facebook app symbol  twitter  instagram 1

Mobile Ad Container

Outdoor footwear brand Merrell has launched its first collaboration with a Native American artist.

Rockford, Mich.-based Merrell, a unit of $2.4 billion (annual sales) Wolverine World Wide Inc., last week unveiled a collection featuring Indigenous designs by Northern Cheyenne artist Jordan Ann Craig. The collection includes five footwear styles, one beanie, one sweatshirt, and one fanny pack.

Craig was born and raised in the San Francisco area and currently lives and paints in New Mexico. In 2019, she was awarded artist residencies at the Institute for American Indian Arts and was the first Native American Artist in the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program. Her work is shown internationally and spans paintings, prints, collages, textile prints, and artist books.

Never miss the biggest stories and breaking news about the tribal economy. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every Monday morning.

"It's so important for art to live off of walls, traverse the earth, and be a part of our daily lives," Craig said in a statement. "The shoes are not only my art, but they look like where I live and what I experience. We were able to celebrate that belief by taking abstract designs and bringing them to life through this collection with Merrell."

Merrell's recent Inclusivity in the Outdoors Report found Indigenous Peoples face discriminatory barriers to being in their natural homes, with 22% indicating they have experienced discriminatory treatment when outside. A 2021 study found that Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. have lost nearly 99% of the land they once inhabited, despite having a traditional, deeply connected relationship with nature. 

"As we all have vastly different views on what art is, so too are our perceptions of the outdoors," Merrell Marketing Manager Regina Hill said in a statement. "It's essential to create a narrative of those diverse points of view … this collaboration helps highlight the barriers found in our report and give a voice to a community with a deep connection to, relationship with, and respect for the outdoors."

As well, Merrell is supporting the 2024 Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run with a $45,000 donation. The 400-mile youth run commemorates the 1879 Northern Cheyenne breakout of Fort Robinson, kicking off on the actual date and time of the original event — Jan. 9, 10:30 p.m. — taking runners from Nebraska to the Northern Cheyenne's homeland in Montana.

While the collaboration with a Native American artist is a first for Merrell, the concept is not unprecedented in the shoe business. Athletic shoe giant Nike Inc. launched its N7 brand in 2009. Named for the Native American philosophy of Seven Generations, N7 has collaborated with Native artists and athletes over the years and its lead designer is Tracie Jackson, a citizen of the Navajo Nation.