April 7th, 2021 Last Updated on: April 8th, 2021
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?
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?
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?
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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