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Maskup mug by NSRGNTS

Welcome to day eleven of Tribal Business News’ 12 days of Indigenous holiday gifts guide. In the spirit of supporting Indigenous artists and entrepreneurs and drawing attention to some truly gorgeous and inspired items, we are presenting 12 consecutive days of Native-made products perfect for holiday gift-giving, including giving to yourself.


Day 10: 

Maskup mug, $20; NSRGNTS


The cherubic Maskup mascot, originally created for a mural in downtown Albuquerque, has now made his way on to an ultra-giftable mug.

“It’s a great piece because it not only reminds you to stay safe but also is a warm and cute message, just like the drinks you will be enjoying out of it,” said artist Leah Lewis (Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni and Diné). “I’ve used my mugs more than ever during this pandemic to keep up my immunity with daily tea drinking.”

And when the pandemic passes, the mug will be an inspired memento of the masked world. 

In a July report about the Maskup mural, Lewis discussed the meaning behind the beaming masked boy.

“I did this piece because I’m a mother of two little Native boys and I have been encouraging them to stay safe, wear their masks and wash their hands,” Lewis said. “It’s geared toward showing our little ones that they themselves are being represented. … I drew the little boy like a little Zuni man,” she said. “That’s how they wear their bandannas – they tie them on the side.”

She added that her ardor for Japanese pop art and the country’s “kawaii” culture of cuteness also plays into the portrayal.

Lewis and her life and business partner Votan Henriquez (Maya, Nahua), are co-owners of NSRGNTS, an Indigeous streetwear and accessory brand and art collective championing sovereignty and contributing to Indigenous communities with efforts including providing PPE and food and creating epic murals promoting pandemic safety on Navajo Nation. 

By funding activism and awareness through art, NSRGNTS demonstrates shopping Indigenous has immediate empowering effects.

“Shopping Indigenous is so crucial because for many of us, our art is what nourishes us and also what we have used to support ourselves financially for generations. Whether it was our grandmas and grandpas selling their jewelry or our children selling their crafts, the continuity of our arts is something that should always be cherished and supported by all of us,” Lewis said. “Soulless mass-produced items will always linger, but pieces of art that have been made with love, creativity, and a message by Indigenous peoples will always prove to be more valuable.”


Previous gift ideas

Day 1: Quirky, comical calendar by Ricardo Caté 

Day 2: Stationery and scarf set by B. Yellowtail and Debbie Desjarlais Design

Day 3: Baby Yoda power by M Reed Designs Boutique

Day 4: Alaska Native ornaments by Trickster Company

Day 5: Sleek Salish jacket by Ay Lelum

Day 6: Far-out wall art by Johnnie Diacon Art

Day 7: Striking T-shirt by Kevin Coochwytewa

Day 8: Ermine earrings by Wawezhi Designs

Day 9: Legendary art by Karen Clarkson

Day 10: Beaded eagle feathers by Amy Wilson

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About The Author
Tamara Ikenberg
Contributing Writer
Tamara Ikenberg is a senior reporter at Tribal Business News reporting on the arts and culture and tourism industries, and contributing to coverage of the Alaska Native business community. Based in Southern California, Ikenberg was a contributing writer for Native News Online and has reported for The Alaska Dispatch News, The Courier-Journal in Louisville, The Mobile Press Register, NYLON Magazine and The Baltimore Sun. She also previously worked as a grant and article writer at Juneau-based Sealaska Heritage Institute.
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