Enoch Endwarrior has a mission on his mind: reconnecting Native people who grew up in urban areas as he did with their traditional culture. And he has a unique way of blending that traditional culture with the pop culture he grew up with through his art. That’s the backbone of his business, Reclaim Designz.
Enoch grew up in Albuquerque, raised in a non-traditional atmosphere. His mother is Oneida and his father Navajo. After graduating high school, he earned degrees from UNM in Political Science and Navajo Linguistics. Thanks to an uncle who taught him how to draw, he also gained a background in graphic design and screenprinting.
Yet living in the city meant he didn’t have the usual input from traditional grandparents. Instead, he had Star Wars. As he got older, he did hear the stories and teachings from his culture and realized the similarities between them and the Jedi Knights he’d come to love. Thus began the inspiration for the path his art would take.
Enoch took the stories he heard and began to use the symbols of his Native culture to express the connections he saw in the world around him. And to address the long and difficult history of his people through those symbols, which he combined with the graphic design skills he’d acquired. From this inspiration, Reclaim Designz was born.
Through the clothing he produced, Enoch found he could tell the stories of Native people through the connections of pop culture. It was a matter of showing how the beliefs of the Jedi resembled the cultural concepts he was learning from his own tradition.
As he created, he began to see that this was also a way to help other Native youth who had grown up without that connection. He knew that in today’s modern world, “not everyone has the opportunity to learn from their grandparents” about their traditional culture. Using the non-traditional symbols they did know, he found that his designs could help them bridge that gap.
Traveling to pow-wows to sell his art helped him understand the importance of that bridge. Learning the history of these gatherings, which he says were originally begun to provide a traditional space for urban Native peoples, showed him that the connections could and needed to be made through different means. And different artistic concepts, such as t-shirts which show Native warriors facing down Imperial stormtroopers.
Creating those designs were the way Enoch related the Jedi to Native culture. They were also the way he found he could create art that was true to who he was. It’s his best advice for Native artists today: find your medium and honestly express who you are through it. That lesson he says he learned from another influence on him growing up, Bruce Lee. Lee’s quote that people should be honest about who they are and express themselves that way had a huge impact on him.
The business part of his art he attributes to the support of his friends and family. Their help got him started with tools and supplies. He’s found social media to be a great way to gain exposure. Knowing that there are people all over the world looking at his work is something he finds a bit mindboggling but good.