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Published June 15 2012

Fargo man leaves old life to create products from Native heritage

FARGO – The Wolf Spirit Trading Post at 817 14th St. S. in Fargo isn’t your typical brick-and-mortar business.

Then again, Wolf Pierce isn’t your typical business owner. As he sees it, the creation of the American Indian products he makes is spiritual.

“Everything that I make, part of my spirit goes into that so it holds strength, it holds a part of me in it,” says Pierce, who traces part of his heritage to the Lakota and Cheyenne.

Products the 49-year-old creates range from dream catchers, medicine bags and necklaces, to clothing, wall hangings and prayer feathers.

Pierce began creating his work after hitting a low point in his life around 2004. His life in Florida was miserable. He worked construction, which was stressful.

“I just said enough is enough,” Pierce remembers. “So I just closed everything up, got rid of everything. And I told the creator … ‘Tell me what you want me to do.’ ... And he told me to go back to my roots and be who I am. Quit being someone else.”

Pierce moved to Wyoming, and then to Fargo in September 2008.

“The basic reason I left Florida is because all my roots come from this area,” he said. “I just felt very out of whack there.”

He opened his Fargo shop in November 2010.

Pierce wasn’t trained for the work he does.

“That’s what’s so unbelievable,” says Pierce’s girlfriend, Erika Nienaber, who also works with the business.

Pierce says his skills came from the creator.

“It was in me my whole life. What he does is he waits until you are ready to give you a task,” Pierce says. “I got to that point where I had broke down and just gave everything over to him, then he, three days later, he told me what to do, and I’ve been doing this ever since.”

Pierce says the work is “who I am. It’s what I am.”

“It ... celebrates who he is,” Nienaber agrees.

He wants to keep the Native American culture alive through his work and believes it’s therapeutic for both him and others.

“I was always taught if you’re going to do something, you need to do something that’s going to help others, because if it’s self-absorbed and only helps you, you’re not really fulfilling your destiny,” Pierce says.

Pierce sees the work he does as more than running a business. It’s part of a spiritual walk.

“I walk this every day,” he says. “It’s not just a face that I put on; it’s me. It’s everything that I am, everything that I do.”

The intertwining of the creative with the spiritual doesn’t surprise Tania Blanich, executive director of the Rourke Art Gallery Museum in Moorhead.

“I think that is true for any artist, but it is particularly true for Native American artists because it’s not an artificial construct,” Blanich says. “It’s a very natural extension of their various cultures.”

She says that in American Indian thought, there is “such a tie to nature, to the spirituality that we can find in the everyday, and that’s reflected in the art and/or the craft that comes from Native American culture.”

The products Pierce creates come in a fairly wide price range. He has a tobacco bags for $15, a bow and arrow set for $80, necklaces for $10 and one particular leather jacket for $150.

Each one of his dream catchers is unique.

“They’re like snowflakes,” Nienaber says. “They’re all different.”

Pierce believes the work he does is something that flows through him. He says “everything that I do is basically” what God and the ancestors tell him to do.

“It’s not what I want to do,” he says. “It’s not what I think about doing. It’s what they tell me, and that’s what I do.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

Business profile

Wolf Spirit Trading Post

• Location: 817 14th St. S., Fargo

• Phone: (701) 212-9987

• Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday