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Buffalotown Clothing Co. mixes pop and Cherokee culture

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T-shirts with designs such as the "Water Panther" are part of the merchandise sold by Buffalotown Clothing Company, owned and operated by EBCI citizen Luke Swimmer and his family. - Lindsey Bark / Cherokee Phoenix

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The "Skoden" design, right, is a new design inspired by a saying often heard in Native communities in conjunction with going to stomp dances, created by EBCI citizen and owner of Buffalotown Clothing Company, Luke Swimmer. - Lindsey Bark / Cherokee Phoenix

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Stickers and buttons with designs created by EBCI citizen Luke Swimmer are a part of the merchandise available through the Buffalotown Clothing Company.

LAWRENCE, Kansas – Buffalotown Clothing Company, created by Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen Luke Swimmer, pays homage to Cherokee culture and heritage with modern pop culture designs on merchandise such as T-shirts, hoodies, shorts, and stickers.

The name Buffalotown is based on an old Cherokee township that once existed in North Carolina near the town of Cherokee, which was combined with another township called Ottertown to create the Snowbird Community, the home of Swimmer’s wife, Tabytha.

“The name Buffalotown is actually the name of a township that my wife’s from. At one point after removal, they combined those two townships into Snowbird. That’s where the name came from, and it’s just a way to kind of shout out or honor where we’re from. That community doesn’t get a lot of representation,” Swimmer said.

More commonly known as just Buffalotown, the family business started in 2017. Swimmer said he has always done graphic design in some capacity and decided to create T-shirts using his designs.

“I’ve always done graphic design and stuff like that. I always thought about doing shirts, like taking some of my drawings and doing shirts. I thought ‘well let’s just try it.’ We bought some shirts and sold every one of them. Everybody loved them. It’s been going like that ever since,” he said.

Swimmer’s designs stem from his interests in skateboarding and tattooing while growing up, and also “revamping” old or traditional Cherokee concepts.

“Kind of a modernization of our culture and traditions. Trying to take old things and trying to revamp them,” he said.

His new design called “Water Panther” intertwines modern and traditional designs from different cultures, he said.

“The panther design is just a really cool design that I thought would look good on a shirt. What I did was incorporate a ‘traditional’ style tattoo panther with a truly traditional style panther design. The panther holds significance in our culture with the blue clan being referred to as the panther clan at times,” Swimmer said.

The “Skoden” design is based on a phrase often heard in Indian Country used to say, “let’s go then.”

“I used the Skoal bandit for reference since I grew up watching NASCAR with my dad because he used to race. The sport is very popular in North Carolina. The design also mixes with Cherokee culture with stomp dances as depicted with the hat with the feather and tobacco being used for prayer, ceremonies, etc. To me it is answering to someone asking about going to stomp, ‘Skoden,’” he said.

The brand can be recognized by its logo, an interpretation of Sequoyah, the originator of the Cherokee syllabary.

“It’s just a cool image. That was the first step was creating a brand and creating a logo. I wanted the logo to be strong to where once you see it it’s like ‘oh, that’s Buffalotown.’ It’s just like the strength of a Nike check,” he said.

He said he used brand awareness by first creating the logo, a business tactic he learned in school while earning his Masters in Business Administration, to help market his business and get people interested. He also plans to pass down his entrepreneurism to his own children.

“It’s my wife and I’s company. We’re trying to make it where our kids can pick up and learn how to do it. Entrepreneurship is kind of woven into our culture. My grandma, Amanda Swimmer, I grew up watching her make stuff, go to town and sell it to make money. It’s kind of like my way of doing what she was doing. She taught my dad how to make pottery, and he does that to this day. I create art and we make shirts and hopefully they’ll learn how to do that,” Swimmer said.

For more information, visit thebuffalotown.com or Buffalotown Clothing Co. on Facebook.

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