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Welcome to the final day 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 12: 

Elktooth Style Backpack, $55, Apsaalooke Designs by Della 

At first glance, this stand-out backpack appears to be brimming with real elk teeth and beads. But it’s just an awesome optical illusion.

“No elk teeth are actually on the backpack. It’s a printed image from an elk tooth dress I made.”  said Apsaalooke Crow designer Della Bighair-Stump. “I’m incorporating my work into modern apparel and accessories. I contemporize it. My slogan is: ‘When culture meets fashion.” 

No actual beads are on it either. The bead print on the sides is also an image from one of Bighair-Stump’s dresses. 

The affordable medium-size water-resistant backpack with a laptop pocket big enough for a 15-inch computer is perfect for sports and everyday use, Bighair-Stump said.  

With her Designs By Della brand, which has been featured in Teen Vogue, Bighair-Stump creates couture, accessories and more, mingling traditional materials and methods with contemporary style. 

Elk teeth are an essential element of Crow style and culture, and Bighair-Stump discussed their significance in a September Native News Online report

“Elk teeth are popular with the Plains Indians of the north. I was given the right and teachings to make our elk tooth dresses. They’re our traditional dress as Crow women. You lay each row of teeth one by one and make your way down after each row is attached,” she said. “Elk only have two ivory teeth and nowadays we use imitation elk teeth. Back then, only real elk ivories were used. If you had a full dress of elk teeth, you were considered wealthy because your husband was a good hunter.”

Keep that history and pride in mind when you strap on the elk tooth style backpack for school, work, sports practice, or simply going to a cafe. The bold and authentic accessory is bound to invite plenty of compliments and curiosity.

“Each Indigenous artist has their own unique style. You can’t find these designs at Walmart or Macy’s,” Bighair-Stump said. “For me, my designs and art are teachings from my grandparents,  passed down from generation to generation. A lot of Indigenous artists are the same way. Buying Indigenous helps not only the artist, but you’re buying a piece that you can’t find anywhere else.”

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

Day 11: Maskup mug by NSRGNTS

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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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