Things That Matter

A Photo Of This Sad, Sweet Old Lady Went Viral Because She Hadn’t Sold Any Of Her Handmade Napkins, Now They’re All Sold

The internet is a dark place —dark and full of terrors. But on a few rare occasions, it serves for good purposes. Last week, the pictures of a sweet indigenous woman, captured crying after she wasn’t able to sell her handmade napkins went viral. And in a deliciously gratifying turn of events, the next day her sales soared —and what’s more, people even asked to take pictures with her.

This sweet old lady was looking a little blue, so a stranger decided to ask what was wrong.

Doña Adela Vidales, a Purépecha woman from the town of Turícuaro, Michoacán, was sitting on the floor in downtown Uruapan looking sad, when Leopoldo Álvarez noticed her dispirited demeanor. Being a Purépecha himself, the man felt moved so he took a few sneaky pictures of her without being noticed, and approached the woman to ask what was wrong. “She looked sad. I took two photos of her back and I asked her why she was sad, and she told me that she hadn’t sold anything,” Álvarez told Mexican newspaper Milenio.

Leopoldo Álvarez took to Facebook to share the woman’s story.

Álvarez, who runs a catering business in Michoacán, posted the photos on Facebook, with the caption:  “Doña Adela was sad because she hadn’t sold her artisanal napkins, and I told her that I was going to promote her products on social media… I invite you all to buy from her, she works in downtown Uruapan…,” he wrote in Spanish.

The next day, Doña Adela’s napkins sold out.

Just a week after the photos went up on Facebook, Leopoldo’s post had garnered over 2,500 likes and 619 comments —the post had been shared more than 8,000 times! “I didn’t think it would have such reach,” he said.

After many followers asked him how they could reach Doña Adela, he went to Turícuaro to find her.

“I went back to see her and we spoke. She told me that the next day, on Sunday, she went to work and sold everything and even finished early… and it was curious,” he added, “because she doesn’t usually sell out so early. But she sold everything and there were even people who wanted to take pictures with her,” Álvarez said.

“I felt useful,” said Álvares, “I don’t care about becoming famous.”

Leopoldo explained that he feels happy about having helped Doña Adela, and when he saw her again, days later, she expressed how immensely grateful she was.  “I felt useful, and I think I did my part. People congratulate me, but I think anyone would do the same.”

Álvarez reiterated that when he posted the photos of her, that he only cared about helping Doña Adela sell the napkins she had  made by hand.

Despite the huge engagement his post had; now he sees that ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ aren’t enough —he wants this to become something that provides real support to Michoacán artisans. “A ‘like’ doesn’t symbolize a purchase, a ‘share’ doesn’t symbolize an order. People haven’t kept buying, and the intention is to help.” said Leopoldo. “I don’t care about becoming famous, I wanted to help her.”

Leopoldo shared Doña Adela’s grandson, Melitón’s phone number in his social media profiles, so that people who are interested in buying can reach them. The caterer says he wants to help artisans from his own hometown, Pamatácuaro, who make wooden spoons, molinillos, and woven baskets. “I’d like to benefit my community, the artisans, that was my intention with Doña Adela, because there are many more artisans like her who live off their sales.”

Don’t take away valuable business from indigenous artisans by buying imitations from big corporations.

Many stores like Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie, are taking valuable business away from actual indigenous artists and small businesses by making cheap knockoffs of their hand-made work. Support indigenous creativity, history, and legacy, and help create a much-needed economic boost in rural areas by shopping from small, authentic indigenous businesses, everywhere.

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Congress Finally Passed a Law to Address the Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in America

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Congress Finally Passed a Law to Address the Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in America

Image Credit: Seattle City Council from Seattle

The House of Representatives finally passed a bill called “Savanna’s Act”, a measure that will require the Justice Department to develop a protocol in response to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women that is crippling native communities across the country. It is now headed to the president’s desk, waiting to be signed.

The bill was named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old woman of Indigenous descent who was murdered in 2017 when she was eight months pregnant. 

According to CNN, the bi-partisan bill is designed not only to create better guidelines for authorities to respond to this pervasive problem, but also instructs the Justice Department to “provide training for law enforcement agencies and to work with tribes and tribal organizations in implementing its strategy.” 

“Savanna’s Act addresses a tragic issue in Indian Country,” said North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “[It] helps establish better law enforcement practices to track, solve and prevent these crimes against Native Americans.”

From now on, the Justice Department will also be forced to provide an annual report on the numbers of missing Indigenous women–numbers that are, right now, unclear.

