Rainbow Fiber Co-Op is a Diné-led agricultural co-operative established to improve the financial sustainability and equitable market outcomes for the remaining flocks of Dibé dits’ozí (Navajo-Churro sheep) on the Navajo Nation. Our mission is to close the gap between rural Diné shepherds and an e-commerce driven marketplace for their wool. We are excited to announce that we recently updated our online yarn shop!
Thanks to many generous donors we executed our first wool buy on the Navajo Nation in July 2021. We purchased approximately 3,200 pounds of Navajo-Churro wool from 9 shepherds across 9 communities. Co-Op members with the largest flocks received assistance with their sheep shearing. All producers received a fair price for their wool by the pound. After skirting and sorting by color we transported the wool to Mora Valley Spinning Mill, a nonprofit community-based wool mill located in Mora, New Mexico, to produce an assortment of Navajo-style weaving yarns. In November of 2021 we began offering Diné-grown Navajo-Churro weaving yarns for sale online. Sales dollars generated are being used to help fund the wool buy project again in 2022.
In response to the needs of the Diné sheepherding community, the Co-Op is on track to expand its reach in 2022. Our goal is to support more than 20 family flocks with the purchase of their wool this year, for an estimated yield of over 5,000 pounds of wool. Until we have processed enough yarn and roving for sales to cover the Co-Op’s expenses, we are dependent on grants and private donations to continue this critical work.
Historically Diné shepherds have been told their Navajo-Churro wool is “worthless” or offered as little as a penny per pound at mass wool buy events. The Co-Op's founders felt there was unrealized opportunity to fulfill online consumer demand for Navajo-Churro wool products sourced ethically and directly from Diné producers. The foundation of our business model is paying the producers a fair price up front and treating their wool with the respect it deserves.
Who Are We?
Rainbow Fiber Co-Op is a registered agricultural co-operative with a Board of Directors led by Executive Director Nikyle Begay.
|Nikyle Begay (they/them) is a Diné shepherd, fiber artist, teacher, storyteller, and photographer based in Ganado, Arizona on the Navajo Nation. Nikyle is the Executive Director of Rainbow Fiber Co-Op and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the project. Nikyle has experience working in technology and the nonprofit sector, as well as an extensive background in sheep flock management, sheep color genetics, wool production, traditional to modern wool processing, and the weaving arts. Instagram @navajoshepherd.|
|Zefren Anderson (he/they) is a Diné artist, educator, student, and caregiver based in Shiprock, New Mexico on the Navajo Nation. Zefren is an accomplished weaver with a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating oral history, archaeological research, and experiments to explore Navajo material art for its practical knowledge as well as its aesthetic beauty, form, and visual narrative. He contributes his technical skills and creative vision to the Co-Op, in addition to his experience working in the nonprofit sector. Instagram @zefren_m.|
Jay Begay (he/him) originates from the community of Rocky Ridge in Northeastern Arizona on the Navajo Nation. Jay's childhood was spent with his late paternal grandmother tending to the family’s flock of sheep and goats. It was from his grandma that he learned the skills required to continue the pastoral ways of the Diné. Today, he raises Navajo-Churro sheep and Angora goats on his family's ancestral land. Jay enjoys working with fiber and sharing his knowledge with others. He also brings his leadership skills and background in community organizing to our project. Instagram @jaybegay.
Kelli Dunaj (she/her) is a California-based Navajo-Churro shepherd and Fibershed producer located in Marshall, about 2 hours north of San Francisco. Kelli is the Bookkeeper and Coordinator for the Co-Op and brings her experience in retail operations at Williams-Sonoma, Inc. to the table in addition to her love and respect for Navajo-Churro sheep and Diné sheep culture. Kelli runs a successful direct-to-customer lamb business, and markets sheepskins, wool, and other farm products online. Instagram @springcoyoteranch.
Erin Liiv (she/her) is a California-based Navajo-Churro shepherd and Fibershed producer located in Bodega. Erin grew up in Berkeley but spent summers as a child on her Grandpa’s sheep ranch near Wolcott, Colorado. Now Erin works in community mental health as a therapist and lives on a small family farm with her husband and two children. They started their farm with the intention of raising and protecting heritage breeds while improving the land with rotational grazing. Erin is passionate about Navajo-Churro sheep due to their cultural and historical importance. She also enjoys weaving and felting with their beautiful wool. Instagram @redwillowfarmbodega.
Fibershed.org is a nonprofit organization that develops regional and regenerative fiber systems on behalf of independent working producers across the United States. They have been instrumental in getting our project off the ground and are currently acting as our fiscal sponsor.
First Nations Development Institute
First Nations Development Institute improves economic conditions for Native Americans through direct financial grants, technical assistance & training, and advocacy & policy work. FNDI has generously provided our first partial grant under their Native Arts Initiative.
NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building and narrative change, they are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms.
One Earth Foundation
One Earth provides direct grants to nonprofit organizations supporting on-the-ground projects led by grassroots organizations, local communities, and NGOs working directly in the field to implement solutions to the climate crisis—from renewable energy access, to nature conservation, to regenerative agriculture.