Native American Artist Panel brings inspiration to local artists

Small Towns

By Shelby Ostrand, former staff member

Many beginning entrepreneurs have questions and unknowns that can lead to doubt and, ultimately, giving up. 

That’s why staff from the Center for Rural Affairs hosted a virtual event for Native American artists in April, allowing like individuals to gather, hear advice from others, and ask questions to improve their businesses.

Tessa Avery, a member of the Santee Sioux Tribe, attended to get small business advice on selling Native American art.

“I thought this would be a great opportunity to gain knowledge of how to market my business, but I ended up getting much more,” she said. “I made connections and got more contacts to help grow my business and received different ideas on how to market my art.”

Participants and artists discussed struggles and successes, and talked about being underserved and underrepresented as Native Americans.

“I learned from the panel that it is a struggle in the beginning, but do not give up,” said Tessa. “I feel like both the panelists and participants have felt the same way at some point. People can be very shameful of your art, but don’t give it up if it is your passion. Continue from your heart and the outcome is very rewarding.”

The panelists were asked what they would tell their younger selves or how they would inspire young Native American women who want to be business owners. Their advice focused on staying true to themselves and not letting anyone stand in their way.

“Ask for anything you want and if they say no you are no worse off than you were before,” said Jennifer White, artist and owner of Post Pilgrim Gallery in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “Be brave and know you are worth a yes. Don’t be afraid to go into boundaries or territory that you do not recognize. We as women are frontiers, we are meant to forge ahead and born to be leaders.”

“Be proud of who you are, own it,” said Jordan Drapeau, artist and owner of JD Creations in Lake Andes, South Dakota, “I was always ashamed of being who I was, not wanting to be Indigenous or wanting to fit in when I was younger, but I’ve learned to be proud to be Native American. It has taken time to be confident in who I am but there is no reason to shy away from our culture.”

For more information on upcoming events, visit

Feature photo: Jennifer White | Photo submitted - photo taken by D.G. House