Above: Clockwise from top right: Blue Corn Pollen with Hyacinth Soap Bar, $10; Navajo Sage Rose with Eucalyptus Chi’shie OiI, $20; Lavender and Jasmine Chi’shie OiI, $20; Shima Red Rose Soap Bar, $10; Fresh Sage Soap Bar, $10; Cedar Wax Melts with handpicked herbs, $12; Navajo Tea with Mint Soap Bar, $10. Photograph by Inga Hendrickson.
THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD DINÉ ENTREPRENEUR Kamia Begay remembers the moment she realized her herbal bath and body products could connect people with memory and place. At an art market in downtown Phoenix, a man breathed in the unique blend of essential oils in Begay’s Rez Dirt soap. He told her it reminded him of the way home smelled after a rain and took home two bars.
“I knew I loved making products that brought joy to people,” the Shiprock native says. Using local herbs and ingredients to brew up her own essential oils, Kamia captures the enchanting aromas of New Mexico in a collection of natural, vegan, handcrafted bath products. Two years after that first customer connection, Kamia and her mother, Rhianna, own and operate Nizhóní Soaps through stores in Farmington, Albuquerque, and Mesa, Arizona, as well as online.
Kamia, who is Todích’íí’nii (Bitter Water clan) born for the Deeshchíi’nii (Start of the Red Streak People), hand-harvests herbs and plants for her oils, soaps, foam washes, bath soaks, and wax melts. Through a bar of soap, she shares the hickory scent of a campfire on the reservation. A foaming cleanser has the sweetness of Navajo tea with wild berries, and blue corn pollen infuses a lip scrub.
Kamia was raised on the Navajo Nation to consider the specific gifts of every plant. “My mom and grandma have been so influential in how I look at plants and harvest them from the land where we live—in understanding the soap properties of yucca, or the culinary properties of blue corn, or the ceremonial importance of sweetgrass. They all have their own unique uses in ceremony and consumption.”