Shop Native Artist of the Month: Tipiziwin Tolman

Shop Native Artist of the Month: Tipiziwin Tolman
Each month, we're celebrating a Native American artist, whose work you can find on our Shop Native directory, which features both Native American products and products made for Natives. These products include clothing, beauty, beadwork, herbal, art, blankets, and more. With over 40 companies and products already listed, the directory is attracting visitors from around the world.  

This month, we're featuring Tipiziwin Tolman of Haípažaža Pȟežúta, a Native-owned, all-natural soap company (they're listed under SweetGrass Trading Company in our directory).

Tipiziwin and her husband, T, are Lakota and Dakota and from the Standing Rock Reservation , which lies across the border between North and South Dakota. They currently live in Eastern Washington in the homelands of the Nez Perce. In addition to making and selling all of their products, they're also former Lakota language immersion instructors and continue to use their Native language every day of their lives.

Tipiziwin shared a little about what goes into their work:

When and why did you get into soap making?

We have six children and, as parents, we witnessed how chemical-laden and store-bought products caused allergic reactions in our youngest children. So in 2017, we began our journey of creating soaps and other herbal products from our Lakota and Dakota traditional plant knowledge and our Lakota belief that everything we touch carries our spiritual medicine. Our first batch was a sweet grass soap that immediately was healing for our youngest son. We would gift bars to friends and family and we begin making more for give aways and slowly begin selling on Etsy before we moved to our own website.

Describe the vision behind Haípažaža Pȟežúta.

All of our products are made with love, good medicine, good intentions and good prayers for those who will be using them. We wanted to create a practical avenue for families toward a more respectful and reciprocal relationship with the Grandmother earth. We reduce the use of plastic bottles by making shampoo bars. We incorporate our traditional medicine plant relatives in what we create and we align our indigenous values of generosity and reciprocity with our business model by offering a gift with every purchase made on our website.

Who or what inspires you the most in your artistic process?

Our Lakota and Dakota homelands, our traditional stories and songs and our children and families.

What creation or soap product are you most proud of?

Haípažaža Pȟežúta sage shampoo bars

Particularly, I love the sage shampoo bars because we harvest the sage at home on Standing Rock from the Porcupine Creek where I was raised, where my parents still live, and where my paternal family has lived for over six generations. I also am deeply moved by the healing that has come from our bear root and sage products for the circle of supporters who battle skin sensitivities, such as eczema, much like our own children did. It touches my heart that healing is happening using our traditional medicines.

What is your favorite thing about the work you do with Haípažaža Pȟežúta?

I love working together with my family. It promotes an example to my children of a good work ethic and a reminder to help each other. I also love that it helps get our products to families who have relationships with the medicines already and the familiar scent and smells can take them home in their hearts no matter where they physically are.

How has COVID-19 changed or impacted your business? 

We began offering a discount to make our products more accessible and we were able to work with various tribes and tribal entities to support and supplement their COVID-19 prevention efforts. Our children switched to an online learning environment, and this allowed our oldest two at the time to contribute more than they ever had before. It’s been a beautiful and healing time working together. 

What would you say to the next generation of Native creators and business owners? 

Don’t be scared to try, be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. Also, coming from a reservation where it’s ground zero for financial literacy, we have learned some hard lessons, so we would recommend a small business or financial literacy 101 class. Be willing to work hard and be responsible, strategic, and disciplined regarding your business and assets.

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