseum
Instagram: @alutiiqmuseum
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlutiiqMuseum

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The designs in our Spoonflower shop are designed by an Alutiiq tribal member and fund educational programs of our non-profit Native-run and governed culture center.

All designs have a basis in Alutiiq material culture, such as petroglyphs, pictographs and cultural objects from the Alutiiq region.

A smiling adult holds a small child while both wear beaded headpieces and enjoy each other’s company at the Alutiiq Museum in Alaska. The Alutiiq Museum or Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository is a non-profit museum and cultural center dedicated to preserving and sharing the cultural traditions of the Koniag Alutiiq branch of Sugpiaq ~ Alutiiq of the Alaska Native people.

An adult and child wear beaded headpieces at the Alutiiq Museum.

Jessica Moore Harjo portrait

Jessica Moore Harjo, Ph.D.

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/weomepedesigns
Website: https://www.weomepedesigns.com
Instagram: @weomepe
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WeOmePe

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Jessica Moore Harjo, Ph.D., weomepe, is an artist, designer and educator based in Oklahoma. Jessica’s approach to art and design is unique, post-traditional and grounded in cultural symbolism. Her pieces display intersections of traditional ribbon work, florals, appliqué, elements of nature and other harmonious and symmetrical forms with atmospheric color palettes.

Jessica has current displays of art at Philbrook Museum of Art (Tulsa, Oklahoma), Oklahoma City’s Automobile Door Tour Alley, Tulsa Art Alley, the Osage Nation Museum and Osage Nation Casino. She is a contributing artist for the Oklahoma City’s First Americans Museum Origins Theatre with digital design contributions to the Otoe-Missouria origins story.

Upcoming work includes a public art installation at the Oklahoma State Capitol, a public art mural with Iowa Department of Transportation and she is one of the four selected artists for the Sites of Conscience Public Art project in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

A close up of a ribbon skirt with Jessica's Floral Sunset Gold/Royal design and royal blue ribbons in alternating horizontal stripes. This design has an orange base with small-scale graphic icons in royal blue. The pattern creates vertical lines across the width of the fabric by the way the elements of design are positioned.

Ribbon skirt with Jessica Moore Harjo’s Floral Sunset Gold/Royal pattern.

A model wears a jumpsuit with Jessica’s Floral Sunset Gold/Royal design and a white black belt. This design has an orange base with small-scale graphic icons in royal blue. The pattern creates vertical lines across the width of the fabric by the way the elements of design are positioned.

The design on the jumpsuit is Jessica Moore Harjo’s Floral Sunset Gold/Royal pattern.

Holly Young portrait

Holly Young

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/inyansmomma
Website: https://hyoung.artspan.com
Instagram: @holly_young_artist
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Artist/Holly-Young

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I was raised by my grandmother in a rural area of the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. We lived in a small house, seven miles from town on a few acres of land. Today, I understand how being so close to the land in my childhood has influenced my art; the memories of plants and flowers, our relationship with the land and the healing properties that come from those.

Just like the natural world is intertwined with life cycles and relationships dependent on survival, so is my art. I lean on my community and our traditions to inspire me. I am unable to flourish as an artist without them. The natural world has the power to regenerate itself, just like our communities. And as artists, we have the power to regenerate our traditions.

I have a passion for traditional Dakota floral styles and designs and have been committed to preserving and sharing these art forms and lifeways. Through art, I affirm myself as a Dakota woman and mother by practicing Winyan Omniciye, the circle of sharing knowledge—what you learn, you give back.

As a Dakota artist, my work embodies the love, patience, resiliency and beauty of my ancestors’ legacies and the land that has provided since time immemorial. I use the traditional styles of Dakota beadwork, quillwork and ledger art to be a seed from which my vision grows.

Photograph of a pair of beaded gauntlets handmade by Holly Young. The beaded pattern features an intricate composition of yellow and blue birds standing on an abstract vine of vegetation. The fingers of the gloves hold diamond shaped beadwork. These white gauntlets also feature a fringe.

A pair of beaded gauntlets handmade by Holly Young.

Detailed photograph showing intricacies of Holly Young’s beadwork. This pattern showcases fine details on bees, lady bugs, a spider, birds and florals—all in a traditional symmetrical layout.

Intricate beadwork by Holly Young.

Jessica Hernandez portrait

Jessica Hernandez

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/niciasaccessories
Instagram: @niciasaccessories
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NiciasJewelryAndAccessories

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My name is Jessica Hernandez. I am Kanienkeha and a member of the bear clan. I live in Kahnawake, QC, where I have a small shop that sells bead and craft supplies, as well as offer classes, bead challenges and a safe and healthy space to create.

