Bead & Powwow Supply started in 2011. I was a recent college graduate, unable to find work because of recent recession. So like many Anishinaabeg, I decided to support myself by selling beadwork. However, I had a consistent problem: I could not find the beads and supplies I wanted online. I could patch together orders from various suppliers spanning the continent or drive hundreds of miles to a powwow to maybe find a bead vendor. I figured that if I was having this problem, others were too. So, I started writing a business plan…
Our inventory and website are designed with Indigenous bead artists in mind. We offer the quality and quantity of Czech beads that are needed for Indigenous beadwork (no 8 gram tubes of loose, lopsided beads here…no way). We cater to Indigenous artists because we are Indigenous artists. We can also help with finding the right size glovers needle or thread for your project. Of course, non-Indigenous folk are welcome to shop with us, but we may not have everything for mainstream American beadwork or be able to answer all of your questions.
We’ve tried to create a digital space that reflects our Anishinaabe culture and values. If you read item descriptions, you’ll find bead colors compared to Great Lakes trees, plants, and traditional foodstuffs. Descriptions also explain what types and sizes of beads are best for various powwow regalia. Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe language) is scattered throughout our site, in our emails, social media posts, and even our invoices.
Ecommerce has a been a factor of our business since its inception. Our online listings showcase all of our inventory. Stock levels are automatically updated by software, so the web listings are accurate. Our typical processing time for orders is 1-2 business days (though pandemic-related staffing limitations have occasionally lengthened those times). Tracking information is automatically sent when your email ships (you can opt for email or text notifications at checkout).
In 2019, we announced our goal to eliminate single use plastics in our packaging materials. I’m proud to say that we’ve almost gotten there in under one year. Here are some of the changes we’ve made.
• Clear Poly flap and seal bags are 100% recycled.
• The new slim paper bags are 100% recycled (40% post-consumer), recyclable and compostable!
• Bubble mailers are at least 32.6% recycled and feature two sticky stripes, making them easy to reuse. They’re also recyclable.
• The cardboard boxes stamped with Bead & Powwow Supply are 100% recycled and recyclable.
We are still using some USPS packaging some of which are made from recycled content. We also re-use nearly all of the packing materials that our shipment come with (following sanitary precautions, of course). You may receive items packed in plastic zip bags; we’re using up our remaining supply but do not plan to buy anymore. Our next step is to find a greener (but economical) alternative to packing tape. If you’re a business owner looking to incorporate green products into your business, we recommend EcoEnclose.
Of course, no recent update should fail to mention recent events in our tumultuous world. We had big plans for 2020. We were going to roll out a new website, expand the Indigenous art offerings on ishkogan.com, visit art markets in New York City, Washington D.C., and elsewhere. In mid-March, those plans, like so many others, came to a grinding halt as the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic set in. I still haven’t updated our office calendar from March. I just don’t have the heart to erase our pre-pandemic to-do list. For more information about our response to COVID-19, click here.
Lastly, I wish to address some of the other happenings in our world. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that much of modern-day Oklahoma is still Indian Country. Then, the Washington football team announced that they were retiring their racist moniker, a day honestly thought I would not live to see. While these victories are a cause for celebration, the fact is that conditions remain terrible for many people. The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color. The Navajo Nation has been especially hard hit. Lakota tribes in present-day South Dakota have seen their tribal sovereignty threatened by a rogue governor who does not understand the limits of her jurisdiction. The police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor are still free. Personal friends have been tear-gassed while exercising their right to protest. In Michigan, retail workers have experienced violence from belligerent individuals refusing to wear masks.
With that in mind we want to definitively state the following:
LBGTQIA2S folx are valued and loved members of our community.
Indigenous folx from south of the Rio Grande are still Indigenous. Settler-colonial borders are imaginary.
Climate change and environmental injustices are urgent problems that impact all humans and non-humans.
Wearing masks protects others.
Retail workers are essential, and we are grateful for them.
Black Lives Matter.
And no matter where you are in the Western Hemisphere, you are on Indigenous land.
If you find any of the above statements offensive or if you think bead stores shouldn’t take political stances, then I wish you the best of luck shopping elsewhere.
Saginaw Ojibwe; Eagle Clan
owner of Bead & Powwow Supply