Orenda Tribe: The Navajo-Owned Vintage Brand Empowering Indigenous Communities

Orenda Tribe: The Navajo-Owned Vintage Brand Empowering Indigenous Communities

Trading in a career in fast fashion to reconnect with her Navajo roots, Orenda Tribe founder Amy Leung set about designing sustainably made, upcycled vintage apparel. Now she’s on a mission to uplift and support the US’s indigenous communities.

Inside all of us is the power to make a change,

Amy Yeung, a proud Diné woman and the founder of Orenda Tribe.

a bid to reconnect with her Navajo heritage, she traded in a
career designing fast fashion to found her own label, which
specialises in sustainably made, handcrafted and repurposed vintage

Her focus has shifted somewhat this year, as COVID-19 wages
disproportionate devastation on Dinétah and the Diné people.
Through the Dził Asdzáán Command Center, the Orenda Tribe has
helped to provide meals, reusable masks, PPE and hand sanitiser for
its Diné relatives. Yet Yeung’s work doesn’t end there; as an
advocate for America’s indigenous communities, she’s on a mission
to uplift and empower Native youths and artists, and reclaim land
for cultural practices.

She lets us in on her “soul journey” towards reconnecting with
her Navajo heritage and how we can support the US’s indigenous
communities from home.

Introduce yourself in your own words.

Yá’át’ééh, shí éí Amy Yeung yinishyé, ákót’éego diné asdzáán
nishłį́. I greet you​ ​with the universe, between Mother Earth and
Father Sky. I’m Amy Yueng, I am a proud Diné woman and the founder
of Orenda Tribe.

Tell us about your Navajo heritage.

I am the daughter of a full-blooded Navajo, and my family comes
from the region around the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area and
Chaco Canyon. My mother was taken from her mother at a young age
and relocated to in Ohio in the early 60s as part of a US
government initiative to move young Native Americans off of their
reservations. When she became pregnant, adoption was her only
option; she had no support and her family was never told. I was
adopted into a non-Diné family and only learned about my heritage
later on in my life.

What impact did this have on you?

I grew up separated from my culture. I only found my mother
through the internet after my daughter was born – I wanted her to
know where she comes from and who she is.

Reconnecting has been a long, often hard journey for me; working
and establishing kinship with other Indigenous womxn has been an
important part of my experience. I’m thankful that they supported
and nurtured me through this process. They have become my sisters
and my mothers. Every day, I learn new things about myself and my
culture, including our language and traditions.

Tell us about Orenda Tribe.

Orenda Tribe is my soul journey. I believe that there is power
in our choices, and that all of us can make change for good. After
a career spent designing fast-fashion clothing destined for
landfill, I arrived at a place of creating with consciousness. I
have long believed in sustainable design processes – handmade,
restored and repurposed vintage, one-of-a-kind upcycling of
textiles. Orenda Tribe is built on these tenets and fuelled by my
desire to honour my indigeneity, to protect our sacred lands and to
help others.

What is the Orenda Tribe mission?

Recently, we have focused our efforts around aiding our Diné
relatives. The
pandemic has greatly affected Dinétah and continues to
threaten the Diné people. In response to the pandemic, Orenda Tribe
founded the Dził Asdzáán (Mountain Woman) Command Center, a
collective of Diné matriarchs that has provided meals, reusable
masks, PPE and hand sanitiser for our relatives.


Orenda Tribe is about fostering indigeneity and community; we
couldn’t just wait for others to help when we had the resources and
connections to do so. SPREAD LOVE + SHINE LIGHT is an ongoing auction, from
which 100 per cent of the proceeds support the work of our Dził
Asdzáán Command Center.

Dinétah is disproportionately affected by COVID-19. In addition
to the Dził Asdzáán Command Center’s relief efforts, what other
initiatives are you working on?

The Diné has been one of the hardest-hit tribes during the
pandemic, with the number of positive cases per capita surpassing
those in New
and New Jersey. With the support of our sister Jewel, our
current initiatives include the Children of Nááts’íilid project, which delivers
care kits to Diné children and for which we hosted the Voices of
Siihasin Benefit Concert in July – artists who participated
included Sia and Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers. We also offer
continued support for domestic abuse shelters on Dinétah, including
the Amá Dóó Áłchíní Bíghan shelter in Chinle,
. In the future, we want to invest in projects focusing
on reclaiming land for cultural practices, including gardening,
uplifting our relatives and inspiring Native artists.

How can we help?

Share and amplify the​ ​Dził Asdzáán Command Center’s work on
social media and within your network. Purchase something from the
SPREAD LOVE + SHINE LIGHT auction, and if you’re an artist,
consider donating something to the auction for others to purchase.
Donate to our Children of Nááts’íilid heart project here– it only takes $15 (£11) to fund one care kit
including pantry staples and produce. You can donate
to the ADABI shelter directly
​​​ or purchase a ADABI shirt from
our auction.

What future do you envision for the Navajo people and cultures
of the Southwest?

Continuing to work on the inequalities between on- and
off-reservation communities is important. My daughter grew up in
California with so many more opportunities than our young relatives
from Dinétah. They are dreams are hindered by the lack of
representation enjoyed by our communities. We want to continue to
support and uplift our youth, including their creativity and their
passions. Our work with the Tohaali Community School was birthed
out of this love as well as the Children of the ​Nááts’íilid
project. We envision a brighter future for them, a world in which
they feel the possibility to be everything they want to be.

Indigenous artists to follow:

@olathesart; @darklistedphotography; @balexworks

Organisations to follow:

@navajommdr; @ndncollective; @wckitchen

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