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'My heart was pounding': Crow art major gets summer internship at Nike

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Posted at 9:36 PM, May 30, 2024

CROW AGENCY — As an artist, 24-year-old KamiJo White Clay takes inspiration from her Crow culture and places like her grandparents' cabin, which sits on the Big Horn River in Crow Agency.

As a student at the Institute of Indian American Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, her work has caught the attention of Nike. They've offered her a 10-day internship for the summer at the company's headquarters in Oregon.

A wave of nostalgia rushed over White Clay as she led MTN to the banks of the Big Horn River next to her grandparents' cabin.

“There used to be mussels and clams out here, and we would find them,” White Clay said.

The river has a special place in her heart.

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KamiJo White Clay walks along the banks of the Big Horn River near her childhood home in Crow Agency.

“I actually grew up here, just riding horses, checking on the animals with my grandpa,” added White Clay.

It's also where her great-grandmother helped her find love for art.

“She actually would just sit and draw with me when I was a little girl, and it just kind of helped me with my motor skills,” White Clay remarked.

Decades later, White Clay is still drawing and is attending an art institute to hone her craft.

“I’m doing a BFA in studio arts with an emphasis in silversmith and jewelry, metal work. But I have a minor in performance art,” said White Clay.

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Art by KamiJo White Clay. She said she's "currently obsessed" with depicting the cosmos and stars in her art, because of their meaning to her Crow culture.

She chose an emphasis in metal work because her grandpa was a jeweler and she wanted to follow his footsteps. However, White Clay doesn't limit herself to just those mediums.

“I do serigraphs so like printmaking, screen printing. I do digital art, 3D modeling. I do ledger art,” White Clay added.

She draws her inspiration from her upbringing and her Crow culture.

“I think a lot of my art inspiration does come from my strong identity with being Apsáalooke or being Crow. My family, horse culture, hunting, like cowboy culture," said White Clay.

It's something you can really see in her art, and something that Nike saw as well.

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Art by KamiJo White Clay.

The major retailer stopped by White Clay's school last year, looking to recruit more Native Americans, and she jumped at the chance to apply.

"I made it into the first round of interviews and was selected," White Clay said.

White Clay didn't get selected on her first try, but when they came back this year, she was ready.

“My interview went really well, I felt, but I think I was still sort of kind of having that doubt from being rejected the first time,” said White Clay.

It took two years of trying but White Clay will officially be an intern at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, next week.

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KamiJo White Clay

“It was crazy. My heart was just pounding,” White Claw added.

She said she didn't attain this position just for herself.

“I think I really wanted to do it to be a representative for our kids that come from where I come from. And to show them that they can do anything they set their minds to. No feat is too big,” said White Clay.

She hopes to come back to the reservation some day to open up her own art studio.

“Art is healing. It’s healed me a lot. It’s given me a lot of opportunities and I just want to bring that to my own community and share that with others,” White Clay said.