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21 til 31 Communities : Orenda Tribe

I used to covet clothes from anthropologie. They were too expensive. I rarely actually bought clothes from them. When I did have the money to splurge I learned that many, perhaps all, of their designs are stolen from various groups of indigenous people from all over the world. I have not looked at their clothes since. Turns out I never did like that they’re clothes—they don’t really make anything. I actually like indigenous textile traditions. No surprise there.

Orenda Tribe (@orendatribe) is one of the indigenous textile artists that I follow and whose work I covet. Just a few days ago I sent an image of one of their latest designs (the top picture on the right) to a friend. Along with the picture I sent a text “someone please buy me the stuff for my birthday. The skirt too, OK thanks. “

Today, I open my Instagram to see that Anthropologie (@anthropologie) has stolen and is selling a knock off of the Orenda Tribe design. Orenda Tribe is a small, indigenous woman owned and operated business. In their own words:

“Orenda Tribe is made up of a community of hands working together to craft each unique piece and carry the stories of another time to you. We are a small team of artists and makers around the world, including Indigenous artists from Dinétah. We are lovers of old things, inspired by the energy of vintage textiles. We can feel the lives they’ve lived before they’ve arrived in our hands, and we seek to continue this life cycle. With each Orenda Tribe garment, we creatively approach the upcycling process to repurpose for the future.

Recently, we have focused our efforts around aiding our Diné relatives. The COVID-19 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 sanitizer for our relatives. We have also hosted the ongoing SPREAD LOVE + SHINE LIGHT auction to fund our efforts. 100% of the proceeds go to the work of our Command Center.”

The top in the above picture was designed by the owner’s daughter. Anthropology, which operates in the stores on the stolen, Unseeded lands that we all occupy, is appropriating indigenouse culture, indigenous craft traditions, indigenous intellectual labor for profit. Orenda Tribe is calling on us to support them by demanding that Anthropologie give a portion of the profit from the top whose design they stole to fund a skate park for Diné youth.

Even this demand is generous! Do you know how long it takes to hand dye fibers? O hand weave fabric? Sew it together to make clothes? How much labor goes into learning the skills to do that? How much resource goes into acquiring and maintaining the space tools and equipment to do all of that? These kind of knowledge and resources are built over time, are sustained by being passed down over generations from person to person. It is a cultural inheritance.

I don’t weave. I don’t have the patience or the resources or the space. If I did though and somebody rolled up and stole my shit I would be trying to burn their shit down. Kudos to Orenda Tribe for the gracious strategic way that they are responding to this theft.

Today I am asking you to support my communities, to support the continued existence of strongholds for indigenous craft, by amplifying Orinda tribes demand.

Tell anthropology to pay reparations. Use the #dinéskategardenproject. .Before this incident I had already been planning to post about Orenda Tribe as part of 31 till 31. I will still do so. In the meantime, head to the link in their bio @Orendatribe to learn more about their work clothes and organizing.

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