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Business Meets Culture at Nike's Native American Network

The Native American Network, one of eight diversity employee networks at Nike, is bringing the indigenous voice to the influential fitness company.

At a corporate giant like Nike, you might not expect to find a strong presence of Native American culture and community. But in fact, the Native American Network has managed to instill just that. At Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, NAN is working everyday to make sure that the indigenous voice is one that is valued and well represented.

NAN is one of eight diversity employee networks at Nike, and while they may be the smallest in numbers, they are nonetheless effective at creating a presence of indigeneity at Nike.

Their mission and purpose is to serve as a platform of support and professional development for indigenous employees within the company, but furthermore to offer programming and to create a space for discussion, education and community building surrounding issues of indigenous environment, youth and families.

NAN employees pose during the launch party for Native American Heritage Month. Pictured: Toma Villa (guest artist, Moana Marasco, Michelle Osborne, Ken Salt, Angela Anderson, Jeffrey Veregge (featured guest artist and Marvel comic illustrator), Shyla Spicer (NAN co-chair). November 2015. Photo courtesy Shyla Spicer.

So, how do they do it? Some of their programming is internal, like professional development and social events for the Native employees and Native-allied employees on campus. Other efforts reach far beyond headquarters by bringing in folks in from all over Native country to participate in events that align with their mission. 

Thosh Collins of Well For Culture teaches an innovative push-up at the Bo Jackson Fitness Center at WHQ. November 2015. Photo courtesy Shane McKenzie.

In the past year, for example, they embarked on an initiative to celebrate Native American heritage through the lens of wellness. During Native American Heritage month, the Nike campus was surrounded by evidence of an indigenous presence: the chefs in the kitchen coordinated with NAN to serve healthy, ancestral foods in the employee restaurant at WHQ. They commissioned Native comic book designer Jeffrey Veregge to design a superhero to envision wellness and movement, and hosted an art talk with the Nike Design community to share contemporary Native design from his point of view.

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NAN also hosted several indigenous fitness enthusiasts from around Native country to present information about indigenous wellness and to train Nike employees using Indigenized fitness methods at the Bo Jackson Fitness Center at Nike World Headquarters. This included Thosh Collins and Chelsey Luger on behalf of the Well For Culture initiative, Lovina Louie with “Pow Wow Sweat,” and Acosia Red Elk with BUTI yoga.

Shedeazha Hodge and Imani Atone at the Powwow Fit class during Native American Heritage Month at the Bo Jackson Fitness Center. Photo courtesy Shane McKenzie.

So, now that you know about NAN and the work that they are doing every day to make Nike a hub for Native wellness and community, be sure to keep up with their upcoming events: ongoing career development opportunities; a meet-and-greet honoring with Wings Of America; a women speakers panel (including all diversity networks) for International Women’s Day; a day of river clean up for World Water Day, and much more.

Izzy Yasana and Moana Marasco connect at the Heritage Month launch party. Photo courtesy Shyla Spicer.

The Native American Network is comprised of Nike employees from various areas of the company who volunteer their time toward these efforts. There are about twenty self-identified Native American employees at Nike, and most of them are more or less involved in NAN. The Network is co-chaired by Jackie Blackbird, N7 Fund Manager, and Shyla Spicer, Sustainable Business and Innovation Operations Manager. The rest of the leadership team includes Tyler Hogan, Ken Salt, Angela Anderson, Mark Ophanides and Cynthia Dobson. 

Chelsey Luger. Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio.

Chelsey Luger is Anishinaabe and Lakota from North Dakota. She hopes to be a strong link in a long chain of ancestors and descendants by spreading ideas for health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Ideas for articles? Email her: