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Indigenizing Design

Client/Funder: National Endowment for the Arts
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Catapult Service Line: Design
Thematic Area: Language


Through the Native way of innovation, resilience, and fortitude, Indigenous designers are uniquely positioned to lead in imagining a more equitable and just future. However, Native voices have been systematically oppressed, ignored, and erased from history. In order to amplify these Native voices, we aim to establish a Native Design Identity and Learning Pathways centered on Indigenous knowledge and worldview. We intend to do this by indigenizing the current field of design towards a more inclusive Native design language, methodology, and place-based curriculum.


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) approved funding for Indigenizing Design, an initiative that aims to co-design processes with indigenous communities. The program’s goals are to expand justice and equity which, historically, have been excluded from traditional design practices.

To carry out this work, Catapult Design has partnered with a broad team of collaborators including Eunique Yazzie, Melody Lewis, and Brian Skeet of Cahokia, along with the active participation of local indigenous residents.


 Through this project, Catapult, CahokiaPHX, Brian Skeet LLC, and Indigenous Community Collaborative have developed the Indigenizing Design Framework by surfacing the voices of Indigenous creatives and social entrepreneurs from urban and reservation-based communities that participated in our research, and understanding what Indigenizing means to them based on their personal lived experiences and as members of the CahokiaPHX social tech and artspace.

This Indigenizing Framework is intended for use by both Indigenous practitioners, as well as Non-Indigenous designers and organizations who seek to work with Indigenous communities in a respectful and meaningful manner.

The Framework consists of three parts:

  • Indigenizing Markers — Values that define Indigenizing and indicators that identify if Indigenizing has happened in a space.
  • Ecosystem of Indigenizing — Visualization of the Indigenizing Markers and their relationships in a particular context.
  • Indigenizing Curriculum — Lesson plans and activities to learn how to apply the Indigenizing Markers in practice.

We hope this work will contribute to broader efforts to decolonize design and support the ongoing work of Indigenous communities to reclaim and revitalize their cultures and identities. These efforts are a step towards healing and reconciliation and creating a more just and equitable world for all.

To discover what the Indigenizing Design Framework consists of and to learn more information about the Indigenizing Design project, please find the report here.

To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit