NORMAN, Okla. – “Life’s Short, Pow-wow Hard!” Emblazoned across one of his T-shirt designs, the phrase describes Keith DeHaas’ weekly routine for about the past four years. DeHaas, a Standing Rock Lakota Sioux originally from Fort Yates, N.D., and his wife Mary, founded Rez Dog Clothing Company in 1997. They started designing T-shirts after attending pow-wows in Oklahoma and seeing only what they call “mystic Indian” shirts. The not quite right images of Indian braves and maidens with rainbows and eagles were not to their taste.
In putting together Rez Dog Clothing Company, they wanted to draw from the commonalties of all reservations. They realized one of the most common factors was the scruffy, tough survivor – the reservation dog. Some people consider the rez dog a bothersome creature, but it is also respected for having a certain toughness and courage to defy the elements. DeHaas related to that. The rez dog is like the community dog, and with that spirit, Rez Dog Clothing Company was formed.
DeHaas thought what Indian country needed was a line of cutting edge clothing with sayings that were just for them; inside jokes and rez slang. And, a logo that speaks to the Indian community with humor. Laughing with and about yourself, while having pride in one’s cultural heritage is what the company strives for.
In 1998, Rez Dog Clothing Company incorporated with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma. They were the first company to ever incorporate with this tribe. DeHaas’ family also joined in. Between his nephew, an uncle and his father, some weeks they may have three booths at various events. And now the cutting edge T-shirts and designs for which Rez Dog is known are showing up everywhere, including three motion pictures: “Smoke Signals,” “The Business of Fancy Dancing” and “Skins.”
In addition to its clothing company, Rez Dog sponsorship has also developed. The Rez Dog Rodeo Team grew out of DeHaas’ desire to sponsor Indian competitors. Rez Dog Clothing Company would bring their booth to Indian rodeos, and the response from the riders and the public who attended these rodeos was so positive, that in 2000, DeHaas started to sponsor some of the up and coming Indian stars of rodeo. In addition, Rez Dog sponsors a number of Indian Drums, and Indian athletics.
Rez Dog has also expanded its product line to include a swimsuit calendar and Native Naturals – Native spa products.
Rez Dog Clothing Company is a family owned and operated business. At a Rez Dog booth you will see not only Keith or Mary, but their nephew Kylor, niece Kasey, Keith’s father Bill, or Keith’s uncle Tom. Their ages range from 15-60, and the appeal of Rez Dog ranges from young to old alike.
For more information about the Rez Dog Clothing Company, visit www.rezdog.com.