Former Seattle mayoral contender Colleen Echohawk will be the next CEO of Eighth Generation, a Seattle-based art and lifestyle brand specializing in Native works.
Echohawk, who previously served as executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, will step in for outgoing CEO and founder Louie Gong.
Founded by Gong in 2008, Eighth Generation was in part a response to the proliferation of “Native-inspired” art that was not in fact made by Native artists. Eighth Generation only sells works designed by Native people.
Under Gong, a Nooksack artist and activist, the company opened a shop in Pike Place Market in 2016 and was purchased by the Snoqualmie Tribe three years later.
“I think we forever changed the landscape of opportunity for cultural artists, through the consumer education work that the company has done and also by demonstrating that it’s possible to have success as a business while aligning with Native art and communities in a respectful way,” Gong told Seattle Times columnist Naomi Ishisaka in a recent interview. “That success represents pressure on legacy businesses that have exploited cultural artists in the past to get in line with the way Eighth Generation does things.”
In a statement Wednesday, Gong described Echohawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation and Upper Athabascan people, as “the leadership Eighth Generation needs to go global.”
A longtime community activist, Echohawk’s name often appears on lists of Seattle’s most influential people. She and Gong have worked together for more than a decade, and she advocated for Eighth Generation’s store at Pike Place Market. She recently served as interim CEO at YouthCare, a youth homelessness nonprofit facing allegations of racism before Echohawk’s arrival.
Echohawk entered Seattle’s crowded 2021 mayoral primary race, finishing third with 9% of the vote. Describing the work ahead of her in an Eighth Generation statement, Echohawk described her appointment as “the next step in ensuring that Native people and prosperity are lifted up in our community.”
Echohawk will join Eighth Generation on Feb. 1.