Promoting Native American Culture
White Crow and Wendy Schofield-Ching set up a
Christmas display at Native Winds
Wendy Schofield-Ching and her husband Everett Ching promote and preserve Native American culture through their Kaimuki retail store, Native Winds Gift Gallery and Craft Supply.
“I wanted to create a place of community so people can learn about indigenous practices,” she says about the 392-square-foot shop. “I want them to see it, feel it, touch it and taste it.”
Native Winds holds book signings and features music, jewelry, beads, sage, leather and artwork for sale. The hub of Native American culture, which opened in 1997, offers crafts classes on Saturdays and also promotes five pow-wows in the state of Hawaii. They also co-sponsor the Native American Flute and Storytelling Concert at the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii.
Although the couple are quite adamant in communicating that they are not of Native American descent, they are pro-active in keeping the culture alive by referring to the experts with whom they’ve become friends.
One customer, who is in the military and homesick, spontaneously decided to do some beadwork on the store’s black cordless phone antennae. A bulletin board posts a handful of customers’ photos.
Schofield-Ching knows the Native American artists as well as her customers. She can tell you the artists’ name, tribal affiliation and “what they did last weekend,” as she often travels to meet them in Arizona and New Mexico.
Jewelry, Zuni Pueblo fetishes (hand-carved stone or shell animals) and craft supplies are the most-popular items in the shop.
One upcoming event is a book signing and reception from 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 14 featuring Mohawk author Taiaiake Alfred and his book Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom.
And another in-house event is the “I’m Dreaming of a Turquoise Christmas” weekend Dec. 17 and 18. It offers 20 percent off all turquoise jewelry and turquoise beads. At 1 and 3 p.m. Dec. 17, a 15-minute presentation on the precious stone by Schofield-Ching is followed by a question-and-answer session.
The boutique also reaches out to the community by coordinating Native American speakers and performers to give educational talks and demonstrations at schools, museums and other organizations.
In addition to hosting events and reaching out, Schofield-Ching shares another key to the success of this mom-andpop store.
“We wouldn’t exist without the support of our volunteers,” she says.
For example, White Crow, who is of Onondaga descent, comes in three days a week. He also teaches basic and advanced loomwork beading - something he learned from his grandmother in the mountains of New York state when he was 6 years old. Val Kreider, Sunny Freitas and Terry Kraan also lead bead sessions.
Schofield-Ching notes her biggest challenge has been being located on the second floor where there’s not that much foot traffic. To overcome that, she says, she’s become the “queen of the press release.”
Schofield-Ching is a Philadelphia native who moved to Hawaii in 1985. Along with her work for 13 years as a commercial litigation attorney, she did pro-bono work for the Native American Indian community on Oahu.
“The more I got involved in the community, the more I wanted to get out of law,” she says, noting that she learned how to bead during her stint as a volunteer.
She teaches a beading class on the lane stitch on buckskin - it’s called the lane stitch because the beads are like lanes. It’s also called the lazy stitch.
“I’m more the perpetual student, sharing what I learned, than the expert,” she admits.
Husband Everett, a McKinley grad and UH journalism major, helps out at the store when he’s not working full time at Earthjustice. He also maintains his own art career with pen-and-ink drawings of nostalgic Hawaii. His work is on display at the Pauahi Tower Gallery at 1001 Bishop St. through Christmas Eve. Their daughter, Cady, a 15-year-old Punahou student, dances in the pow-wows.
To further the educational aspect of the store, Schofield-Ching says they can give tips on how to make the traditional clothing, commonly called regalia, for dancing at the powwow. She’ll even share stories about some mistakes that have been made in the past.
For those new to the Native American culture, she’ll be glad to explain what the symbolism means in the art, jewelry and other items.
“The more they learn about it, the more they appreciate it,” she says. “Everything has a meaning.”
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