Changing the Narrative: Naokah Designs and the Strength of Two Cultures

Small Business Canada

Today we present an Indigenous brand of clothing that represents the happy-go-lucky attitude with positive vibes about the Indigenous culture. Originating from the traditional Native American tribe Sahtú, Tłı̨chǫ, and English Dene, the Naokah Designs symbolizes hope, resilience, and beauty – a perfect fit for an urban Indigenous brand that showcases the pride and strength of Indigenous peoples. 

Naokah means “Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis” in Sahtuót’įnę Gokedé, the language of one of Northwest Territories’ Indigenous people in Northern Canada. The brand was first launched by Alison and her sibling Jessica – born and raised in the NWT and currently residing in Ontario, where they operate their small business. According to Founder Alison Mackenzie, Naokah Designs is not just a clothing brand; it’s a movement that promotes unity, understanding, and respect for Indigenous peoples. 

Its underlying principle is “Strong Like Two People” which demonstrates the alliance of the Indigenous people and their allies. It was first introduced by Tłı̨chǫ Elder, Chief Jimmy Bruneau, who believed that Indigenous peoples could be strong in both their traditional worldview and the eurocentric worldview. This concept was later interpreted by Tłı̨chǫ Elder, Elizabeth Mackenzie, as a person being strong in two cultures. This is a message that Naokah Designs proudly conveys in its clothing line.

One of its main goals is to change the narrative about Indigenous peoples. To communicate that Indigenous peoples are not stuck in the past; they thrive in cities, on reservations, and in remote communities. The clothing line represents this narrative by portraying Indigenous peoples’ pride, love, respect, and tradition. Naokah Designs is an inclusive brand that encourages everyone to wear and enjoy their creations.

The standout feature of this business is the involvement of the entire family in the design and preparation of orders. Alison Mackenzie has kept her husband and children close to the heart of Naokah, making it a true family affair. The product line includes a diverse range of tees, tops, and sweaters, each with carefully crafted slogans that range from funny to motivational. According to the founder, this promotes unity, understanding, and respect for Indigenous peoples and encourages everyone to take ownership of their clothes.

Plus, the outpouring of support Naokah Designs has received from its customers has been phenomenal. Alison Mackenzie, in a heartfelt note on her business website, describes her customers as “lighting up” their world, and with their unwavering loyalty and encouragement, it’s not hard to see why. With the firm support of its customers, Naokah Designs is able to continue its mission of promoting unity and understanding among Indigenous peoples and their allies, and for that, they are forever grateful.

Check out Naokah’s latest collections on their official website at This brand has some really interesting ‘reading’ Tees and tops. 

You can subscribe to our Indigenous SME Business Magazine to read about more Indigenous-owned apparel brands. Our bimonthly magazine gives insight into the individual business’s journey and stories of not giving up on dreams. For more latest updates, follow our Twitter page @IndigenousSme.

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