The Nalgene Water Fund partners with Navajo artist for a second time
The Nalgene company has released its second limited-edition water bottle designed by 22-year-old Stanford University grad student and artist Jaden Redhair. The Navajo Nation tribal member is originally from Window Rock, and his work with the Nalgene Water Fund has so far raised 80,000 dollars for two nonprofits that work to bring running water to reservation communities. It’s estimated that about a third of residents on the Navajo Nation lack water in their homes. KNAU’s Sakya Calsoyas spoke with Redhair about his work with the program and how his designs were influenced by Navajo culture.
Hi Jaden, Yá'át'ééh, thank you for joining me. What is the Nalgene Water Fund doing for the Navajo Nation?
So, the Nalgene Water Fund, what they're doing is they're taking $5 from every bottle purchase and they're contributing to Dig Deep, which is another nonprofit organization that has been helping with water accessibility on the Navajo Nation. They have created more watering fill stations and various other things to increase water accessibility. So, all that funding goes to them for them to continue to do their work on the Navajo Nation.
How did you come to be the artist designer for two limited edition bottles for the Nalgene Water Fund?
The interaction came along with Nalgene looking for a Native American designer to design for the Navajo Nation, and they reached out to a nonprofit called Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment. And through COPE, I've done a few different projects with them. I made a graphic design work for recipes, for healthier recipes that families can make at home. And they referred me to Nalgene, and from there we both had the same goal in mind, and both had the same type of understanding of what we wanted out of a water bottle and what we wanted to accomplish, and from there, we began designing the first and the second bottle.
Can you describe your latest design?
So, the design was Nalgene is it's a clear bottle with a picture of Assayi Lake, New Mexico, it also has stars in the background. I took a photo, a nighttime astrophotography photo of this place I would say maybe four or five years back. My idea was that the first of all, I really want to emphasize some place that people outside of the reservation would notice or would recognize as Monument Valley and further connect that to the Navajo people. So initially the bottle was meant to be outsourced so that people across the world or across the U.S. as well. To kind of understand, you know, to get people more aware of the Navajo Nation. And with the second bottle, I thought maybe you can use someplace that's a little more remote, a little bit more not well known to people on the outside. So, I thought, you know, using a place like Assayi Lake would be great to show a little bit more of our landscape on the Navajo Nation.
On the latest design, you have a coyote silhouetted in a starry night sky. How did you get the idea?
Yeah, so, the bottle was originally supposed to be released in the wintertime, there's a lot of different Navajo stories about creation stories. And some stories were not meant to be told, only during the wintertime, and to do with, like, the imagery, I just kind of want to portray like an image of something like one of the stories that we have, not really tell it, but just to really show like kind of a symbolism of what it's supposed to represent, and that was to do with the creation story with Coyote essentially just placing stars in the sky.
You put a Navajo phrase on the bottles, Tó éí iiná, what does this mean and why did you choose this phrase?
Yeah, Tó éí iiná means water is life. And the reason why I put this on the bottle was just because water interconnects every living being and living creature, it connects the world together. And I was just under the impression of, like, understanding, like, you know, Navajo people, they use water for all types of daily activities, whether it be livestock, cooking with it or drinking. I just thought, you know, just a simple phrase like that would definitely spark a lot of meaning into it. Just up to however the viewer is able to portray that if they think like, oh, yeah, water is life, that helps keep my livestock alive. It feeds my family. So that's where the phrase came from.
Your academic accomplishments are incredible. You are currently a graduate engineering student at Stanford. What do you plan to do when you're done with your studies?
Yes, so after I’m done with my studies. I feel like I still have a lot to learn, especially in the industry. So definitely I want to be able to get a little more experience before coming back to the Navajo Nation, just so I can hone in exactly what I want to do. There's a lot of different things I'm really interested doing on the Navajo Nation or to do with like energy efficiency, having more accessibility to homes and just things like that. Really, the sky's the limit. I guess for immediate goals, I'm more focused on getting a little more experience done, honing in on my craft.
Thank you, Jaden, for speaking with me.
I really appreciate speaking with you.