Those of use who have grown up with immense and invisible (to us) privilege are in a weird (albeit incredibly safe) position right now. Many of us are providing our bodies in marches and protests around the world, providing physical support and an inexhaustible echo for marginalized voices at street level. Others are working tirelessly putting together extensive and comprehensive data packs for lawmakers at both municipal and federal levels. Things are finally happening, but it’s way overdue.
And while many people occupy themselves with these incredibly important activities, there are tons of people who cannot do either of these things for various reasons, but still want to help and aren’t sure how. That’s where we come in. We’re here to show you incredible organizations like Orenda Tribe, a southern California-based collective Navajo artists operating on Navajo land, offering beautiful, sustainable fashion, jewelry, and home goods that directly support their people and protect their sacred land.
Having spent a large part of her professional life designing fast fashion, Orenda Tribe founder Amy Yeung took a chance and changed her life to focus her skills on serving and supporting her endangered community. As the daughter of a full-blood Navajo (or Diné, which is how they refer to themselves), Amy is fully invested in the success and health of her incredibly marginalized community.
She began Orenda Tribe to pull artisans and artists together to create and reimagine products that represents their heritage and values. After all, Indigenous peoples like the Navajo are the original sustainable lifestyle gurus, and the offerings of Orenda Tribe reflect these values through repurposed and reimagined vintage clothing, professionally upcycled jewelry, handmade soaps, art prints, textiles, and one-of-a-kind hats and accessories.
Some of my favorite items from Orenda Tribe:
There are so many types of products on the Orenda Tribe website that it’s almost impossible to leave without wanting something. My cart has been full since the first day I stumbled upon this gorgeous shop, but my total is easily over $1,000 so instead of rendering myself broke, I’ll share my favorites with you.
My Grandfather by Kaitlyn Jones
8″x10″ Digital Print, $25
“Growing up it was common for my family to pick up horned toads when they saw them and refer to them as “cheii” which means grandfather in Diné. We pay them this respect as they are our protectors, they are often depicted acting in anthropomorphic ways similar way to our grandfathers. I wanted to make a piece that honors this aspect of our legends which is why he wears his jewelry, button-up, and blanket. The triangles decorate his blanket in reference to the arrowheads he collects and pays homage to the beauty of how detailed horned toads are. ” – Kaitlyn Jones, Navajo youth
Upcycled Vintage Chonie
Chonie Army, $25
This incredibly fun and comfy pair of underwear might look a little funky at first, but the story behind them adds much-needed context. These are deadstock unisex military underwear from the 1970s that has been reclaimed and upcycled to give new life to something that would’ve otherwise ended up in the trash. A symbol of rebirth has been screen-printed on the front and each pair is hand-dyed with unique patterns to add the southwestern touch to these otherwise dull and drab “chonies” (a Mexican-derived slang for underwear) . There are many colors and sizes available on Orenda Tribe’s website, so find your favorite and snap them up!
Dear Patriarchy Shirt
Indigenous Goddess Gang, $75
An upcycled tee dyed with all the colors of a southwestern rainbow features a graphic designed by Indigenous Goddess Gang. The graphic shows a hand embellished with jewelry holding a ceremonial smudge stick with the middle finger of the hand sticking up prominently with the phrase “Dear Patriarchy” in old English lettering emblazoned above the image. Combined with the beautiful sunshine hues of the dye, this is the perfect combination of imagery and color to get your point across. There are a few sizes available in this design, so grab one for your BFF, too!
Navajo-Made Milifiori Rings
Indigenous Made, $395
Just as the description on the website states, this is a future heirloom to anyone who can’t stop themselves from purchasing it. Aside from being one of the most beautiful rings I’ve ever seen, this piece is an original from Dine artist Mary Jane Garcia, who hails from the Tl’og’i and Kinyaa’áanii people.
Garcia recycled a brooch made in the early 1900s from beautiful Venetian glass and transformed it into a gorgeous ring. The intricate design depicts a meadow of flowers, and the ring itself is adjustable to fit nearly anyone’s hand. It’s a must-see, and definitely visit the product page to get a closer look at the fine details of the glasswork. It’s truly beautiful.
If you’ve been fervently following the updates on the COVID-19 outbreaks, you may know that the Navajo Nation has been hit exceptionally hard. Out of the approximately 175,000 people living on Navajo land, over 6,600 have been confirmed to carry the virus, including over 300 deaths (as of June 14, 2020) which is higher than any state in the US. With unemployment at 40% and a looming, constant battle for basic resources from America’s government, the Navajo people are struggling.
Picking up a beautiful piece of jewelry or a gorgeous upcycled garment from Orenda Tribe will absolutely help, but if you’re moved to donate directly to the source and leave inventory for others to purchase, Orenda Tribe has several ways for you to send money straight to the people who need it.
- Donate to Navajo COVID-19 relief here
- Donate to World Central Kitchen which feeds the Navajo Nation
- Donate to help protect sacred Chaco Canyon from the ravenous & greedy fuel industry