which is anchored in Pike Place, is the tribe's latest cultural
Eighth Generation store in Pike Place Market on Nov. 21, 2019.
The Snoqualmie Tribe recently purchased the Native-owned art
and lifestyle brand. (Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut)
Louie Gong began his entrepreneurial art journey by painting Native
American patterns and designs on Vans slip-on sneakers. In 2008
he founded Eighth Generation,
a design studio that collaborates exclusively with Native American
artists across the country to create authentic Native American products.
In 2016, Gong (Nooksack) opened a brick-and-mortar shop at Pike
Place Market. Today, Eighth Generation becomes the Snoqualmie Tribe's
most recent cultural investment.
Less than a month after purchasing
45 acres in the Snoqualmie Falls area, including the Salish
Lodge & Spa, the tribe announced that it has acquired Eighth
"It's huge for us. It's right in line with what we're trying to
accomplish: protect our culture, promote our artists and expand
our tribal voice," said Christopher Castleberry, tribal council
treasurer of the Snoqualmie Tribe.
Gov. Jay Inslee will join those gathered at Eighth Generation's
flagship store for the announcement, to proclaim the week of Thanksgiving,
Nov. 25 to Dec. 2, as Native Arts Week in Washington State.
The proclamation acknowledges the contributions Native Americans
have made to the arts and culture sector, and calls on Washingtonians
to support authentic Native American products that preserve heritage
and create economic opportunities for Native people. Those values
are at the core of the Snoqualmie Tribe's acquisition.
The tribe finalized the acquisition Nov. 8, a date Gong described
"I can't think of anything more in line with Eighth Generation
values than hundreds of local Native Americans sharing in owning
the company," Gong said. "I look at it as a business model, and
it creates resources for indigenous people without creating any
The store is an apt venue for Inslee's proclamation today, as it's
stocked with contemporary Native artists' work, including art prints,
wooden phone cases adorned with animals in the Coast Salish design
style and towels, wool blankets, clothing and accessories featuring
traditional patterns and animals. Gong founded the store to combat
companies that he says rip off Native culture without supporting
Native communities. His company tagline "Inspired Natives,
not Native-inspired" is a play on the language frequently
used to describe pieces that look like Native art, but aren't made
by people from the Native culture.
Neither Gong nor the tribe disclosed what the Snoqualmie paid for
Eighth Generation, but Gong said it was an unprecedented amount
for a Native art entrepreneur like himself.
As part of a multiyear contract, Gong will stay on as CEO of Eighth
"There are no major changes happening. The company is already profitable
and successful," Gong said. "[Members of the Snoqualmie Tribe] aren't
going to try and fix something that isn't broken."
In a press release, the tribe noted "Under the new ownership the
Snoqualmie Tribe plans to expand distribution, visibility, and market
penetration for Eighth Generation's 100% Native designed products."
Gong said as a small business owner it had become difficult to
keep up with the consumer demand for his products.
"Eighth Generation needed more resources and support if it was
going to reach its potential, and I started to strategize how to
make that happen without being indebted to corporate interests,"
interior of Eighth Generation's Pike Place Market store, featuring
Native-designed goods such as a wool blanket emblazoned with
athlete Jim Thorpe. (Agueda Pacheco Flores/Crosscut)
The acquisition gives Eighth Generation the institutional muscle
to compete with companies that aren't Native American, but profit
from Native American aesthetics.
"Native people haven't always had a voice especially with
Thanksgiving. This is giving a genuine voice to the people and the
stories of the tribes," said Castleberry, the tribal council treasurer.
"It's something that is lacking in the other brands, like Pendleton,
that put out similar works and aren't Native."
Since its inception, Eighth Generation has strived to show Native
American excellence, not just by working with Native artists, but
also showcasing their stories in the art itself.
One of Eighth Generation's newest blanket designs, created by Sac
and Fox Nation artist Ruth Garvin, honors a legendary Native American
who Gong says is an example of Native excellence. The wool blanket
a centerpiece of the current store display is emblazoned
with the face of Jim Thorpe, the NFL's first president and an Olympic
gold medalist. Thorpe, who was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation,
is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time, having competed
in football, baseball and basketball.
"Eighth Generation's focus is on highlighting how Native American
people are thriving and kicking ass," Gong said. "This partnership
between a tribe and Native arts entrepreneur highlights how far
Indigenous people have come, and where we intend to head in the