BOZEMAN — An Indigenous fashion show that drew a standing-room-only crowd to American Indian Hall at Montana State University was the perfect backdrop for a celebration of cultural tradition through the lens of modern art, say organizers of the successful Native American Heritage Month event.
“It was such a positive place to be,” said Riley Werk, a sophomore majoring in English education who helped organize the Nov. 13 show. “Not a lot of people, even in Indian Country, have seen a fashion show like this.”
Werk is part of the three-person cultural outreach team in MSU’s American Indian/Alaska Native Student Success Services. Together with cultural outreach specialist La’Trell Hendrickson in MSU’s Department of Native American Studies, Werk and fellow student-employee Watson Whitford conceived the idea for the show and worked since the start of the semester to make the event happen.
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“We started talking about a fashion series that includes workshops to make ribbon shirts and ribbon skirts because the Native fashion industry has become one more way of showcasing Native art,” Hendrickson said.
The team reached out to two professional Indigenous designers, both MSU alumni and members of the Crow Tribe: Angela Howe of Choke Cherry Creek Designs and Brocade Stops Black Eagle of Brocade Designs. They agreed to provide the clothing for the show, so Werk set about recruiting models. Meanwhile, Whitford, a freshman majoring in plant biology, began inviting Indigenous design vendors from tribes around and outside Montana. Thirty-five mostly student models representing every Native American nation in the region and several vendors of Indigenously designed wares — including earrings, clothing, cosmetic items and beadwork — signed up to participate. Some vendors traveled from out of state to attend.
On the night of the show before a diverse