Xol Original is a non-profit arts and education organization incorporated in Colorado. Initially formed in February 2014 as a natural outgrowth of the relationships with indigenous artisans of Guatemala and Mexico, we offered an interface for patrons of indigenous artisanship to custom order beautiful handmade footwear.
But the “material goods” of artisan handcraft are only a small, physically visible aspect of culture originating from indigenous traditions and practices, at the core of which is an uniquely indigenous understanding of the interwoven relationship of nature and human life. In 2015 we became a non-profit organization to include the scope of our vision.
Xol Original envisions a future which enriches, revitalizes and exchanges sustainable practices informed by indigenous knowledge of an inseparable relationship of all peoples to the natural world.
From this vision springs the mission “to safeguard the noble wealth of indigenous traditions through sustainable offerings that teach respect for nature and all human life.”
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On one hand, against great odds and despite centuries of colonialism, many indigenous traditions continue to thrive and even develop in vibrant and inspiring new directions.
Indigenous news outlets have publicized some examples such as the above, but many people remain unaware of such developments.
Some of these challenges have existed since the beginning of colonialism. Others have come into play in the more recent past. But all indigenous cultures face some or all of these threats:
Around the world, young indigenous people continue to migrate to the cities to find better jobs, moving away from the older generations who would normally pass onto them the traditional stories, language, and customs.
Indigenous languages are being lost as tribes are fragmented and assimilated into mainstream culture. Half of the world’s 7,000 languages face extinction, and only 0.1 percent of the world’s people hold a full 80 percent of its languages.
Not only are languages themselves lost, but a wealth of knowledge about the relationship to nature, plants, animals, medicines, land renewal techniques, farming, cultural histories, and calendric knowledge, as well as wisdom about rearing children, rites of passages, or peacekeeping accords, are lost with them.
Many indigenous peoples face economic marginalization through systematic exploitation of their lands by extractive industries (such as mining, petrochemicals, and palm oil plantations, to name a few). For many indigenous peoples, land is life.
Seeds of indigenous food crops, such as maize, the traditional farming methods used to grow them, and the farmers who sustain their families with them, are threatened by the industrialization of agriculture and patent control of hybrid seeds by giant agribusinesses.
Cultural appropriation of “tribal designs” abounds within the fashion industry, with little to no recognition given to the origins of the designs, their cultural significance or the Native designers. This undermines the value and cultural significance of traditional dress, reducing the deep meaning of such designs to their market value at the expense of real cultural understanding and respect.
Mainstream culture and consumerist lifestyles are glorified and dominate the media, while the authentic voices and portrayals of indigenous cultures and traditions by indigenous people are marginalized. A lack of platforms and channels for cross-cultural dialogue and exchange leads to a lack of cultural understanding.
Since 2012, we’ve been building relationships with indigenous artisans, artists, musicians, shoemakers, farmers, poets, weavers, ceremonialists, and educators.
Ourselves shoemakers, we began with a shared meal and an inspired design collaboration with a single shoemaker in San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala.
Since then we’ve helped make custom shoes for hundreds of people, and we've talked with hundreds more about indigenous traditions, artisanship, and realities. We’ve donated technical equipment and raw materials.
But we’re not stopping there. In 2015, we became a non-profit with a mission to safeguard indigenous traditions.
This is just a start. We have many more things planned for the coming years.
Become Kin today and join the Xol Original family of small-scale, indigenous, beautiful craftwork, dedicated to preserving the roots of that work. As Kin, you pledge through both financial and spiritual means, to the restoration of indigenous cultures.
Each Kin commits to a monthly donation. For each commitment level, a gift of Xol Original shoes is made accordingly. You may take the gift for yourself or arrange for it to be donated on another's behalf.
At this level we encourage to volunteer at our events, assist with coordination, or help with other simple tasks related to our mission. This is a good opportunity to meet people and learn more about indigenous traditions in the areas of the world in which we work.
Offering two hands is a more comprehensive process of creation: the Kin may offer resources which impact Xol Original on a deeper level, e.g., offering knowledge, skills, services, and experience.
Taking the First Step means courageously engaging in community further, as one who truly listens.
A “Twenty” is a living example, becoming committed to the vision. It is clear that everything the Kin undertakes is through the lens of sacred ecology and indigenous heart, wisdom, and courage. The commitment is one of nobility and integrity.
Note: This system is based on the Mayan view that each person is a “Twenty” -- that is, a human being with twenty digits of ten fingers and ten toes. The Mayan sacred calendar or Chol Q’ij calendar (as it is called in K’iche Maya, but also called the Tzolk’in calendar in Yucatec Maya), is based on a cycle of twenty days and thirteen energies. One full cycle of the Chol Q’ij is 20 days x 13 energies = 260 days. 260 days is about nine months, and correlates with the gestation period in humans and the growth cycle of maize, as well as the movements of the zenith Sun. The Mayan number system is also based on 20.
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On behalf of Xol Original and the vitality of indigenous traditions everywhere, we thank you and offer you a warm welcome.
Your gift goes directly toward indigenous artists, creating new collaborations, to buy much needed equipment, support our operations, and towards the indigenous communities with whom we work in Guatemala, Chiapas, and Taiwan.
We deeply appreciate your support!