A few years ago I started to dabble in creating different indigenous designs, using Iroquois-style beadwork and shapes. I think it’s important for indigenous people to have healthy outlets and creative activities that will connect them back to who they are.

I also think it’s important for indigenous designs to be created by indigenous artists and designers.

William Brien portrait

Bill Brien

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/star_gifts_llc
Website: https://bountifulreis.com
Instagram: @bountifulreis
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bountifulreis2017

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Bill Brien is a Lakota, Dakota, Chippewa, Metis artist. Brien is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota. Brien is also from the Spirit Lake Nation also in North Dakota. A self-taught artist, Brien calls himself a “digital cell phone artist.” His chosen medium is digital art, using his cell phone as his canvas to create all his work.

Brien’s art has been displayed around various North Dakota art galleries: Bismarck Art & Galleries Association (Bismarck), Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative (Bismarck), Gallery 4 (Fargo) and the Red Door Art Gallery (Wahpeton).

Brien participated in the 2020 Online Heard Museum Indian Art Market.

In 2016, Brien found his love and passion for art because of his wife, Geri, Lakota from Cheyenne River. Geri was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. In early 2015 Geri was cancer free but by the end of 2015 the cancer had returned and spread.

The highlight of Brien’s art career is being recognized by the Bismarck Cancer Center at its annual Hope Giver’s Extraordinaire Banquet. Brien was recognized for donations made to the Bismarck Cancer Center from art sales in honor of his late wife, Geri. Geri made her Heavenly journey May 1, 2018, after a four year battle with breast cancer.

Yearly, Brien donates a portion of his art proceeds to the Bismarck Cancer Center in honor of his wife, Geri.

A photograph of Bill Brien wearing a ball cap and smiling while holding one of his paintings based off his Berries, Bee’s and Beauty design. The painting depicts a colorful canvas of yellow, blue and purple flowers, small strawberries and other natural elements in a symmetrical layout over a black background.

Bill Brien holding one of his paintings based off of his Berries, Bee’s, & Beauty design.

A photograph of Bill Brien’s first place winning canvas art that depicts an indigenous couple standing together while embracing their small baby who is wrapped snuggly in their arms. The illustration’s colors are bright pastels and feature large florals against a beige background found often in ledger art drawings.

Bill Brien’s first place winning canvas art.

Rachel Dennis portrait small

Rachel Mae Dennis-Butzin

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/mylittlenative
Instagram: @mylittlenative
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RachelMaeDennisButzin

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Rachel Mae Dennis-Butzin is an indigenous artist whose work is a reflection of her diverse heritage as well as her love of the environment, comic books and pop culture. Rachel is a graduate of Michigan State University and currently resides in South Dakota with her family where she is an art teacher at a Native American School.

Rachel’s illustrations can be seen in children’s books and on clothing. She has collaborated with several musicians on animations for music videos and created logo designs for several companies.

Osamuskwasis Roan portrait

Osamuskwasis Roan

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/osamuskwasis
Website: https://osamuskwasis.com
Instagram: @osamuskwasis
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/osamuskwasis

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Tansi my name is Osamuskwasis Roan. I am Nehiyaw and Tsuu T’ina and am from Pigeon Lake Alberta, Canada.

I am an indigenous language student at Yellow Head Tribal College and am also a designer/beadwork artist. I have been sewing since the age of 9 and beading since the age of 12.

Custom-made skirt, shirt and scarf by Osamuskwasis. Fabric features elements of the artist’s Nehiyaw and Tsuu T’ina background. Brilliantly colored florals, buffalo and leaves decorate the silk clothing.

Custom-made skirt, shirt and scarf by Osamuskwasis Roan. Fabric features elements of the artist’s Nehiyaw and Tsuu T’ina background.

Photograph of Osamuskwasis Roan standing outside during autumn and wearing their handmade clothing: A white hat featuring a band of bright florals and a feather accessory. Osamuskwasis is also wearing oversized earrings from their online shop with the same floral patterns of the har. Finally, a silk dress in soft blue with smaller elements of pink and purple throughout.

Osamuskwasis Roan wearing items from the artist’s fall 2021 collection.

Rebecca Wilbur portrait

Rebecca Wilbur

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/tundraflowerdesigns
Instagram: @tundra.flower.designs
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tundra-Flower-Designs-102755042087812

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The inspiration behind my art is the strong relationship that we, the Yup’ik Eskimo people, have with the tundra. The flowers, the berries, the tools, symbols and clothing that identify our culture—these designs are created for representation.

I wanted other artists to feel a connection with the materials they use while creating, and to invoke emotion in those who wear the pieces.

