Amy Yeung is the powerhouse creative behind the sustainable + upcycled fashion line, Orenda Tribe, based right here in New Mexico. Tireless in her work to serve and support the indigenous community in New Mexico and beyond, Amy heads many fundraising opportunities, such as her Spread Love + Shine Light auction. The auction donates 100% of its profits to COVID-19 relief efforts in the Diné Bikeyah ( often called Navajo Nation). Most recently for Indigenous People’s Day, Amy collaborated with Grammy nominated artist Jewel, to raise funds for domestic violence shelters impacted by COVID-19.
What is Orenda Tribe and what inspired you to start it?
Orenda Tribe is my soul journey. I believe that there is power in our choices, and that all of us have the power to make change for good. After a career of designing fast fashion clothing destined for landfills, 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 fueled by my desire to honor my Indigeneity, to protect our sacred lands, and to help others.
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.
How has your background in fast fashion/design impacted the way you run Orenda Tribe?
When I had my daughter, I started to think about what I wanted to teach her and one thing I wanted to share with her was sustainability. I have always valued my connection to the earth and it hurt my heart to realize that I was working in an industry that was contributing to fast fashion and clothing waste. I wanted my daughter to have the same values I do and that includes being able to walk away from opportunities that my heart didn't stand by.
The Orenda Tribe team travels the world collecting beautiful treasures, we work in our studio year round to create one-of-a-kind products. We source our materials from the strangest places, we like products that have stories to tell.
Can you share how the impact COVID-19 is especially devastating for your Diné relatives?
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected Dinétah and continues to threaten our communities. Currently, The Navajo Nation has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases among tribal nations. We are so thankful to welcome so many beautiful creatives into our Circle of Rainbow Makers. We are especially grateful to our sister Jewel for joining us in many of our projects. We spent the summer dedicated to delivering care kits World Central Kitchen to Diné children and their families.
Jewel has also joined us in our efforts to assist the domestic violence shelter homes on Dinétah with funding. Currently, many of the shelters are in desperate need of assistance and the government, both tribal and national, are not helping at this time. With COVID-19 greatly impacting the Navajo Nation, these shelters have had an increase of domestic violence and sexual violence cases due to stay at home orders. We have been fundraising to help them stay afloat, many of our auction items specifically help fund the Amá Dóó Álchíní Bíghan (ADABI) shelter in Chinle, Arizona. Jewel has also donated pieces from her jewelry collection, Songlines by Jewel, to our auction.
On Indigenous Peoples Day (October 12) we will be hosting the Voices of Hwǫłdzil benefit concert to raise funds for the ADABI healing shelter. Through this benefit concert we hope to raise $200K to help fund the daily operations of these shelters. The funds will provide PPE, food, supplies and utilities. This funding will support ADABI through the end of the year, ensuring that they do not have to worry about funding for the next three months.
You have raised over a million dollars to aid your Diné relatives. Tell us how you are doing it and how can our readers participate/help?
Orenda Tribe has always been about fostering Indigeneity and community, we couldn’t just wait for others to help our community when we had the resources and connections to do so. As a mother and a matriarch my heart hurts for our relatives, especially our youth, who have been affected by COVID-19. This initiative first started out with providing masks for Dinétah, now we have multiple projects to support our relatives. Our commitment to this work goes farther than what is needed now, expanding into the future to invest in projects focusing on reclaiming land for cultural practices including gardening, uplifting our relatives and inspiring Native artists. We believe that part of our movement includes the heart work we are doing with and for our community.
You can help by sharing and amplifying 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 are an artist, consider donating something to the auction for others to purchase. You can donate to the ADABI shelter directly at https://www.adabihealingshelter.org/donate or by texting ORENDA to 707070.
What keeps you inspired in these (challenging) times?
The earth, the sky and tie dye.
Tell us how you are supporting the next generation of Indigenous creatives?
Orenda Tribe actively hires and supports young Indigenous creatives. Our upcoming Voices of Hwǫłdzil concert is filmed by Shaun Price, a young Diné creative and features many young Indigenous artists like Haatałii, Dirt Rhodes, Nizhonniya, Mato Wayuhi and Raye Zaragoza. Our shop hosts products by our young relatives and we also collaborate with Indigenous artists like Diné poet, Kinsale Hues.
I have been dreaming of creating an ecommerce mentorship program for young Indigenous creatives. I want to teach Native youth how to harness their creativeness, to make a career with their art. I originally envisioned this as a class taught at schools on the Diné reservation but I think it would be best to make it available onlline for everyone. I want to give our youth the power to be their own brand, business or entrepreneur.
I have been working on a project to build a skate park with a surrounding ancestral garden in Tohaali (Two Grey Hills, NM). Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 we have had to postpone this project. I want to create more recreational spaces for Diné youth, places where they can be a kid and enjoy themselves while being surrounded with our ancestral plants. I want to expand this project to other communities on the reservation, for all of our youth to enjoy.
What’s your favorite Vapour product? Why do you love it?
Essential Daily Primer and High Voltage Lipstick in Madam. Essential Daily Primer is the most amazing base layer, it gives my skin such an even glow, and the Madam lipstick is a perfect nearly nude shade for me, it feels like I have nothing on...