Skip to main content

Young entrepreneur's business is set to go far

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Treading in the footsteps of such well-known figures as J.L. Hubbell and Thomas Keam, Cody Blackbird brings some extra assets to the profession of Indian trader. An American Indian from the East who relocated to Alaska with his family almost a decade ago, Blackbird is only 18, and he has some expansive ideas about where his business will take him - and vice versa.

Hunka Dakota (adopted) and Eastern Cherokee, Blackbird is a multitalented young man. He plays Native flute and sings; in addition, he leads a Native drum group, Tatanka ska (White Buffalo). And, barely old enough to sign a legal document, he runs his own business.

His ''trading post,'' Blackbird Enterprises, occupies a 12-foot by 12-foot space in Ship Creek Center in downtown Anchorage. Among Blackbird's best-selling items are the Homeland Security shirt which, he explained, bares a picture of the Apache warrior Geronimo and the message ''Homeland Security: Fighting Terrorism Since 1492,'' as well as Native Pride hats. He also specializes in Native, particularly Navajo, jewelry and Alaska Native carvings. Most of his jewelry comes from Arizona and New Mexico. He tries to work with the artists directly. ''They come into my shop,'' he said. He takes Alaska Native art consignment to help keep his cash flow in balance.

Some of the items he sells are unusual. A handmade food cache featured on the company's Web site is a wooden structure with a ladder leading up to a birdhouse-like storage container; hats embroidered with Native designs have unique custom beading; and handbag and messenger bags sport hand-painted designs.

Blackbird started out with 20 shirts and 10 hats provided by friends. He took them to a local pow wow and turned the profit back into his emerging business. Then he was laid off from his job as a cook right around his birthday in December. ''I took my birthday money, came over to the mall and signed a lease for my store that day,'' he said.

Blackbird is a senior at Specialized Academic Vocational Education High School in Anchorage. His individualized school program allows him to go to classes until mid-morning and then to be at his store from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. ''Without going to SAVE, I couldn't do this,'' he said.

Blackbird took his show on the road in March when he went to Fairbanks for the Festival of Native Arts, and he is booked for some pow wows in Montana this summer. But Blackbird will keep Alaska as his headquarters for the foreseeable future.

Blackbird's plans for the future include the University of Alaska, where he will study culinary arts and hotel and restaurant management. With Blackbird in the top 10 percent of his class, his admittance is almost guaranteed. The program at the university includes two and a half years in Anchorage, followed by a year in Italy and a semester at Northern Arizona University's School of Hotel and Restaurant Management.

Then he'll buy a mobile kitchen and travel around the lower 48 selling food at pow wows. His culinary creations, he said, will be based on Native foods, and will, of course, include some version of frybread.

For more information about Blackbird Enterprises, visit www.blackbirdenterprises.net or contact Blackbird at Blackbird Enterprises, 333 4th Ave., Suite 6, Anchorage, AK 99501; (907) 980-1430; or info@blackbirdenterprises.net.