Trailblazer: Amy Denet Deal

A few years ago, Amy Denet Deal (formerly Amy Yeung) was a much sought-after fashion executive in Los Angeles. When her daughter, Lily, graduated from high school in 2018, Denet Deal left Los Angeles and moved to New Mexico to re-enter the Diné (Navajo Nation), her birth mother’s tribe. Yeung, who was adopted, later changed her name to honor “the matriarch Diné who brought me to this world”.

“I had decided that I wanted to devote the rest of my life to service,” she says. “I had done everything I wanted to do. I had taken care of my child and she was ready to go out into the world. It was my time.

Denet Deal was concerned about the lack of basic infrastructure she found. Almost a third of Navajo homes do not have running water, and an estimated 15,000 lack electricity. Only 13 supermarkets serve an area that spans 27,000 square miles, and residents have to drive an average of 1 to 3 hours to get food.

COVID-19 has dealt a crushing blow to an already vulnerable population. “Do you know how hard COVID-19 has been for us when you can’t wash your hands and you can’t access WiFi so you don’t know what’s going on?” Personal protective equipment (PPE) was almost non-existent in the early days of the pandemic.

Denet Deal realized she had the skills to meet a critical need. “I have run very large companies in my life. I know how to raise funds. I know how to make masks, ”she says. She transferred her recycled clothing business, Orenda Tribe, to making face masks and called contacts at companies like Patagonia and Outdoor Voices for fabric. To fund its efforts, Denet Deal solicited donations and organized fundraisers. The Les Voix de Siihasin benefit concert, organized in July 2020 with singer / songwriter Jewel, winner of a Grammy Award, raised $ 200,000, enough to fund 42,000 boxes of care for children of the Diné community and their children. families.

In 2020, Denet Deal and the group of female volunteers who make up its command center Dził Asdzáán (mountain woman) raised over $ 835,000 and distributed over one million units of PPE and over one million portions of food.

In the short term, Denet Deal is focused on meeting the needs of her tribe during the pandemic, but she has bigger long-term goals. “I want to work on sustainable solutions for the future to deal with the problems we face – food insecurity, lack of jobs, land issues, environmental genocide,” she said. “I am incredibly committed because this is the future of my tribe.”

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Jothi Venkat

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