BY MICHAEL REISIG –
There is no other place in Mena, or Polk County for that matter that displays and cherishes this country’s Native American heritage like The Four Winds Trading Post. The organization relocated in the early spring of this year, opening up in downtown Mena, on Mena Street, right next to The Skyline Café.
Lyn Dilbeck, who is the founder of the trading post, is part Cherokee and has a passion for all things Native American, and her “trading post” reflects that.
“We felt a location on Mena Street would be good for us, and being next to The Skyline has been awesome,” she said. “The traffic is tremendous and the sales are much better, and we’ve probably picked up 10 new vendor/artists.
“This is an all volunteer operation – no one gets a paycheck for the hours put in at the business itself,” she explained. “When I put the shop together I really couldn’t afford to go out and buy items so I thought it would be great to have a place that sold items from all the local artists in the area. Ninety percent of our inventory is from area artists who provide Native American-style items, but finding artists that do ‘native-style’ work is somewhat of a challenge and I’m always open to seeing items from folks in this area who do this kind of thing. Nonetheless, I have to say we have a number of well-known people contributing to our success. Where else can you go in Mena and get a documented Navajo rug?”
Dilbeck was born in Dallas, Texas, but grew up in Louisiana. She came to Mena about 30 years ago and bought a little cabin with no electricity or running water out in Big Fork, because she wanted it that way. She met her husband, Benny, in 1982 and they were married in 1983.
“Benny was a logger and I actually did logging with him for a couple of years before we went into the sawmill business,” Dilbeck explained. “My grandmother on my mother’s side was Cherokee and I have always had a passion for the native way of life. I’ve always felt most comfortable in the outdoors – living off the land, cooking on open fires and dressing my own game – it all just came natural to me. I’ve always had the ability to understand how native crafts were made, from beadwork to buckskin. I could just look at it and understand how to do it. It’s natural to me, so opening this business just seemed like the perfect thing to do.”
Dilbeck explained that the shop offers a wide variety of items from talented artists of the area, giving them a place to display their skills, but that she prides herself on being able to display the talents of genuine American Indians as well.
“Ruth Howell does pine needle baskets which are absolutely beautiful and reasonably priced,” she added. “Lilly Powers does beadwork necklaces and earrings, and Levi Caldwell does magnificent native-style flint knives exactly like those used 200 years ago. Gilda Meyers does pen and ink paintings, Bruce Ewing makes bamboo flutes, Darrell Whisenhunt makes beautiful wooden bowls, Sonja K. Ayres does native prints and pictures on tiles for floors and kitchens or for walls, and Carolyn Cook weaves dreamcatcher earrings.”
In addition, Dilbeck makes amazing buckskin dresses and other leatherwork, along with wood-burning art, rustic furniture, turquoise jewelry, and painted deer hides.
“We have items that are one-of-a-kind, and everything here is really reasonably priced,” she added. “We’d like you to come by and see the talent of Polk County and the heritage of Native Americans.”