Autumn Peltier models for Nike N7 x Pendleton line

Wiikwemkoong water warrior Autumn Peltier, left, has recently taken part in a photo shoot for the new Nike N7 x Pendleton line of athletic wear that features designs by Navajo artist Phoebe Nez. Proceeds from sales of products in this line, such as the Air Force 1 Low N7 shoe on Autumn’s feet, go toward empowering young Indigenous people across North America through sport.

BEAVERTON, OR – Manitoulin’s very own Autumn Peltier is being seen around the world as part of her work on the new Nike N7 x Pendleton collection of sportswear that works to empower Indigenous peoples.

“The N7 campaign is basically about helping to amplify (Indigenous) voices and empower positive change for the future,” said Anishinabek Nation Chief Water Commissioner Autumn Peltier, the 15-year-old from Wiikwemkoong who has recently attained world fame for her advocacy work to protect clean water around the world.

According to Autumn, Nike was seeking inspiring Indigenous women for this campaign and she was one of those selected to model this year’s N7 lineup.

On first glance, it might appear that this is yet another example of a young person gaining a strong following and then choosing to “sell out” for personal gain. And Autumn has indeed received several messages following the announcement of this collection that followed that exact narrative. But this Nike project offers a much deeper connection to a broader purpose than simply selling this year’s fashions.

“The campaign is all about empowering youth through N7, which is one of the best programs Nike has. It’s about inspiring Indigenous youth and I thought, being who I am, that having my picture out there will inspire youth,” said Autumn.

Nike N7 is billed as the “Native American division” of the company. It began in 2000 as a way of providing Nike products to Native American tribes for use in health promotion and disease prevention programs. Some years later, the company produced a shoe that was explicitly for Indigenous athletes. In 2009, the N7 brand grew to offer its products to anyone who wished to support Indigenous initiatives.

“Sport gives you self-confidence, enabling you to be a force for positive change in your community. Nike N7 and the N7 Fund are aligned with Nike’s community impact commitment to get kids moving through sport and play so that they can lead healthier, happier and more successful lives,” reads a description of the initiative on the Nike N7 Fund website.

Since 2009, the N7 Fund has given more than $7.5 million in grants to more than 250 Indigenous organizations and communities.

This year’s Nike N7 x Pendleton collection was designed by Phoebe Nez, a Navajo designer who learned how to weave traditional rug patterns from her late great-grandmother. It commemorates 10 years since the N7 line was available for sale for the general public.

The N7 line employs Indigenous designers, has used Indigenous models for its publicity photos and its proceeds support Indigenous initiatives, so Autumn said the project was one she wanted to support.

Nike’s N7 Fund offers annual grants of either 15- or 20-thousand dollars to Canadian registered First Nations and non-profit groups that serve sports initiatives to young Indigenous clients (90 percent Indigenous participants or more). However, the website’s last-reported grant recipients were from more than a year ago.

Autumn has also been busy with other initiatives such as a recent television shoot at her home in Wiikwemkoong.

“It’s a series about health and the episode I’m in is about inspiring young activists on Etalk,” said Autumn.

Much of the shoot was conducted outside and the temperatures were below minus 20°C with the wind chill on the day the crew visited Wiikwemkoong, which made the process a tad challenging.

Autumn gets many requests to take part in projects such as this and she said she agreed to take part because it was aimed to highlight young activists.

“With that message behind it, saying they also wanted to help inspire other young activists, that’s something I advocate for and I thought it was really cool,” said Autumn.

She said her segment was scheduled to air on January 1.