Holiday Indigenous gift guide

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

Whether you’re looking to maintain the culture within your family or step away from modern gift-giving styles, help make your holidays more Indigenous, one gift at a time.

With so many gift options during the holiday season, getting caught up in materialistic items can be very easy. Consumerism has taken over the holidays and monetized relationships within families. The modern world has stressed the idea that you can show someone how much you love them by showing them how much you spend. And these modern-day ideologies differ widely from our traditional roots. 

So, where do we start if we’re looking to switch up this holiday season? Break it down into four traditional-based gifting categories:

  • Teaching 
  • Time spent together
  • Handcrafted work
  • Indigenous-made products

Teaching various Indigenous crafts and skills has kept our culture thriving for many centuries. Gifting traditional teachings down to the next generation is a wonderful cultural present and is deeply rooted in the people we are. Examples of different teachings could be teaching someone how to hunt or fish, teaching our language, traditional song/dance, weaving, cooking Indigenous foods, storytelling, or creating specific crafts like paddles, hats, skirts, drums, earrings, etc. By doing this, you are gifting them a skill they can carry with them for the rest of their lives and generations to come. 

Taking a moment with your family and friends to teach them a culture-based skill coincides with the second gift option; spending time together. In the current environment, everyone and everything moves so quickly. Hanging out has turned into text messages exchanged, and face-to-face interactions have significantly dissolved. The hustle and bustle has made it difficult for people to spend quality time together. Being able to disconnect from the outside world and take time away from technology, off the tv, cell phones, social media, etc., allows for more intimate conversations and creates more meaningful quality time. Attending a cultural class, an Indigenous film festival, or an Indigenous-based restaurant are great ways to immerse yourself and your loved ones in culture. One thing that money will never be able to buy is time with the people closest to you. 

For many Indigenous artists, creating a handcrafted gift for a family member is invaluable. The act itself is something that certain Indigenous tribes have done for centuries. It’s how we thank each other, honor one another, and share pieces of ourselves. The different gifts reflect a lot of the artist at hand; the time, dedication, love, and medicine they put into their work and how it moves into the person receiving it. A pair of beaded earrings, some smoked salmon, a woven hat, or simply passing down a family heirloom. Knowing that someone took the time and effort to handcraft a gift specifically for you is something money cannot buy. 

If you are someone who hasn’t narrowed in on their craft just yet, supporting other Indigenous artists and stores is a great gift this holiday season. Not only can you find and give unique gifts this way, but you are also supporting the artist at hand. By purchasing from them, they can continue to buy more supplies, hone in on their craft, continue their work, and uplift our culture. Searching for hashtags like “#nativemade” and “#indigenousart” on Instagram and Facebook makes it easier to explore and find new Native artists and artwork to purchase. Similarly, websites like “,” “,” and “” allow you to shop online for a variety of art from various Indigenous artists across the US. If you want to support specifically from local Indigenous artists, you can also find in-person Native Bazaars in many tribal territories.

As we navigate this modern world, our people have found creative ways to Indigenize different aspects of our lives. By doing so, culture isn’t just an activity but instead is carried with us in everything we do. We have taken holidays like Columbus Day and reclaimed it as Indigenous Peoples Day, and Thanksgiving and reclaimed it as National Day of Mourning. Straying away from materialistic items and Indigenizing the way our people gift this season is just another example of that.