For Native American Heritage Month, we’re highlighting some of the people and brands you should know about all year long.
When husband and wife Angelo and Jacquelene McHorse had their first kid, they didn't realize it would lead to a new business, too. Jacquelene experienced lots of changes to her skin, and she couldn't quite find the right skin care solution. So the couple decided to make it themselves.
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They previously made candles as a hobby and with their new brand, Bison Star Naturals, they decided to take on a range of products. Plus, running their own brand would mean getting the flexibility to spend more time with their daughter.
Fast forward four years and the Taos-based couple is now in a larger space — in which their daughter often asks how she can help. Bison Star Naturals currently carries lotion, soap, bath salts, and more. They're all products that the couple says they use in their own home.
And what makes these products especially unique is that the couple uses organic, locally, and naturally sourced ingredients.
"We love gardening — it's fun," Angelo McHorse tells Hunker. "It's something to take care of — and then it ends up taking care of us."
Hearing McHorse describe the landscape around them puts their process into focus.
"There is an open water ditch that flows through adjacent to one of the boundary lines of our property," McHorse says. "So along there, there's a lot of herbs."
The list of what grows there includes wild river mint, oregano, and mullein. The couple also plants marigolds seasonally, which they use in their cedar soap. Other times of the year, they grow summer and winter squashes. The mint and rose flowers in the area also make their way into different products. Since the conditions are too cold to grow lavender, the couple travels to a farm in Albuquerque; in Moreno Valley, near Taos, there's also lots of wild chamomile to be found.
Overall, the couple focuses on wild harvesting and local spaces. They make sure not to over-harvest.
In order to grow the business, McHorse says the couple had to decide whether to keep renting commercial space or create their own. The duo named their new space the Bison Star Build and it symbolizes a big step for the company. It took two years to build, and was a project that aligned with McHorse's other love of building.
As with their product offerings, community and collaboration stayed at the forefront of their plans.
"We wanted to be at home so we don't have to look for opportunity elsewhere," says McHorse. "We could create opportunity within our community here. It really has a lot of different layers and reasons as to why we chose to go this route, instead of taking out a loan and getting a factory somewhere in a different town."
Bison Star Naturals also carries items from other Native brands, the large majority of them based in Taos. You can find coffee, tea, honey, and more in the "featured items" section of the brand's site. It's all about giving makers an outlet for their work, which adds another layer of community-focused purpose to their brand.
At the end of the day, McHorse is focused on caring for the nature around him and spending time with his family. They often hike, and McHorse says their daughter learned how to fish recently. It's clear that their surroundings inform a lot of their products, making their items clearly tied to nature.
"Right now, all the fall colors are happening," McHorse says. "It's a beautiful time. And there's frost outside now — it's getting colder out there. We love the high mountain lifestyle."
McHorse says many Native makers use social media to share their stories and brands. Decor lovers can support in a number of ways.
"Everything is valuable, even if you can't purchase," McHorse said. "The likes, the shares, the subscriptions — and even just learning anything. If you're interested in the area you're living in, find out the history behind it."