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Nike’s N7 Fund Supports Native American Youths And For It’s 10th Anniversary They Designed A Navajo-Inspired Commemorative Collection

Nike’s N7 collection is celebrating 10 years of supporting Native American and aboriginal communities. The iconic sportswear brand teamed up with Pendleton Prints, the American textile company from Portland, Oregon, to create an anniversary collection that features Native American prints and patterns to honor Navajo heritage through design. 

Nike’s N7 Fund is inspired by Native American wisdom of the Seven Generations: in every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the seventh generation.

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The Nike N7 Fund supports organizations that provide sport and physical activity programming to youth in Native American communities. The fund helps them reach their greatest potential through play and sport and creates more equal playing fields for all. Since 2009, the N7 Fund has awarded more than $7.5 million in grants to 259 communities and organizations —and this year, it’s turning 10. 

Tracie Jackson, a graphic designer at Nike, is passing along her grandmother’s legacy in the 10th anniversary of the Nike N7 collection. 

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Upon going blind in old age, Phoebe Nez continued to weave rugs in the Navajo tradition, teaching her young great-granddaughter Tracie Jackson how to take up the craft. The member of the Black Streaked Wood People clan of the Navajo Nation (“Tsi’naajinii”) taught Jackson that every color and shape has a purpose that can be altered by many influences, such as creation stories, the environment and individual experiences. Nez committed her designs to memory, continuing to teach Jackson as her eyesight slowly faded.

Without my great-grandmother, I wouldn’t have learned about my culture, and without my culture, I wouldn’t have been a designer. My family ties are what influence my native identity.” says Jackson.

The collection includes blankets, sneakers, sweatshirts, and t-shirts all containing the storm pattern. 

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This pattern was a favorite of Jackson’s great grandmother and contains meaningful elements like zig-zags that represent lightning and the step patterns signifying the Mesas of Monument Valley in AZ. The pattern is a narrative tapestry of Jackson’s Navajo history, which specializes in designs personal to the individual weaver. Those living in different geographical regions will experience different environments. As the weaver becomes more skilled, he or she creates original designs based on the influences of classic works, personalizing the pieces with different colors and yarns.

Nike’s and Pendleton’s relationship dates back to 2008. 

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Nike first collaborated with the brand over 10 years ago. The sportswear label released ACG x Pendleton All-Mountain collection in an original print back in 2008. They joined forces again in 2013 on another collaboration, this time creating a tee, a jacket, a couple of sneakers and a commemorative blanket. 

But it wasn’t until 2017 when the two companies created a commemorative blanket for PK80 College Basketball Tournament. 

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The 2017 Phil Knight Invitational was a 16 team college basketball event held in Pendleton’s hometown of Portland, Oregon. The tournament was organized to honor Nike’s co-founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday. 

N7’s 10-year anniversary collection, the design is Navajo-inspired and the storm pattern appears consistently.

The storm pattern appears throughout this year’s collection consistently, which also includes hoodies, leggings, joggers and more. Participating college basketball teams this year, will wear Nike N7 x Pendleton’s long sleeve crew as shooting shirts over their turquoise uniforms. 

Jackson also put her spin on the classic Nike Air Zoom Pegasus. 

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The Pegasus 36 N7 x Pendleton will commemorate the running womanhood ceremony that is customary among Navajo circles. “I’m very hands-on with my design process. A lot of native runners reached out to me asking for an N7 version of the Pegasus shoe. And I want to bring the voices of our community in,” she explained. “As native people, our feet are actually wider and flat, so the Pegasus shoe is the most ideal shoe for our body when it comes to running.”

We love to see this kind of representation done so sensibly, ethically and responsibly by brands as big as Nike. Ideally, more brands would pursue diversity —simply because it’s the right thing to do— to be more tone-aware and in touch with customers from every point of the spectrum. It doesn’t take a lot to realize that a diverse workforce that thrives in an inclusive culture leads to a higher level of innovation and an all-round stronger brand that everyone can relate to —maybe that’s why Nike remains as everyone’s favorite, after years and years. Here’s to seeing more projects like N7 come to fruition. 

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