January 11, 2012

Now Bead This

Hello Beyond Buckskin readers -
I'm starting a new trend for 2012, and I'm enlisting the help of some of my favorite people to write guest posts. Here's the first, Now Bead This, by Lut Stamp (aka I.D.K.)

In 2012, the floodgates have opened, and “Native” has become the main ingredient in every artist's mash-up fantasy. Clothes, art, rap music, skateboards and shoes all carry heavy street credibility in Indian Country, and finding a way to personalize these things with a little dash of “Tradish” is all the rage.

In honor of this fabulous trend, let me introduce the butter to yer frybread, the beaded baseball hat. (I had to include the obligatory frybread joke. My bad.)

I'm not really sure when, or where people started beading baseball hats, but legend has it that the pilgrims adorned them, as a gift from the Natives during the first Thanksgiving. No? Did I lose you already? Sorry, it's my first guest blog for Beyond Buckskin and I can't stop lying. Time out.

The truth? Who knows. Ever since the seed bead was introduced to Native people, we've gone bead crazy. The museums and history books are stuffed with outrageously intricate bead-work items of all kinds. Blankets, moccasins, purses, and baby things have all gotten the makeover. Even today, it wouldn't be a pow-wow without beaded eagle fans, hairpieces, and regalia on all the girls and boys. Through generations of beading, and in-beading (lol) we arrived at the modern baseball cap... Where we eagerly jumped on a chance to tattoo another item of Americana, into an artifact of our own design.

I started beading caps when I was just a kid, on the reservation back in the 80's. I had a yellow World Wresting Federation hat with Hulk Hogan on it, and I beaded it with blue and yellow beads. My friends had their own, that either their moms or grandmothers beaded for them. I remember seeing NFL caps, blank trucker caps, and lots of military veteran caps all beaded with different personalized designs, colors, and eagle feather plumes.

In fact, beaded baseball caps are so common in Indian country, they're almost invisible as the iconic symbol that they really are. They're casual, they're distinct, and they embody the essence of modern “Indian” culture.

I've included a picture of my latest beaded cap, “Joba's Medicine Hat,” which I beaded in honor of the New York Yankees Winnebago pitcher Joba Chamberlain, one of several Native professional athletes that are awesome.

And, for the sake of a 21st Century discussion, we were hoping this introduction would inspire people to take pictures of their own beaded baseball caps and post them on the Beyond Buckskin Facebook fan page. It would be cool to see what caps people have out there in the closet, and how they came to be. I think it's time to blow this up into a trend, and make 2012 the official year of the “Beaded Baseball Cap.” It's a timeless fashion statement, in need of recognition that is long overdue.

*I.D.K. is an enrolled member of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington State. He goes by his Indian name, and currently creates mayhem... with words, beads, and paintbrushes in Las Vegas, Nevada.