Joe Parkin, owner of White Buffalo on the riverfront, is welcoming the past into the present. His shop features Native American art and showcases the artistry that was once a way of life in central Illinois.

Parkin was raised in Manito, and except for the years he spent in the west and southwest, he's lived and worked in Illinois for the vast majority of his life. "I attended WIU in the mid-1950s, studying education. I taught fifth grade and coached basketball and track in Petersburg after graduation but then worked as an operating engineer for about 30 years."

He said he was always interested in art, but it was a trip to visit his brother that sparked his next career. "My interest in Indian art is a result of my brother's influence and moving to the Albuquerque, N.M., area, where he was dabbling in Indian art. Two years later, I opened a store in Gallup, N.M., which I ran for five years. It was the precursor for the present-day White Buffalo."

Parkin opened the Peoria version of White Buffalo about five years ago, after retiring as an engineer. "I wanted to spend my retirement doing something I really had an interest in," he said.

His shop is an homage to his wide interest in Native American art. "It features handcrafted jewelry from the Zunit Navajo of the southwest, handmade furniture from the tribes in the Sierra Madre Mountains, pottery of the Pueblo Indians from the southwest and Mexico, sculptures from the Plain Indians, kachinas (hand-carved dieties) of the Hopi and Navajo in the southwest, artwork and sculptures of the Six Nations-six tribes on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, and paintings by Native American artists from all over the country," he said.

He said the Native jewelry, paintings, and prints have been most popular at his store. "It's probably because of the quality," Parkin said, "some of which is a lost art for the most part."

The best part about this riverfront venture is in preserving and re-enlivening a way of life and culture that lived in harmony with nature, he said. Parkin also thrives in his riverfront site. "I love the river location, which was probably inhabited by Indians in the past."

One of the difficulties he's faced is trying to break stereotypes about Native Americans. "Many still think of them as savages. They don't appreciate that the spirit of their Indian ancestors is in the artwork and the positive effect this energy has on their environment when they bring these artifacts home," he said.

Parkin, who isn't an artist but certainly has an eye for art, has bigger plans for his shop than to simply turn a profit. "I want to be not only an integral part of the growth of the riverfront area, but also to help support the economic welfare of our Native American brothers who've suffered terribly over the years."

Anyone who's visited White Buffalo can attest to its unique atmosphere and offerings. "Stepping though the threshold is like getting caught in between dimensions of different times," he said. "A part of who you think you are begins to unravel. What's unique about the shop is how I've come by all of these wonderful, varied items. Mostly, I take quick trips to New Mexico, Oklahoma, Montana, or wherever I go when I visit friends-many of whom are the artists who paint, sculpt, design, or hand-fashion the artifacts. Visiting White Buffalo changes a shopping trip into a step back in time and, most importantly, an opportunity to reconnect with spirits of the past." AA!Joe Parkin, owner of White Buffalo on the riverfront, is welcoming the past into the present. His shop features Native American art and showcases the artistry that was once a way of life in central Illinois.

Parkin was raised in Manito, and except for the years he spent in the west and southwest, he's lived and worked in Illinois for the vast majority of his life. "I attended WIU in the mid-1950s, studying education. I taught fifth grade and coached basketball and track in Petersburg after graduation but then worked as an operating engineer for about 30 years."

He said he was always interested in art, but it was a trip to visit his brother that sparked his next career. "My interest in Indian art is a result of my brother's influence and moving to the Albuquerque, N.M., area, where he was dabbling in Indian art. Two years later, I opened a store in Gallup, N.M., which I ran for five years. It was the precursor for the present-day White Buffalo."

Parkin opened the Peoria version of White Buffalo about five years ago, after retiring as an engineer. "I wanted to spend my retirement doing something I really had an interest in," he said.

His shop is an homage to his wide interest in Native American art. "It features handcrafted jewelry from the Zunit Navajo of the southwest, handmade furniture from the tribes in the Sierra Madre Mountains, pottery of the Pueblo Indians from the southwest and Mexico, sculptures from the Plain Indians, kachinas (hand-carved dieties) of the Hopi and Navajo in the southwest, artwork and sculptures of the Six Nations-six tribes on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, and paintings by Native American artists from all over the country," he said.

He said the Native jewelry, paintings, and prints have been most popular at his store. "It's probably because of the quality," Parkin said, "some of which is a lost art for the most part."

The best part about this riverfront venture is in preserving and re-enlivening a way of life and culture that lived in harmony with nature, he said. Parkin also thrives in his riverfront site. "I love the river location, which was probably inhabited by Indians in the past."

One of the difficulties he's faced is trying to break stereotypes about Native Americans. "Many still think of them as savages. They don't appreciate that the spirit of their Indian ancestors is in the artwork and the positive effect this energy has on their environment when they bring these artifacts home," he said.

Parkin, who isn't an artist but certainly has an eye for art, has bigger plans for his shop than to simply turn a profit. "I want to be not only an integral part of the growth of the riverfront area, but also to help support the economic welfare of our Native American brothers who've suffered terribly over the years."

Anyone who's visited White Buffalo can attest to its unique atmosphere and offerings. "Stepping though the threshold is like getting caught in between dimensions of different times," he said. "A part of who you think you are begins to unravel. What's unique about the shop is how I've come by all of these wonderful, varied items. Mostly, I take quick trips to New Mexico, Oklahoma, Montana, or wherever I go when I visit friends-many of whom are the artists who paint, sculpt, design, or hand-fashion the artifacts. Visiting White Buffalo changes a shopping trip into a step back in time and, most importantly, an opportunity to reconnect with spirits of the past." AA!