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About Us

tumtum threads: Weaving stories, Weaving cultures

tumtum is more than a brand; it's a tapestry of hope, culture, and unity. tumtum embodies the spirit of collaboration, bringing together the First Nations families of the Kwakwaka'wakw in the Pacific Northwest Coast and  Zapotec families of the Central Valley of Oaxaca. 

tumtum is a celebration of diversity, a symbol of the beauty that emerges when cultures intertwine. As you hold tumtum threads in your hands, it's not just a product; it's a reminder that we are all connected, no matter where we come from.

In a world where so many Northwest Indigenous designs are mass-produced overseas in factories, we dare to be different.

Who We Are 

Kwakwaka'wakw Family

Established by the visionary Native artist Bruce Alfred and his daughter Molly Willie, both from the 'Namgis First Nation, in the heart of 'Yalis, known as Alert Bay. Our home is a source of immense pride for us, celebrated as the "Home of the Killer Whale" and recognized for hosting the "World's Tallest Totem Pole." As Kwakwaka'wakw people, we proudly declare our ancestral presence in this land, a history that stretches back to time immemorial.

Founded by Indigenous artist Bruce Alfred and daughter Molly Willie of 'Namgis First Nation

Founded by Indigenous artist Bruce Alfred and daughter Molly Willie of 'Namgis First Nation

The designs and carvings crafted by our people have not only been admired but have also been the subjects of trade, imitation, and even theft throughout the Western world. Today, we continue to honor our heritage by preserving and sharing our traditions, just as we have for centuries.

The World's Tallest Totem Pole In Alert Bay, BC

Photos around 'Yalis

Zapotec Families

In Teotitlan, a renowned Zapotec weaving village, the weavers have sustained their traditions over generations, primarily producing woolen rugs. The cushions for tumtum, skillfully handmade by Arnulfo Lazaro Bautista's family, are dyed using entirely natural methods, resulting in four distinct colors:

  • Blue, dyed with Indigo.

  • Red, dyed with Cochinia.

  • Black, dyed with Zapote Negro (with a plum-like taste).

  • Grey, crafted from two types of sheep wool, requiring no dye.

 

Mitla, famous for its ancient ruins and intricate mosaics, serves as the backdrop for Zapotec rug designs. Arturo Hernandez Quero's family, tumtum's partners in Mitla, masterfully craft products using both cotton and wool, employing the pedal loom technique to create their throws.

This collaboration not only celebrates the Zapotec culture's richness and resilience but also fosters sustainable and authentic craftsmanship while supporting local communities. It's a bridge between ancient traditions and contemporary design, inviting visitors to engage with the artisans and appreciate the cultural exchange that has endured for centuries.

Photos from the Zapotec Region

Our Dream

Tumtum is an inspiration, reminding us that when hearts and hands work together, they create a brighter, more inclusive world. It transcends borders and unites us in a symphony of cultures, colors, and dreams. Let tumtum be your reminder that together we can weave a tapestry of love and unity that stretches beyond borders.

Our mission is not just about making beautiful things, but about creating a meaningful ripple of change. We believe that every product we create carries a piece of our nation's spirit and story, and we want to share that with the world.

The Language Of Trade

Language has been a big part of our journey. Our language in Alert Bay is Kwak'wala; we are reclaiming our language, but much was lost through the Indian Residential School, where we were forced to speak only English. Bruce was inspired with the Zapotec families who have retained so much of their language despite the 500 years of colonization. 

Bruce receiving Spanish instruction from nos maestro, Jacob

Honouring respect for the land, the spirit and the heart with beautiful Indigenous hand made products for your home from First Nations Communities in the Pacific Northwest and in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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