For the Future
For the Future
Two months after opening 4KINSHIP, her retail space on Santa Fe’s historic Canyon Road, Amy Denet Deal invited artists to paint a message on the adobe building: we belong here. She chose the phrase as a variation on “We are still here,” the assertion of Indigenous groups around the world; the three words are 4KINSHIP’s claim to homeland, but also a call to its broader community, including Santa Fe. “It’s mostly a town built on the back of Native artists and cultures, but there’s a lot of non-Native people selling Native goods,” Denet Deal, an enrolled member of the Navajo (Diné) Nation, says. “We’re a big beautiful community and 4KINSHIP is grateful to have a space that can be of support.”
The Years Everything Changed
It was thinking about her own legacy that led Denet Deal to create a sustainable brand in the first place. After working as an executive in the fashion industry for 40 years, she realized she wanted to take an active role in preserving the planet for her daughter and future generations. In 2015, she launched an online business called Orenda Tribe that initially focused on selling repurposed vintage pieces. Four years later, she moved from Los Angeles to Albuquerque to connect more deeply with her indigeneity and with a commitment to be of service.
Born to a Diné mother, Denet Deal had been adopted by a non-Native family and was raised in Indiana, distant from her culture. In 2007 she reconnected with her birth mother and began visiting New Mexico to learn about what it means to be Diné. The move to Albuquerque in 2019 allowed her to increasingly collaborate with Native artists and open a storefront that included their work.
But six months later she was forced to close the store when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Due to lack of infrastructure, including limited access to running water, food, and WiFi, the Navajo Nation was hit especially hard. With the help of women volunteers, Denet Deal transitioned her space into the Dził Asdzáán (Mountain Woman) Command Center. She called on connections at companies such as Patagonia and Outdoor Voices for fabric, and they went to work making masks.
“Through that beautiful learning, the brand evolved into its forever name of 4KINSHIP,” says Denet Deal. “Orenda was the beacon that brought me home and 4KINSHIP is really the vessel and purpose for my life’s journey. When you say you’re Native, that comes with responsibility, and I’m here to do that work. This learning process has been such a gift. Considering the impact of 4KINSHIP’s work through an Indigenous lens—thinking beyond the now and me to always offer a creative way to be in service to community and in harmony with all relations for future generations—the organization is working to put cultural wisdom into motion.”
In 2022, Denet Deal moved 4KINSHIP to Santa Fe, seeing an opportunity to represent Native voices in a distinct way, and in a highly visible, high-traffic location. “It’s the mecca of Native American culture and art,” she says of the state capital, noting that she doesn’t think the city is doing enough to make Native American businesses a permanent fixture of its commerce. “In 2023 there are no initiatives in Santa Fe to get Native businesses in a permanent way. No grants, no resources. The talent just isn’t sufficiently recognized. Instead, the city invites Native artists to share their work via temporary permits, pop-ups, and Indian fairs. We belong here, our beautiful art deserves permanent space, and our community deserves reciprocity.”
Johanna Nelson, director of Santa Fe’s Office of Economic Development, acknowledges that the city does not currently have specific incentives to support Native artists but works to connect them with state and nonprofit resources. “We are in the process of developing a strategic action plan for our office,” she says. “Supporting Native entrepreneurs will be a key component—gathering input and making sure we have strategies identified.”
Denet Deal recognizes the long-term significance of opening a Native-owned space on Canyon Road. “I felt it was necessary to be representative in an area that’s considered a luxury, higher-end experience, and offer this space to younger talents,” she says.
For the Long Run
Intergenerational dialogue permeates 4KINSHIP—between featured artists, and between those artists and their relatives who have passed down traditional knowledge. Younger talent has included Josh Tafoya, a Taos-based designer who handweaves and sews otherworldly, architectural garments, and Suni Upshaw, who under the name Yesterday’s Flowers makes stoneware vessels that explore her Diné and Japanese identities and ancestral practices. 4KINSHIP has also sold new rugs by artists from Two Grey Hills, New Mexico, who carry generations of weaving knowledge. Among them are Virginia Jumbo, Shirley Brown, and Ashley Tsosie, who integrates bright turquoise wool into traditional neutral patterns, as did her grandmother Bernice Brown.
“The expectation people have of Native fashion or arts is that it looks a certain way, like it’s always looked,” Denet Deal says. “We’d never expect that from the talent that we work with. It’s up to them to decide how they want to authentically represent themselves.”
Tafoya, who has been working with Denet Deal for more than a year, says being able to showcase his perspective has been freeing. “Growing up in New Mexico, I found it extremely hard to sell or display my work,” he says. “My work in fashion and contemporary or experimental weaving really doesn’t fit the mold of what shops and galleries want to showcase. They really want to curate to what they think tourists want.”
He ended up moving to New York, where he felt appreciated for his work, but was forced to move home during the height of the pandemic. Back in New Mexico, he met Denet Deal. “She welcomed me into her space, where I’ve really flourished,” Tafoya says. “Her shop is really something new here and is breaking the mold in Santa Fe. I really think she’s creating a new wave by giving space for artists to create freely.”
“I cherish and value our talent, innovations and energy as Native people,” Denet Deal says. 4KINSHIP reinvests profits from store sales into the Native community, hiring Native photographers, models, writers, and filmmakers.
4KINSHIP also takes on community issues and raises needed funds. Recently, 4KINSHIP spent five months raising about $200,000 for Amá Dóó Áłchíní Bíghan, a shelter in Chinle, Arizona, for Diné domestic-abuse survivors. 4KINSHIP also raised funds to open and maintain the Diné Skate Garden Project to serve youth in Two Grey Hills. “It’s just a show of what we can do when we work together,” she says.