Water is Life. Sharing Navajo Nation with the World.
We sat down with Jaden Redhair, the 20-year-old Diné designer behind “Tó éí iiná” (Water is Life), the Nalgene Water Fund’s exclusive Bottle for the Navajo Nation. We learned about Jaden’s upbringing, life among the Navajo, and what message he hopes others will take away from his bottle design.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Jaden Redhair and I am from Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation. At home, I live with my parents and six younger siblings. I am currently a Junior at Stanford University studying Electrical Engineering. My family is everything to me. Not just my parents and siblings, but my extended family – I am fortunate to still know my great-grandmother. My youngest sibling is eight. I think they were the most excited to see my Nalgene bottle design. When the bottles arrived, my dad created vinyl name stickers for each of my siblings. They were like “Woah this is mine! This is mine!”
What do you want the world to know about Navajo Nation?
My home is in the news because so many people still struggle for basic rights such as access to water. The Nalgene Water Fund is helping to raise awareness that people on U.S. soil don’t always have clean water. This is really important for people to know and so is the fact that our community is very unique. The people make Navajo Nation what it is. We have a kinship – or clan – system. At birth, we are each given four different clans. They are from our mother, father, paternal grandfather, and maternal grandfather. This kinship allows us to have relations with others regardless of bloodline. No matter where we are in the Navajo Nation, we can find a relative somewhere and be able to connect with them. We believe in taking care of one another. For me, water really is life! I am from the Jemez Clan and born for the Charcoal Streaked of the Red Running into the Water Clan. My maternal grandfather’s clan is Water’s Edge and my
paternal grandfather’s clan is Bitter Water.
What was your inspiration behind your design on the Nalgene bottle?
Graphic design is a passion of mine. My dad is the graphic design teacher at the high school in Window Rock. I took three years of design courses and it gave me a way to express what is important to me. In high school, as part of my community service, I designed posters for COPE [a local Navajo non-profit]. When COPE recommended me to the Nalgene Water Fund to design a bottle, I was so honored! I could use my passion for the good of my people. In thinking about the design, primarily I wanted to create something that speaks to people who don’t know anything about the Navajo Nation. I want to share what Navajo Nation stands for and convey what makes our land and way of life so special. A critical part of my design is the Navajo (wedding) basket or Ts’aa’ in Navajo language (on the Nalgene bottle this is the star-centered object above the mountain). I sought counsel from my grandmother to explain its significance. The basket is traditionally used for rituals and a vessel for ceremonial acts for life’s milestones. For example, during a wedding ceremony the basket holds the food when cornmeal mush is exchanged; or as part of a Kinaalda, what we call the coming of age ceremony for a young woman. I selected colors that felt like the desert to me. I chose to include Monument Valley, an incredible Navajo landscape because of its presence in movies, particularly Transformers. That was a really big blockbuster movie, so it’s recognizable.
You named the bottle “Water is Life.” Why?
“Tó éí iiná” (Water is Life) encompasses the sacred need for nature, especially for Native American people. We Navajos were the original caretakers of the land in what is now known as Arizona. Water is an essential source of understanding how the land worked and how to sustainably live off it. Water is an important part of the Navajo Nation – to grow food, to nourish the circle of life. We can’t understate the importance of water. Nothing can exist without water. And still, I had classmates in my high school who had no running water at home and had to drive miles to refill containers to just cook food, never mind bathe or brush their teeth.
What can the rest of the world do to best help the Navajo Nation?
Going to Stanford, I’ve met so many different students and they’ve said “Oh I didn’t even know Native Americans were still around.” The first step is awareness and understanding that we are still here and still thriving. We are still pushing to survive and it’s a daily struggle for some of us. Starting with that awareness, we’ll be able to identify the problems and work together to create solutions.
To Purchase An Exclusive “Tó éí iiná” Bottle
Nalgene Water Fund will donate $5 of every purchase to help combat future solutions to the Navajo Nation Water Crisis. In 2020 the Nalgene Water Fund donated $30,000 to create sustainable long-term solutions such as on-reservation water refill stations and sanitary large water vessels. Since its launch in late November, the “Tó éí iiná” bottle continues to raise additional fund for Navajo Nation, with over $12,000 raised in the first month of sales alone.Buy Jaden's Bottle