WE ARE ACTIVISTS — LILY & AMY YUENG

Deeply rooted in the authentic nature of women is this simple truth: we contain multitudes. Like the prismatic spectrum of colors, we singularly embody the entire vast possibility of the human experience—the visible and the invisible, the gradation and the shadow, the light and the dark. It is a lot to carry but, like the spectrum of colors, when held in perfect balance on the right wavelength, the result is pure, shining light.

 

The women of Orenda Tribe, an Indigenous owned artistic collective based in New Mexico, are living this vision, working towards radiant balance and shining the light. Led by founder Amy Yeung, whose family comes from the Bisti Wilderness-Chaco Canyon region of the Four Corners, in partnership with her daughter and luminous muse Lily Yeung, Orenda Tribe makes beautiful things: handmade, restored and repurposed vintage, one-of-a-kind textiles in a universe of color. They are also a "community of hands", deeply committed to helping Indigenous makers and artists find opportunities to create and also leveraging the beauty of their vision to direct attention and resources from the world outside Dinétah in support of their Diné relatives. Their work feels both especially crucial and especially poignant and especially exquisite in this exact moment and we were deeply grateful to spend some time in conversation with them. Read on for our meditations with Amy & Lily on the vital gift of space and quiet, reconciling connectivity to community and self, and the power of standing together.

 

Lily wears the Jane B. Tee in Coffee, and the Painted Desert Sisterhood Bandana

  

  

  

  





We love how you say that you have "arrived at a place of creating with consciousness". How does this make your work easier or more fulfilling? Has it complicated your work at all?

Amy: The work is heartbased. It flows effortlessly from a place of love. I don’t really consider this “easy” but I do feel that it is joyful.

 

On different trajectories and timelines, you’ve both moved from L.A. down to New Mexico. The stunning topography and palettes of the desert seem integral to the Orenda Tribe perspective. How important is sense of place to your work?

Lily: Deciding to move to New Mexico has been very much this experience of creating space to grow, connecting with the earth, and learning more about my heritage and traditions. That has definitely influenced my work and focus in a way that’s very important to me.

Amy: It was deeply important for me to come home to the land of my ancestors, to reconnect and learn ancestral wisdom and the Diné lifeways. Being authentic has allowed me to focus.

 

How has this commitment to authenticity informed how and why you design the way you do?

Lily: It allows me to create things that bring me joy and not let the pressure of what others think affect my decisions as much.

 Amy: It has eliminated noise. BE STILL and the EARTH will SPEAK TO YOU. This is everything. And it allows for our daily process: processing our emotions through color.

 

In terms of business-work and life-work, it is so marvelous (and rare) for mothers and daughters to be working together. How do you see the threads of matriarchy, femininity, and community in play through your work?

Amy: My work as a solutionary (a.k.a. a revolutionary problem solver/inventive activist) is completely focused on community. In response to the pandemic, we founded the Dził Asdzáán (Mountain Woman) Command Center, a collective of Diné matriarchs to spearhead grassroots efforts to bring aid. As women we are protectors. And women…well, we get sh*t done. We also are working with the Amá Dóó Áłchíní Bíghan (translation: Mother and Child, ADABI for short) domestic abuse shelter in Chinle, NM, which has seen both cuts to funding and an increase in need due to the pandemic. The women working at these shelters are our front line, ensuring that our Diné communities are safe and cared for. Our hope is to assure these matriarchs can continue their vital services to our communities…To share this journey with my own daughter has been truly amazing.






  

  

 

Lily wears the Wilma Pullover in Beige, and Mason Pants in Ochre





 

 

Lily wears the Eva Jumpsuit in Ochre, and Amy in Pale Avocado

  

  

  

  

 

  





How do you make and hold continued sacred space in your heart and mind for creating? Has that changed in the past few months?

Amy: I’m continuing to reduce. To get to a pure form. This space of silence and meditation is where I find all the answers.

Lily: Getting out into wide open natural spaces (and deciding to move out of a place that was more urban) has been a big change for me and has really silenced a lot of the distractions I was having and allowed me to focus on what I want to create for myself and others.

 

Your commitments to supporting your community seem at once deeply generous and also beautifully inevitable, as if it truly couldn't be any other way. One thing it seems we're all feeling (on every scale, from the deeply personal to the global) is that it feels like a lot needs "fixing" at once. How do you prioritize without overwhelm?

Lily: For me I definitely feel overwhelmed often but taking immediate direct action (whether through spreading awareness, economic action, or looking for a solution as I learn of these issues instead of waiting for someone else to or thinking I can just do it later) has felt key. It allows you to make space in your life dedicated specifically to something you are passionate about, tailored to ways you know you can help.

 

When do you feel most powerful? Most beautiful? Most vulnerable? Most authentically yourself?

Amy: Powerful, beautiful, vulnerable. These are words that focus on self. If we focus on humanity, then I can only say there is joyfulness in being of service to others. That is when I feel most authentically myself.

Lily: I feel most powerful when my actions have a positive effect on others, I feel most beautiful when I’m in nature and immersed in feeling and seeing everything around me, I feel most vulnerable when I’m sharing my art with others, and I feel most authentically myself when I’m creating.

 

We so deeply value what you call "heart-work" for your community and imagine that at this exact moment that work might feel extra heavy. Are there any self-care rituals or rituals of lightness that you engage with at the current moment of upheaval?

Lily: I try to take time to walk outside and focus on the positive feelings of being in nature and being grateful for that.

Amy: Connection to the Mother Earth and Father Sky. This focus of being, is a daily ritual, and guides my intentions.

  

  

Read more about Lily & Amy's work here and follow their adventures on Instagram here and here. Photos by Nate Lemuel, a Diné creative based in Albuquerque who has been a visual storyteller for Orenda Tribe through the COVID crisis.

Sales from our Limited Edition Sisterhood Bandana in Painted Desert, made in collaboration with Orenda Tribe and naturally dyed, will be donated to the ADABI Healing Shelter, a non-profit serving victims and survivors of intimate partner violence in the Chinle Agency and surrounding areas of the Navajo Nation.

 

 

  

 

 

 

Amy wears the Eva Jumpsuit, Heavy Laundered Linen, Ochre

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