For over 40-years, the historic Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, located in Seattle, WA, has served as home for the regions Native peoples for ceremonial, cultural and social gatherings serving as host to ceremonies, weddings, powwows, youth and other cultural events and activities. Recently, the Sacred Circle Gift Shop was opened at the center to serve as a place for Native artists and entrepreneurs to showcase and sell their products.
LRInspire editor Matt Remle recently spoke with the gift shops manager and Arts Program Manager Director, Hank Cooper ᏣᎳᎩ (Cherokee), about the shop, its vision and why it’s important to buy Native.
Tell us about the Sacred Circle Gift Shop
The Sacred Circle Gift Shop is an extension of the Sacred Circle Gallery. It opened in September of 2017 in conjunction with the opening of Andrew Morrison’s solo exhibition and my first exhibition as Daybreak Star Cultural Center’s Arts Program Manager. The shop serves as a social space and reception area for touring visitors of the center.
My vision for the store came to me when I found a series of black and white photos in a storage room that documented the take over and occupation of Fort Lawton led by Bernie Whitebear in 1970. I knew I wanted to dedicate a space solely to display these photos as a permanent exhibition for visitors to witness for themselves. The photos show the collective effort of the Urban Native community and allying communities of color to reclaim Native land, demand resources for survival, and build Daybreak Star Cultural Center as it stands today.
From that point, I gained inspiration to theme the shop around the legacy of Indigenous activism then and now.
Tell us about the products you sell in the store?
The products we sell in the store range from street clothing, natural and organic beauty products and medicines, basketballs and skateboards, used books, zines, early learning books and games for youth, cute household items, and hand made copper, silver and beaded jewelry.
Tell us about yourself, what moved/motivated you to want to be a part of the store.
I am an alumnx of Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU) in Lawrence, Kansas and a recent graduate of the University of Washington’s Museology Masters program. My experience ranges from both community cultural centers and national museums such as HINU’s Cultural Center and Museum, the Gilcrease and Philbrook Museums of Tulsa, Oklahoma (my hometown), the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, WA, the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. I started as a volunteer at United Indians of All Tribes Foundation as part of my Cherokee Nation Scholarship program.
During my volunteer experience, I learned from staff that there was a need to fill the Gallery Manager position. This position was funded through a grant that required there be a partnership between our shop space and local Native artists with the end goal of becoming a self-sustaining business. I saw this as an opportunity to start fresh with a new, contemporary and radical vision by creating relationships with both local Native artists and Native businesses across the US/Canada that are not only getting their brand out there but also their collective messages of Indigenous resistance.
It is truly an honor to be a part of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation staff and to serve my community. I consider this position as my dream job – fusing my passion for art with my identity as a tsalagi Two-Spirit person. I recognize that I hold a huge responsibility to my community and with that I see Sacred Circle Gallery being a home base for Native artists where they feel comfortable as their whole selves.
Are all the products Native made?
All of the products in the shop are either Native made, designed, or conceptualized.
I think that when non-Native guests visit, they are predominantly expecting to see more “traditional” items for sale like weavings, carvings, pottery etc. So many people are looking for that authentic piece of the Native Northwest to obtain or gift. I think it’s interesting when at times guests seem a little disappointed that the item they hoped to purchase doesn’t exist in this store – that they are so fixated on this static idea that those beautiful utilitarian objects are the only way Native people and artists carry tradition and ancestral ways of artistically expressing themselves and moving through the world today. The conversation of what is considered “traditional” and “authentic” is complicated to explain in a white capitalist society. It’s complicated but it’s ever evolving and important to discuss – even amongst our own communities.
On the flip side, the Native guests and other non-Native guests are blown away by the modern spins on our products and are really excited to support Native businesses, so they return to do regular shopping for themselves and their loved ones too. Money spent on items in the shop goes directly into the pockets of the makers and the general operation and expansion of our new arts programming.
Why is it important to buy Native?
It is important to buy Native because there is still a major problem in the non-Native consumption of Native culture – design, aesthetic and even ceremony through tourist-kitsch souvenirs and young hipster trends. The value that is put on a Native made or Native designed object is in its maker. The Indigenous and ancestral transference of knowledge that exists during the objects creation is something sacred and cannot be commodified whether it’s a sterling silver cuff or a single stanza poem. Buying Native is a form of necessary reparations when thinking about the historical relationship between the taking of Indigenous lands by colonial settlers and the current ongoing destruction to reservations and sacred sites.
I aim to connect gift shop guests to the artists that are spotlighted in the gallery – predominantly emerging, womxn or femme, Indigenous queer and Two-Spirit artists because these artists deserve the platform to voice their multi-faceted experiences, which are at the heart of so many of Indian Country’s most critical issues.
Anything else you would like to share?
Another goal of mine is to grow the Arts Program to the point where there is a cultural or artistic event of some kind every month. We are going to be adding more art exhibitions, film screenings, art markets, play productions and live performances throughout the next year.
September 14: Medicine Bag making workshop
September 18: Weaving workshop
September 21: Sacred Circle Emerging Native Artists Exhibition
October 8: Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration
October 26-27: “Bad Indians” Stage Reading Production
November 3-4: United Indians Art Market
December 1-2: United Indians Art Market
December 15-16: United Indians Art Market
Come visit Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park.
5011 Bernie Whitebear Way, Seattle, WA 98199
Gallery Hours: M-F 9-5 (Closed until September 21st)
Gift Shop Hours: W-F 9:30-4:30 (hours may extend for holidays)
The best way to stay up to date on hours, events and gatherings is to follow us on social media:
Facebook: Sacred Circle Gallery
Email: Hank Cooper firstname.lastname@example.org
*For artists that wish to consign work in the shop, interested in vending for Art Market and/or interested in the Sacred Circle Emerging Artists cohort please email Hank directly.
by Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle)