Raised in a Nooksack community outside of Bellingham, artist Louie Gong grew up with Native American art as an authentic reflection of his culture’s experiences. These deliberate symbols and stories, Gong says, are now misrepresented in mainstream, native-inspired retail.
“It’s like taking the letters of a word and rearranging them so they make sense to you, but you don’t speak the language,” he says. This past fall, Gong, known for his custom shoes illustrated with Coast Salish art, spoke up with the debut of wool blankets from his line Eighth Generation.
The name refers to an intertribal value that emphasizes considering the impact of one’s decisions on future generations. Gong does just that with profits from the business benefiting his Inspired Natives Project (INP) which helps fund fellow native artists in distributing their artwork globally.“Wool blankets have an important presence in native cultural practices,” Gong says. “I want to develop business knowledge to complement the art, so we can maintain control over our stories.”