Colorado-Based Company Accused of Cultural Appropriation Over Native-Inspired Designs, Products


A pair of Astis mittens found at the Mangiare Italian Food Market in Minturn, June 6. The mittens are made with natural materials, such as cowhide and fur, decorated with variations of work of art. (photo: Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Connor Ryan, a pro skier from Denver and member of the Hunkpapa Lakota, was strolling the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Denver's Colorado Convention Center in 2019 when he came across some mittens that sparked his ire.

"I was with friends, all of us from different Indigenous groups, and we saw these different patterns and symbology from our cultures in the bead work of these gloves. If it was a Native brand, I feel like we would have known them," said Ryan, an athlete with Natives Outdoors, a Native American-owned collective of outdoor athletes and designers that advises outdoors businesses working at the intersection of tribal lands and recreation. "We tried to interact with them and they immediately were really defensive and asked us to leave."

In the four years since, Ryan and other Native Americans have criticized Colorado-based Astis Mittens for cultural appropriation and not employing Native artists to create the intricately beaded designs on the company's leather-fringed, fur-cuffed mittens. The company's founders often talked about their idea for their mittens coming from a pair of mittens made by a Cree artist. The word for mittens in the Cree language is "astisak."


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