Duane “Chili” Yazzie was the Navajo Nation’s Shiprock Chapter President and had a stellar resume with his involvement in human rights, marriage equality and activism against extractive industries. In 2014, at the behest of the grassroots communities on the reservation, he campaigned to be Navajo Nation President.
Chili is of former fame as a musician in the 70’s major rock band, XIT. Since then he’s been a huge proponent of restoring our Indigenous ways of life through his position as a Chapter President. His advocacy for human rights has never stopped at a government title either. In fact, his actions lead to physically stopping a hate crime in which he, unfortunately, lost an arm. That situation only emblazoned his resolve and now he has spoken in front of the United Nations numerous times regarding human rights issues.
Duane Yazzie has an impressive political record and has used his voice to express concern for his fellow people’s future on Dinétah. He fearlessly called out delegate members who have sided with corruption and monetary interests over our people. This was never more evident than in the viral clip of him calling out the Navajo Nation Tribal Council stating they were out of order.
In getting to know Duane personally, I envisioned a visual campaign strategy that would speak directly to our people rather than the cold, empty corporate design feel the other extractive industry-backed candidates were using. When Chili decided to run for the presidential office, his campaign had something for all Diné.
His nickname, “Chili”, was a designer’s gift that could be used in a variety of ways. This project’s strategy was to weave a number of visual references to grab the attention of all Diné to consider Mr. Yazzie’s traditional stance on issues.
Sketching while listening to Chili speak about issues that were important to our future generations made me realize outreach to those ignored politically was going to be crucial to success. Various designs were presented to help instill some name recognition which would get his foot in the blanketed door. The rest would be easy.
Other graphics re-purposed the Obama HOPE poster using the word ORDER and the Dine’ bizaad translation. Chili’s slogan of “Restoring Order” utilized his outburst in the Council Chambers and was his intention when he came to presidential power. Mr. Yazzie ran on a platform that wanted to change our colonial governance structure to a more traditional version.
Graphically the campaign postcards were in desparate need of revision so a Navajo Rug was incorporated with redesigned imagery to pass out on his campaign trail. The rug design was based on childhood memories of sitting next to my grandmother and watching her weave for hours. Nowadays, a Navajo Rug background is a design standard in current political campaigns on our reservation.
The logo itself featured Window Rock and a constellation of stars which we draw hope and knowledge from. The colors are associated with our tradition’s natural order and ways of thought which Chili’s campaign was built upon. Local communities would go on to create large billboards based on the new postcard designs.
The campaign’s website was dynamic both graphically and functionally. The website was built upon a robust calendar platform that provided information on debates, events and rallies Chili was participating in. It also linked to all of the social media campaign accounts created.
It was a blessing to have full autonomy to artistically flex in various mediums for such a great person. Ahé hee’ to all the grassroots who helped as well. I look forward to many more opportunities to collaborate and advocate for our Diné people’s traditional ways and governance. Much love and respect.