Mazopiye Market is now LIVE and signing up vendors! The initial creation of Mazopiye Market is done, so now its about building a solid foundation of vendors. Once vendors get on board, and add their products, the site will really take off. Features are limited until then. Since everything is new, let me tell you how this all started.
I was hanging out at Tribal Council one day, back in February 2017 or so, and an Elder friend of mine told me that she liked what I was doing with HOTOKECA, but that she thought that I should also create an online marketplace, where she (and others) could sell handcrafted items. She thought that the ability to get online would really open up markets, and that there was a need for such a site.
I always listen to my Elders, and I never forgot her request. I did a lot of research throughout the entire project. The first thing I decided was that she was requesting a multi-vendor marketplace, similar to eBay or Etsy, where many vendors could have their own store-front and sell their products. This is not as easy to create as it sounds…
I thought about what to name this venture. I consulted another Elder who is fluent in the Dakota Sioux Language, and he helped me kick around a couple of options until I decided on “Mazopiye”. Mazopiye (pronounced mah-ZOE-pee-yay) is a Dakota Sioux word that can mean stores, market or marketplace. Fortunately that domain was open to purchase, and so the first thing I did was register the domain – www.mazopiye.com.
Deciding on the name was the easy part. I knew nothing about building a multi-vendor marketplace. I knew very little about WordPress, and even less about WooCommerce or any of the extensions like Dokan that I would later come to use. The website is powered by the WordPress platform, and I purchased a “theme” made for multi-vendor marketplaces. I got a good deal on Black Friday, so I got it for only $29, when it’s normally $59. I went through several different extensions like Magento, WooCommerce Vendors, WooCommerce Marketplace, and Dokan before I finally decided on one.
I read a lot of tutorials, and articles to create this site. I got stuck for three months on how to link PayPal so I could pay the vendors. I hope I have everything configured right. I’m sure there will be bumps in the road and things that I will get stuck on, but I know now that I will figure it out – one way or another.
The cool thing is that other than my work and time, I spent less than $120 creating the site!
Initially, I thought that my marketplace would only serve my reservation. However, while doing the research and creating a business plan, I realized that the potential might be greater than just my local rez. One market research study stated that 30% of Native American households create and sell arts and crafts to supplement their household income. The same study also said that only 7% of artists have their own website, and that the need for online access is there. For these reasons, I decided to create a marketplace that is open to all Native Americans.
Indian Arts & Crafts Act
One of the first things I learned in my research was about the Federal Indian Arts & Crafts Act. This Act is meant to protect actual American Indian artisans and craftsmen/women from a multitude of fakes. I found myself really believing in the spirit of this Act. Other marketplaces such as eBay or Etsy fail Native American artisans by not enforcing this Act, because both Etsy and EBay allow fakes to overwhelm the true Native American craftsmen, causing both the vendor and the seller to be wary of buying anything. I decided that Mazopiye Market would require all vendors to be Native American, not only to comply with the Act, but to create a place exclusively for Native American Vendors, and to guarantee to buyers that their items are genuine “Indian Made”.
My Charity for Lost Feathers
I’ve designated 2% of earnings from Mazopiye Market to the charity that I am creating. This charity is called “Lost Feathers”. Lost Feathers are children that are lost to their tribe by being adopted out to non-Native families. In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and even today, children were sold or otherwise “shipped out” to non-Native parents. While these adoptive parents no doubt love their adoptive child, the child has lost not only their biological parents, but their language, culture, and identity as a Native person. As these children grow older, they yearn to know their ancestry, and some try to “come home”, only to be met with hostility because they don’t fit in. We don’t fit in anywhere – we’re always on the outside looking in. The Lost Feathers charity seeks to have resources available for genealogy searches, a legal team to keep the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) strong, and a ceremonial aspect that “adopts” these Lost Feathers back into their Tribe.
Summing It Up
Whew! What an accomplishment considering that I started with just an idea, but no knowledge, no experience, and no money. I’m happy with what I’ve created. I hope my Elders are happy with it too.