A Proud Heritage

Pamela Best Minick doesn’t just know her heritage; she lives it. 

Minick owns White Buffalo Trading Co., an eclectic boutique filled with Native American jewelry, clothing and artwork. She dances across the country with Lightwalker, a group that combines musical worship with Native American praise dance to preserve and honor Native American culture. Minick and her husband even served as foster parents to Native American children until they adopted a daughter of their own. 

Minick has lived in different parts of the country and held many different jobs, but there has always been one common thread woven throughout her life–her irrefutable link to her culture and family history. 

“It’s just who I am, and it just fits,” she says. 

Walking into Minick’s store at 135th St. and Metcalf Ave., it isn’t hard to see just how passionate she is about preserving and supporting Native American art and history. 

The small store is packed full of hand-crafted relics that attest to the rich history of the culture as well as modern jewelry and artwork that highlight the fine craftsmanship and skill of today’s Native American artists. 

In one cabinet, there is a colorful beaded war club that dates back to the late 1800s or early 1900s. It has been suggested that the club was probably used during popular Wild Wild West shows. 

Nearby, there’s a fully beaded Lakota cradleboard that hangs on the wall just around the corner from an intricately designed belt, hand-crafted by a popular Navajo artist.

In one of several jewelry cases, Minick displays several squash blossom necklaces that date back many years. The beautiful necklaces are made of silver with large turquoise inlays that shine brightly through the glass. 

“It’s cool when you get a piece of jewelry and you find the story behind it,” Minick says. 

But the White Buffalo Trading Co. isn’t just a store that sells antiques and artifacts, it also features the work of modern day Native American artists. 

Minick herself makes custom capes from deerskin that can include anything from loomed beadwork to fur collars or fringe. Each cape is handmade specifically to a customer’s specifications.

“They take a long time to make,” she says. 

She also has a wide selection of pendants, earrings, necklaces and bracelets from modern-day Native American designers. Many of the pieces feature beautiful turquoise stones that range in color from green to white, but Minick says Native American artists also use stones such as diamonds and opals in their work.

“It’s not all turquoise,” she says. 

Customers can even pick up one of many hand-carved fetishes–small stones carved in the shape of animals that stand for certain characteristics or qualities. For example, a fox represents camouflage and protection, while a beaver promotes family unity. 

Minick travels across the country to various reservations and trade shows to purchase goods for the store, which recently moved to Overland Park from its previous home in Mission, Kan.

The store is a labor of love for Minick. It has given her the opportunity not only to promote Native American culture and art to Johnson County residents but also to support Native American artists, jewelry designers and tradesmen by selling their goods. 

“Everything in here is hand-picked by me, and I love every piece,” she says. 

Minick’s father, who is a shield and knife maker, grew up on a Dakota reservation in Nebraska, while her mother has Cherokee ancestry. 

Minick grew up learning about each tribe’s customs and practices and has adopted the philosophies into her own life. While she’s held other jobs and managed other types of stores, Minick said she’s been the happiest at White Buffalo Trading Co., where she can combine her business-savvy skills with one of her true passions. 

“It’s been great,” she says. 

The move to Overland Park has also increased traffic at the store and has already improved business. White Buffalo Trading Co. is located in the Deer Creek Woods shopping center. 

“A lot of the comments are that customers can’t believe the quality of jewelry and the artwork,” she says. 

Whether customers are looking for expensive artifacts or simply a $22 pair of earrings, Minick says she has something for everyone. 

“I think there is something in here everyone can afford,” she says.