June 19, 2019


Michael Largo


MSU Billings student to represent Native American culture at Festival of Cultures

Michael Largo to display beadwork and jewelry at annual event



University Communications and Marketing, 657-2266


MSU BILLINGS NEWS—Michael Largo, a Montana State University Billings student, has been chosen to represent Native American culture at Rocky Mountain College’s Festival of Cultures on June 23.

Largo, a senior studying criminal justice with a minor in art, creates one-of-a-kind hand-beaded bags and jewelry. His art led to him being chosen as the Native American representative at the festival; only one member of a culture is selected to represent their culture at the festival.

A member of the Navajo tribe, Largo has been making jewelry since he was a child. After working in construction for several years, a mugging from which doctors didn’t believe he would recover led to Largo needing to find a new way to make a living. He remembered his mom doing beadwork in his youth, so Largo decided to make beaded bags that he could sell. Each week, he made a new batch of beaded hide bags and took them to a nearby town to sell at trading posts and to tourists coming through the area.

Largo taught himself how to choose beads for his bags by looking at some of the work that was already being made. After finding an old loom that his mom had tucked away, Largo taught himself how to string it. He learned by observing other bead workers and some of the elders in the community. Largo began to draft designs and organize patterns on ledger paper around his house. From there, he figured out how to make those into beadwork. When taking his bags to nearby communities, he regularly sold out.

After he finishes his studies in December, Largo has considered attending graduate school to become a criminal rehabilitation counselor. Criminal justice has been part of his life since working with the volunteer fire department and rescue unit in his hometown; Largo also was a first responder at car accidents. Due to a knee injury during his high school football career, serving on these forces full-time was not an option. However, Largo still wants to pursue a law enforcement career, whether doing art therapy with inmates in a criminal rehabilitation facility or working as a crime scene photographer. His art minor will help him as he pursues his goals.

“I chose the art minor,” Largo explained, “because art has a lot to do with learning how to see tiny details, solve problems and see things that others who don’t know how to make art can see or feel.” 

Largo has enjoyed success in his beading and jewelry-making journey. Some of Largo’s bags have appeared in galleries across the United States, such as in Delaware and Colorado. He will be selling his bags and jewelry at the event along with other vendors at the festival.

The Festival of Cultures will feature some new designs that Largo believes the Billings community will enjoy. The 25th Festival of Cultures will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The Institute for Peace Studies at RMC founded the festival to promote and educate the Billings area on the many cultures of our world and region. The festival teaches adults and children about various regions and cultures through interactions with performers and vendors.