In December, visitors to three different King County Library System (KCLS) branches will get the opportunity to view Native Americans through the lens of one of their own. The program is called “Changing the Way We See Native America.” It’s aimed at challenging audience awareness of indigenous people.
Photographer Matika Wilbur will hold presentations on Project 562, an effort she began in 2012 to photograph all 562 federally recognized tribal groups. Today the number of tribes has grown to 566.
“I sold everything in my Seattle apartment, packed a few essentials into my car and hit the road. Since then, I’ve been on an epic adventure that is Project 562,” Wilbur said in a statement. “Sometimes I’ll journey to an isolated reservation, other times I’ll meet some of the 70 percent of Native Americans living in urban settings.”
The pictures she’s shared thus far are beautifully composed portraits. Her subjects include a Chief of the Lummi Nation, a retired professor and a community wellness advocate.
“Seeing Native America through the lens of a Native American is really important. I’m so interested in hearing her talk because what’s she’s doing is so incredible,” Jo Anderson Cavinta said. “To hear the stories, too, because not only is she photographing folks, she’s collecting narratives about what their life is like today.”
Cavinta is the KCLS diversity coordinator. In addition to the program, the library has compiled a list of books that cover stories, history and culture of Indigenous people.
“What I’m hoping is to utilize her talk about this idea of changing the way we see Native America and dismantling some of those stereotypes to act as a bridge and an opportunity to educate our public,” Cavinta said. “And also for our Native population to see themselves represented in the programming that we’re offering.”
Wilbur will undoubtedly talk about the Dakota Access pipeline protests in North Dakota. In August, she arrived at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation “to stand in solidarity with our relatives holding steadfast in their efforts to protect their land and water from the black snake known as #TheDakotaAcessPipeline.”
Wilbur is Swinomish and Tulalip. So far she’s photographed more than 250 tribes. One of her goals is to share the “glory and grist” of Native Americans, expose the breadth of variety of their lives and build cultural bridges.
“I hope that when the project is complete it will serve to educate the nation,” Wilbur said. “And shift the collective consciousness toward recognizing our indigenous communities.”
What: Changing the Way We See Native America
When: Burien Library Dec. 1, 7 p.m; Snoqualmie Library Dec. 3, 2 p.m.; Auburn Library Dec. 4, 2 p.m.
Native states: Matika Wilbur is leaving Seattle this month to take up an extraordinary mission.