In recent months, several prominent Native American women have spoken out about their experiences of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
The latest of these voices comes from Navajo fashion designer and fashion icon, Pentecostality.
“The ‘war’ on women is happening,” Pentecos founder and executive director Rachel Hahn told The Huffington Post in a recent interview.
“It’s happening everywhere.
It’s really hard to see that.”
Hahn has been a part of Penteco for nearly 15 years and said her experience working with a number of Native American designers, especially in the Navajo fashion industry, has been “horrific.”
“When you work with people who have been on the front lines of the struggle for justice, and who have suffered as a result, it’s difficult to put it in words,” she said.
Hennan explained that she began her career in the fashion industry as a designer for women in the Native American community and eventually found herself in the middle of the war on women in her own industry.
“When we started our brand, I was really surprised to see a whole lot of women wearing pants and sweaters, and I was shocked to see women who were wearing the traditional Navajo dress, which is the traditional dress worn by the Navajo,” she recalled.
“[But] as time went on, the war against women started, and as the women became more and more involved in the work, they started getting a lot more harassment and a lot less respect and more hostility toward them.
I started getting more and so did I.”
Hahn explained that Pentecs clothing line focuses on traditional Navajo styles and is “designed specifically to fit the Navajo Nation and the culture, and the way we dress is part of the culture.”
She added that she has received numerous compliments and messages of support from Navajo women.
“They’ve really been supportive,” she added.
“I know that many of them are working in the industry now, and they’re going to wear their clothes that are designed by the people who are working for us, but it’s also something that we’ve been doing for a long time and we know what it feels like.”
The Navajo Nation is a country that Hahn has seen firsthand in the fight for justice for Native American girls.
During the Navajo American Women’s Rights Movement (NAWRM), which she helped lead from 1994 to 2003, Hahn helped develop a number to support Native American youth, including a mentorship program for women who had been victims of sexual assault.
Her experiences at Pentecoses work have made her feel like she can continue to push the work in her community, even as the “war” continues to affect her daily life.
Despite the ongoing war on female bodies, Hennan said she has a positive outlook on the future.
“We have a very positive outlook, and we are moving forward,” she explained.
“We have been here for so long, and for the past 10 years or so, the culture of the community has really changed, so we can move forward.”
Pentecos is working to increase its representation in the local fashion industry by working with local Navajo leaders and other organizations.
Hahn said Pentecoes plans to open a new store in Phoenix that will include “women’s clothing and accessories that are a little bit different and a little more affordable” that will “create more of a connection with the community and with the people.”
Hennah said she hopes to continue working with Native American fashion designers in the future, and hopes to “create a new generation of Navajo women that are able to do that work in the traditional way.”
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