June 05, 2009

T-shirts promote Indian words

Entrepreneurial spirit lands MSU students in first place

T-shirt designs win American Indian business plan competitionFour students involved in the American Indian Business Leaders club at MSU Billings walked away with the best business plan among colleges in the organization’s annual national leadership conference in Arizona.

The team members included Mary Alice Walker, a member of the Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska; Curtis Wallette, a Northern Cheyenne; Karis Jackson, a Crow/Hidatsa and Angela Deputee, a Crow.

“At first, we didn’t think it was a good plan,” said Walker, a recent business management graduate. “But after we did our research, we found out we’re the only ones to have this idea.”

The “idea” was actually a formal business plan developed by the four students to turn an old building in Lame Deer into a T-shirt business. That business, called NDN Translations in the business plan, promotes awareness and pride in American Indian culture and heritage on T-shirts. The front of the shirt carries a single word or phrase in a specific tribal language with a little arrow pointing to the back for the translation.

While the concept seems pretty simple and tourist landscape is scattered with American Indian T-shirts, the students said their idea took things a step forward from the traditional images of famous elders, artwork of headdresses or bison. They provided a way to honor and celebrate their language with a word or phrase.

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