Welcome to Gardena, North Dakota. A tiny community on the edge of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. Just a skip away from our friendly neighbors to the North - Canada. With a population of 29 people, Gardena seems like the last place to find the most influential voice in American Indian fashion.
However, this tiny town is home to Jessica Metcalfe - the owner and visionary behind the Beyond Buckskin Boutique. We met Jessica through friends from Santa Fe, New Mexico years ago and jumped at the chance to visit her. A short detour while driving Raven (our F250 pickup) from Wisconsin to Portland, OR - we had to visit and find out for ourselves.
What makes this tiny community so special...and the perfect place for Jessica to root her life and business? Gardena is truly a window back in time - with dirt streets, big lawns, and buildings slowly returning to the earth. Yes, Main Street - it's dirt. And First Street - better yet - it's grass.
"I feel connected here - to humans, to a beautiful environment. This place nurtures me on so many levels" - Dr. Jessica Metcalfe, Phd.
Despite the humble feel, there are big things going on in Gardena. Jessica used to be a professor for Arizona State University, living in a city of 1 million people, but the call to home and the desire to help her community was strong. She packed up her bags and moved back to Gardena to invest in her home community - the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation - and to continue growing her business - the BEYOND BUCKSKIN BOUTIQUE.
Together we walked around town, met neighbors and family members...and were able to slow down and see why Gardena is the right spot for Jessica. No more General Store - it returned to the Earth - but the foundation now serves as the largest raised bed garden I've ever seen.
The day of our visit, Jessica and her mother were planting potatoes and onions for the community. (IN - planting the vegetables IN the foundation of the old General Store!). Resourceful - generous - dedicated - this is what small town America must be to survive and, perhaps it is the display of these values that what larger places can learn from. Jessica purposefully moved back to Turtle Mountain to make an impact - to contribute to her community and provide a vision for opportunity in commerce and education. We love what Jessica is doing. We encourage you to learn more about her story, check out the STAR TRIBUNE article about our friend - a "style maker" - "community leader" - and to us, someone who is a visionary. Looking toward the future for American Indian artisans and designers, in a way that builds upon our strengths and fosters opportunity for the next generation. Chi miigwetch Jessica!