According to Omaha Tribe of Nebraska member Tillie Aldrich (whose daughter was found dead in January), the historical lack of government response to the issue of violence against Native women boils down to structural racism. 

“If we have a non-Native [person] missing in a city 25 miles north of us, it’s all over the news, the newspapers, posters going up,” Aldrich told Teen Vogue. “If we have someone missing, one of our Native missing, they try to keep it quiet.”

via @R_OWL_MIRROR/TWITTER

The plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women is a pervasive but underreported problem.

According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, 5,712 missing Alaska Native and American Indian women and girls were reported missing in 2016. Only 116 of them were registered in the Department of Justice database

The FBI’s National Crime Information Center database reports that Native American and Alaska Native women made up 0.8% of the U.S. population, but made up 1.8% of 2017 missing persons cases.

And these statistics only reflect the reported number of cases. Many native people have feelings of hopelessness when it comes to reporting their missing loved ones. They know that authorities won’t even try to find their missing family members.

Both family members of Indigenous people as well as Indigenous activists explain that there is a general attitude of apathy, victim-blaming, and lack of urgency when it comes to the local government’s response to these missing women. 

“When no one in authority looks for a missing woman, it sends a strong statement to the families and to communities that this life doesn’t matter–it is an expendable life,” said University of Kansas Professor Sarah Deer to Teen Vogue.

“Victim-blaming is often a part of this dynamic,” Deer continued. “If she’s done X, Y, or Z–no wonder she got caught up in trouble. Unlike an innocent white college girl, this Native woman doesn’t deserve prioritization.”

But as of now, activists and organizers are hopeful that Savanna’s Act will change the way government institutions respond to this all-too-common problem. 

“Missing and murdered Indigenous women are no longer invisible. They are no longer hidden in the shadows,” said former North Dakota Senator and bill co-sponsor Heidi Heitkamp. “By raising awareness about this crisis and taking concrete action to help address it, we can help make sure Indigenous women are better protected.”

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This Iñupiaq TikToker Has A Thing Or Two To Teach You About Celebrating Indigenous Cultures Online

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This Iñupiaq TikToker Has A Thing Or Two To Teach You About Celebrating Indigenous Cultures Online

Drew Angerer / Getty

An Indigenous woman from Utqiagvik, Alaska who is part of the Iñupiaq tribe is TikTok’s latest culture sensation.

While the rest of us are stuck indoors and quarantining, Patuk Glenn has been amassing a following on Instagram and teaching her 81,000 followers about the Iñupiaq culture, traditions, and daily routines. From sharing videos about hunting to showing off her culture’s traditional clothing, Glenn’s videos are a reminder that beyond being alive, indigenous cultures around the globe are resilient– even in the face of our world’s constant attempts to change and eliminate them.

Glenn’s trending TikTok videos run the gamut from cooking to wearing her traditional clothing.

In some videos, Glenn shares the recipe for Inuit ice cream (caribou fat, ground caribou meat, and seal meat) or shares what her traditional clothing looks like. In one truly insightful clip, she takes her followers through a traditional ice cellar in her mother’s house. There, Glenn shared with her viewers that she and her family use the permafrost surround the cellar to preserve whale, seal, and caribou.

Given some of the food content, some of Glenn’s videos have received some backlash to which she isn’t batting much of an eye.

In videos where Glenn features food from whales (muktuk, or whale skin) she says that she has become used to receiving not so positive comments on occasion. Speaking to CBC News, Glenn explained that such comments are hurtful at times but mostly only inspire to continue to educate her followers more. “At first I was really upset,” she explained. “From there, with all of the negative backlash, I felt like it was my responsibility to help educate on why our Inuit people in the Arctic are hunters and gatherers.”

Glenn says that negative comments only push her to share more and educate her followers, particularly because she would like her daughter to be able to share her love for her culture one day as well. “We don’t want our kids to feel ashamed of who they are and where they came from. That’s what really hurt me the most.”

Impressively, Glenn says that learning on TikTok has become a two-way street too.

From TikTok, Glenn says that she has been able to learn and educate herself more about other Indigenous cultures as well. Glenn’s growing understanding of these groups and tribes (like Navajo and Cree) are a welcome surprise. Particularly for someone who, like the rest of us, is taught very little about the world’s Indigenous populations. “In the United States, we’re largely left out of the media. There’s no representation of us,” Glenn shared. “It’s 2020, we have a real opportunity in this day and age to be able to educate the world where institutional education has failed, or where mainstream media has failed.”

For Glenn, her fight to teach others more about her culture is vital. “This platform is helping give the power back into Indigenous people’s hands, to speak on behalf of themselves. I think that’s the really cool piece of it.”

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