I've always been jealous of my non-Native friends.
How cool, I'd think when I'd imagine my Jagnash (white) friends sneaking into their mom's jewellery chest and pulling out some rusty comb with a ruby on it or a tarnished silver spoon.
Where are my family artifacts? Why haven't I seen anything belonging to family members beyond my great-grandparents (four of whom were and are still living in my lifetime)? Oh, right: museums. Most recently, my community is engaging in a process with the the National Museum of the American Indian to repatriate some items. I guess this is where our artifacts (potential heirlooms?) are.
Or are they closer than I think?
I was visiting my Mama (grandmother on my mom's side) before Christmas. My mom, always proud of her beautiful Christmas tree, asked my Mama if she could use some of the ornaments they had when she was a child. My grandmother disappeared into the basement for a few minutes, then came back up with some boxes, one of which held these mittens and a pair of (what she called) mukluks:
Simple white leather mittens with white wolf fur trim. My late Papa, Allan, "commissioned" a woman from our community to make them for my Mama as a gift.
"I don't wear them anymore," my Mama remarked. "I hardly ever wore the mittens. But I wore the mukluks outside lots. For walks in the bush. Anyway. I don't wear them anymore, so you can have them."
Maybe it's as simple as that: we use things. Or, if we're not using them anymore, we give them to someone who will.