Cole Redhorse Jacobson portrait

Cole Redhorse Jacobson

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/coleredhorsejacobson
Instagram: @coleredhorsejacobson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/coleredhorsejacobsonart

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I am Mdewakanton Dakota and enrolled with the Prairie Island Indian Community in Minnesota, the homelands of my people. I am a multi-disciplinary artist, focusing more on the traditional arts associated with the Dakota people.

In the midst of the pandemic, I made the transition to work towards designing fabric with the idea that other native people could adorn themselves using fabric designed by a native artist using traditional Dakota floral design elements.

A portrait of Cole Redhorse Jacobson in traditional Dakota clothing and jewelry. Cole stands against a red backdrop looking into the camera, proud to share their heritage with their community.

Cole Redhorse Jacobson in traditional Dakota clothing and jewelry.

Cole Redhorse Johnson's Dakota Calico design is displayed in four colors, lemon, lavender, maroon and forest green. This repeating design features dragonflies with white wings and green bodies. Small clusters of lavender, blue and maroon flowers growing on green stems with green leaves surround the dragonflies.

Cole Redhorse Jacobson’s Dakota Calico print in lemon, lavender, maroon and forest green.

Tessa Sayers portrait

Tessa Sayers

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/soul_curiosity
Instagram: @soulcuriosity
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mysoulcuriosity

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Tessa Sayers grew up in Washington State on a small llama farm. She is a certified Native artist with her tribe, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa from North Dakota. Her indigenous family encompasses three tribal communities, Metis (Manitoba), Chippewa and Cree.

In 2017, she started a holistic brand, Soul Curiosity, translating her personal healing journey through art, using a variety of mediums to tell stories, empowering others to cultivate self-love, embrace vulnerability, heal inner wounds and live courageously through the teachings of the Native American medicine wheel.

George Curtis Levi portrait

George Curtis Levi

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/southern_cheyenne_art
Website: https://glevi.artspan.com/carousel.php
Instagram: @georgecurtislevi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/george.c.levi

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George Curtis Levi is a member of the Southern Cheyenne Tribe and is also part Arapaho and Oglala. Influenced by the art and history of the Cheyenne People, George centers his artistic specialty around the Cheyenne Ledger Art, though he engages in other styles as well.

He is happily married with children.

Original artwork by George Curtis Levi entitled ‘Old Friends’. The drawing shows 4 indigenous figures facing one another and is based on traditional Cheyenne Ledger Art.

Original artwork by George Curtis Levi entitled “Old Friends.” The drawing is based on traditional Cheyenne Ledger Art.

Original artwork by George Curtis Levi entitled ‘Knowledge Keeper’. The drawing depicts a figure addressing a group of people in their community. Everyone is wearing bright clothing in yellow, blue, red, green and pink.

Original artwork by George Curtis Levi entitled “Knowledge Keeper.”

Marlena Myles portrait

Marlena Myles

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/mylesdesigns
Instagram: @mylesdesigns
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mylesdesigns

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Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota) is a self-taught artist located in St Paul, Minnesota.

Her multifaceted portfolio includes fabric patterns, animations, children’s books, public art, augmented reality and illustrations to bring modernity to Indigenous history, languages and oral traditions.

Malerie Gundersen portrait

Malerie Gundersen

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/malberrymade
Instagram: @malberrymade

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Hi! I’m Malerie, an Alaska Native Unangax mother and artist. I was born and raised on the island of Sand Point, on the Aleutian Chain. I live for our summers!

I love being on the ocean, walking our beaches, eating all the berries and getting my hands full of scales! Creating art (in all forms) is my passion!

Malorie’s Alaska Treasures design is shown on a Spoonflower wall hanging. This teal and mint colored design features glass balls, sand dollars, mossberries and salmonberries from her native Alaskan environment.

Malerie Gundersen’s Alaska Treasures design shown on a Spoonflower wall hanging.

Malerie standing on a boat in Alaska with her family member. They are both smiling despite the cloudy and rainy day. Beautiful mountains can be seen behind them.

Malerie Gundersen on a boat in Alaska with a family member.

Kimberly Lollis-McCauley portrait

Kimberly Lollis-McCauley

Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/galonedi_designs
Instagram: @kimberly.lollis.mccauley
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KDGalonedi

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Kimberly (Cherokee) was raised deep in rural Oklahoma. She is an eclectic multi-media artist, mother, veteran and advocate for sustainability. She holds degrees in Business, Electronic Systems and Leadership.

Her diversity of life experiences has a dynamic and encompassing impact on her work.

Want to see more designs from artists on this list?

Take me to the collection
Emmy Her Many Horses portrait

Lorna "Emmy" Her Many Horses

Emmy Her Many Horses, a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, is an educator, musician, sewist and creator.

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  • Francesca Werenko

    I loved reading the artists’ bios and seeing some of their inspirations and other work. The beadwork is especially amazing!