“Native Americans Discovered Columbus,” the T-shirt reads in bright yellow and white letters. Just below the bold statement, the brand name signs off on this act of Indigenous resistance: “OXDX.”
Jared Yazzie, the Diné designer, creative director, and founder of Tempe-based OXDX Clothing, thought he would end up a graffiti or street artist, but his skills weren't strong enough. Streetwear was a good alternative as an adjacent artistic medium, he says.
“Streetwear is super-influenced by what’s going on with regular people,” he says. “And a T-shirt, a graphic is literally a walking billboard. You can toss something on it ... and people will support it, they’ll rock it and wear it in all these different places.”
The brand’s mission, as laid out on its website, is to “[bring] to light Indigenous issues and [challenge] the institutions censoring our existence.”
“This art is the way to be very outspoken, to be loud and to show the opinions that I have without actually yelling out on the streets,” he says.
Expressions of those views include the Columbus T-shirt; a top depicting three Indigenous women, one of whom wears a shirt that reads, "Together We Rise"; and a mashup of the Cleveland Indians logo and the Misfits logo, with the message "Mis-Rep" (for misrepresentation of Native people).
For Yazzie, speaking out is about more than voicing opinions — it’s about telling the stories of a people that don’t get to be heard often enough.
“With the Native identity, that’s an end goal for us,” he says. “We’re all storytellers by nature.”
The name OXDX is an acronym for “overdose.” When Yazzie went to The University of Arizona in 2009, he looked around at the life he was stepping into compared to the life of his grandparents living on the Navajo reservation, and was overwhelmed.
His grandparents "only spoke Navajo. They lived on the rez, they raised livestock, they raised corn,” he says. “So ‘overdose’ was just a word for me describing society and how they view things. I thought people should think back to what’s really important to think back on — community, family, and traditional teachings.”
Yazzie sees the recent surge in Native clothing brands and jewelry companies as a manifestation of that generational instinct and knowledge. He recalls the fashion shows he did in parking lots, powwow fields, and wherever else he could manage to show his passion, craft, and hard work, and thinks of it as nothing new.
“Indigenous people have been preparing for this,” he says. “It really comes natural for us to show off, at least as far as clothing goes, because our ancestors did that.”
A Cleveland Indians/Misfits mashup shirt decries Native stereotypes.
Though Yazzie has been running OXDX for six years now, he has had the help of technical designer Allie Stone for the past two years. Stone responded to a social media post that OXDX posted looking for people to do patchwork and textile work for the company. After completing a trial project overnight and handing it back to Yazzie, Stone was hired onto the team, and has remained with the company ever since. (In fact, Yazzie and Stone recently became engaged.)
Stone says she became a follower of OXDX after seeing the Columbus shirt.
“It was mixing art and activism and I thought it was really dope,” she says.
That activism is important to Yazzie. He says it’s hard to be Native in a world that either misrepresents you and your people or refuses to represent them at all, and that shouldn’t go unsaid.
“We’ve talked a lot about stereotyping with sports mascots, incorrectly-told histories … But even deeper, we do a lot of environmental issue-focused stuff. We have one [design] called Chemical Warfare that speaks on uranium mining on reservations,” he says. “A lot of Native resistance type stuff, and then overall, the brand is just positive representation to shout out all the Navajo people and Native people in general.”
Even though she’s Chicana, not Native American, Stone says the messaging of OXDX and the issues tackled by the brand still matter to her and are important to highlight.
“The issues don’t go away, so there’s always content to make art about” she says.
Yazzie takes OXDX’s activism a step further by making the clothing and products the brand produces accessible to the people it aims to represent. Before the pandemic, OXDX allowed people to come into the shop to have their own clothing and accessories screen-printed with an OXDX design.
“That DIY level of it is important because it involves your community,” Yazzie says. “And that’s what Native people are all about.”