Seneca Nation artist designs bike for NAHM

PORTLAND — The final BIKETOWN Culture Collection bikes are here and we’re celebrating Native American Heritage Month, which takes place during the month of November.

The Portland area is home to 50,000 people representing 380 different tribes, which made representing the local Native American community on a single bike no easy task.

Thus, BIKETOWN commissioned for two Native American Heritage Month bike designs. Each design concluded as distinctive and rich with symbolism, and together, represent the diverse tapestry of tribes in the city.

The first designer chosen was Heather Ford of the Seneca Nation who is a senior administrative assistant at Nike and member of the Nike Native American Network & Friends. When creating the design, Heather looked to the history of her own nation, and was inspired by the historic wampum belts that mark the development of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

Used to commemorate significant moments in history, wampum belts convey messages of peace, unity and respect. The bike’s vibrant purple and contrasting white are the natural colours of the whelk and quahog shell that are used to make wampum beads.

The Hiawatha Belt on the basket front symbolizes the unification of the original five nations of Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk that make up the Haudenosaunee. The bike design also includes elements inspired by the Canandaigua Treaty belt, the Six Nations Belt and the Dust Fan Belt.

“The horizontal white stripes on the basket that are above and below the wampum belt patterns that call back to ribbons shirts, while the rainbow diagonals on the fork were inspired by women’s ribbon skirts. Both items are considered traditional clothing, many times used as part of modern regalia even though the tradition started with the introduction of European settlers who traded linen or cotton shirts to the indigenous tribes.”

“Silk and satin ribbons were also traded for food and goods, so indigenous peoples started incorporating them into their clothing designs where natural pigments or beadwork would have been used previously. Men wore the cotton or linen shirts that had been adorned with ribbons, and women made long skirts with the fabric and created colourful stripes fashioned out of the ribbons. Currently it is a common custom to wear your ribbon shirt/skirt to important meetings and events, as well as tribal gatherings and celebrations,” said Gorman Ford to BIKETOWN Portland.

Another bike was also crafted that incorporated horses and handprints by Odo Ishkiin (Shoshone-Bannock/San Carlos Apache/Blackfeet), who is an artist and Portland State University student. Odo that grew up in Portland. His grandmother came to Portland from Idaho through the Indian Relocation Act of 1956 – also represented NAYA (Native American Youth and Family Center) as the Head Man grass dancer last year.

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