Elias Not Afraid is fast becoming a well-known and established bead artist. His work ranges from being a full-time contributor to Crow/Northern Cheyenne fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail’s Yellowtail Collective to having his work worn by the Black Eyed Peas very own Taboo™️.
Originally from Lodge Grass, Montana on the Crow Indian Reservation, Elias is a full-time beader and maker of powwow fans adorned with featherwork, threadwork, and beadwork. Having started beading at the age of 11, Elias looked to beading as an escape from the challenges of growing up on the Crow Indian Reservation.
“I grew up having a rough childhood,” shared Elias. “With living in the country, I had very little to do. So, I channeled all of my emotions while growing up into my work. I would bead if I was upset, hurt, sad and even when happy.”
When asked where his inspiration comes from, Elias shared, “My inspiration comes from my great-grandmother, Joy Yellowtail.”
And although he never met her, he lived in her house while growing up and would find small beaded rosettes, medallions, hair ties and leggings throughout the home. So, in a very real sense, he was surrounded by her. Sharing his fascination with his great-grandmother’s craftsmanship, he taught himself to bead with materials readily accessible in his home with the purpose of recreating her work.
Elias didn’t stop with beading, however. At age 15, his family taught him how to tie powwow fans and continued to practice his leatherwork for years until he felt he perfected it. And at the age of 17, he started to practice quillwork. Throughout the process, he continued to perfect many styles of beading and realized this was something he loved and wanted to improve upon.
Describing his art and designs, Elias excitedly shared, “I absolutely love my tribes traditional designs. I do a lot of Crow Indian traditional geometric designs, but with my own ‘modern’ twists.”
Throughout his journey, Elias shared his parents supported his love of art and constantly pushed him to challenge himself. And constantly challenging himself, his work is now being recognized by established fashion designers in the industry.
In January of 2016, Elias was asked by Bethany Yellowtail to be a contributor and artist to the launching of her own fashion retail initiative titled the B.Yellowtail Collective. It features beadwork, clothing, accessories, and fine art from some of Indian Country’s most dedicated traditional artists. Elias makes many of B. Yellowtail Collective’s beaded cuffs that feature a traditional Crow geometric pattern. One of those taking notice of this young man’s amazing detail to his work is the Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo™️.
And Elias shares that it is beyond a dream to have someone so well-known to not only acknowledge his work, but to purchase and actually wear it. When asked how he felt about such an accomplishment, he thanked Bethany Yellowtail in believing him.
“Bethany has ispired me to take my work to the next level,” said Elias. “She has opened so many doors for me and I am very thankful for believing in me.”
Definitely keep an eye for this growing talent! You can view some of Elias’s work via the B.Yellowtail Collective at byellowtail.com/eliasnotafraid.
Darren Thompson (Ojibwe/Tohono O’odham) is a Native American flute player and educator from the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Reservation in Northern Wisconsin. He is one of Crazy Horse Memorial's main performers and the opening act of Brulé's summer concert series in the Black Hills. For more information please visit www.darrenthompson.net