To talk about how Tribal Designs began requires us to go back about 9 years to 2009, the first time I met the community with whom we are now working.
My husband and I worked in central Mexico for a little over 2 years, doing missions work, and it was that work that took us to the Huichol community. We had previously never heard of this indigenous people group and were fascinated by their culture, language, and religion.
The Huichol tribe is one of the oldest in Mexico, dating back almost to its beginnings. They are principally artists and musicians, as well as farmers. They speak an indigenous language of Mexico which belongs to the Uto-Aztecan language family. They believe in four principal deities: the trinity of Corn-Blue Deer-Peyote and the Eagle, all descended from their Sun God.
The village we came to know found itself at the very top of a tall mountain, right in the middle of the sprawling mountain range of the Sierra Madre. Getting to the top requires snaking your way up a ziggy zaggy road… which often times is hard-packed dirt with very deep ruts and large jagged rocks waiting to lay claim to one of your tires.
And, then we would arrive! Up to the top of a mountain, to a dusty spread-out village. The trees are sparse up here, and the sun is intensely direct. Usually, little kids began dashing out of homes and running along behind our vehicle as we would make our way slowly to the meeting spot.
Upon arriving at the meeting spot, we would set up chairs and part of the team would conduct an open-air song time--a mix of children’s song and songs for the grown ups. After that, the group would be divided into Sunday school type classes, by age. Team members would lead each group, while other team members would put together around 250-300 sandwiches to pass out to the group at the end. Always sandwiches, oranges… something to fill their stomachs. Sometimes there would be donations of food staples or clothing we could pass out as well.
However, it is very hard for the women to earn a steady income from it--since sales are sporadic and since they live in such an isolated region. Also, the men are often gone for months a time (searching for work or having found work in a different area), leaving the mothers to stay alive (and keep their children alive) by any means possible. Often, the women will make a large amount of jewelry and then travel to a large city with their children in tow. They will sell on the streets and live on the streets until they have sold enough to go back to the village and start again.
I got to know the children during our visits. And, as is normal, their faces--often full of sadness, hunger, lack of care--seared themselves onto my heart. I met two sisters, perhaps ages 5 and 9, whose faces were severely burned--hair scorched off--due to a car battery (being used to bring electricity into the house) exploded. At that time, there was no running water in the village and everyone still cooked over the fire--creating all kinds of respiratory issues. Medical care was hours away. Most of the children look much younger than they are, due to malnutrition. It was always such a joy to bring even one smile to a face, or help them be distracted by any number of silly games. But the question remained--once we left--once our sandwiches were gone… What would they do?
The idea for collaborating with the tribe--or, essentially expanding their market--came pretty quickly to me. When we traveled back to the US to visit churches, I took a large assortment of bracelets with me to sell at the churches and bring back the profit.
Some family issues caused us to come back to the United States to live after about 2 years in that region, and the desire to partner with the tribe stayed there--tucked away. I could not figure out how I could do something of real impact in that community.
I stumbled across Noonday Collection a couple years later and was so excited to find a company that actually did what I thought was just an idea of doing. My initial goal was to try to get this Huichol group to become part of the Noonday Collection family. When, however, after a couple years of working there, that was not a possibility, I felt stalled again. Maybe it was not to be?
However, it was at that time that I felt God giving me a nudge that maybe it was to be me, just me, and maybe it was now. He reminded me of all the encouragement I had heard from people whenever I had mentioned this dream. He also indicated my time at Noonday was a time of educating me to be better equipped to take the next step. That was January 2015.
And so, I did!
I first checked with the local missionaries who continue to visit the village once a month to ask them if this idea seemed to them one that could work at all, and asked them to share any concerns. They responded that it seemed possible and gave me a few pieces of advice before we tried anything.
I announced to my friends this new adventure and asked if anyone wanted to come alongside us. We received many encouragements from dear friends and those two things helped us keep on walking!
We saved up our money and made our first little purchase through one of the missionaries… and that was the beginning!!
Thank you for coming along with us on this journey as well! We look forward to sharing more with you about Tribal Designs, and these special families, in the coming days!!
Liz & the women of Tribal Designs