SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – An Anishinaabek-owned company, NDNSkins.com, strives to provide visual communications from an American Indian perspective. Owner Nathan Wright said his company’s philosophy is “identity by design,” providing visual communications through clothing; Web site design, development and maintenance; and video production.
NDNSkins began in 2005 when Wright ran across an old logo of a thunderbird his father had created. He had the logo screen printed on a T-shirt and has now expanded to four designs with his T-shirts being sold at local pow wows and by distributors, including Kewadin Casino gift shops throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His previous merchandising experience dates back to the mid-’90s, when he sold rock and roll posters, T-shirts and other memorabilia.
With five new shirts in the works, Wright said he plans to add more American Indian and animal designs. “I love images that capture your attention, inspire you to look within yourself and motivate you.
Photo courtesy Nathan Wright
Richard Lewis, co-owner of the Mahdezewin store, an American Indian store specializing in Native art and authentic Indian products in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., proudly wore one of NDNSkin’s shirts.
With 14 years of Web site experience, his clients have included the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and corporations such as John Deere Inc.
Wright said, “After the initial setup we like to offer tribal governments a great-looking site at an affordable cost. We use an open source content management system that allows us to create appealing sites.”
Having three part-time staff also allows Wright time to add another dimension to his visual communications company in the form of video production. He is currently producing a documentary video for the Anishinaabek Joint Commission on a recent treaty rights summit.
“I also produced a four-minute clip of a local Anishinaabek woman who does what she calls ‘plant walks.’ She takes people outdoors and teaches them about medicinal plants, where they grow and how to prepare them to use as teas. NDNSkins markets culture: we show people things they may not be aware of.” Some profits from his company find their way back into the community to help keep Anishinaabek culture alive. Both videos are featured on the NDNSkins Web site.
“We are beautiful people. NDNSkins depicts our people the way we were traditionally and the way we are today with what we wear. When you put on regalia for a pow wow you are telling people who you are by displaying your colors and clan. I am taking that concept in a modern sense and doing the same thing with my T-shirts. I work with American Indian artists and speakers of the Anishinaabek language to make sure our products are visually beautiful for American Indian people and everyone else to enjoy.”
Wright traces his Anishinaabek ancestry to the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Grand Island, Lac Courte Oreilles, Michilmackinong, Manitoulin Island, Grand River, Michipicoten and Batchewana First Nations. His father, Mike Wright, was an American Indian activist who participated in the BIA takeover in Washington, D.C., in the early 1970s; and his great-great-grandfather was Chief Gogiosh, who resided on Whitefish Island in St. Marys River until his forced removal in the early 1900s.
“I focus a lot of attention on American Indian people and culture because that is who I am,” he said. “We are visual people; we communicate visually. My company aims to provide businesses, tribal governments and individuals with a media production company that communicates who we are as American Indians.”
In addition to T-shirts, NDNSkins will soon be offering other unique products, such as herbal teas and salves made with traditional American Indian ingredients, on its Web site at www.NDNSkins.com. Wright can be contacted at (888) 245-5887.