Photographer Matika Wilbur got down to take portraits of each Native American tribe

Photographer Matika Wilbur got down to take portraits of each Native American tribe

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

This function is a part of CNN Type’s sequence Hyphenated, which explores the advanced problem of id amongst minorities in the US.

Over a decade in the past, when Matika Wilbur started photographing all 562 federally acknowledged tribal nations within the US (a quantity which has since grown to 574), she needed to make a complete portrait of up to date Indigenous life — one which not solely corrected dangerous, persistent stereotypes, however could possibly be used as a optimistic useful resource for the youngest Native American era.

“Challenge 562 is rooted in narrative correction work,” Wilbur defined in a video name. “Once I began, I used to be uncovering up to date Indigenous id and actually what it appears wish to be a Native individual proper now.”

What Wilbur did not know on the time was that the sequence, and now not too long ago revealed ebook, “Challenge 562: Altering the Means We See Native America” — would catalyze her homecoming. Wilbur, who’s a member of the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes within the Pacific Northwest, was dwelling in Seattle in 2012 simply earlier than she started the mission. By its finish, when she had logged 450,000 miles on the highway, Wilbur turned pregnant, and he or she and her husband determined to return to dwell in Tulalip.
09 project 562 hyphenated Matika

Matika Wilbur Credit score: Matika Wilbur

“I made a really aware resolution to maneuver dwelling, in order that my child would have that relationship with this place,” Wilbur mentioned. “So her afterbirth could possibly be buried right here, the place her grandmother’s cedar tree is and the place her ancestors are. I spotted that was essential to me.”

Challenge 562 is staggering in its scope, representing the Miccosukee Tribe within the Everglades all the best way to the Siberian Yupik individuals far off the Alaska coast.

The portraits — from elders and teenagers to a number of generations posing collectively — have a way of intimacy and heat, with every picture accompanied by her collaborators’ personal accounts of their lived experiences. By means of its interviews, the mission delves deeply into kinship and love, displacement and reconnection, the generational impacts of colonialism and racism, environmental justice and activism, and inclusion and belonging.

10 project 562 hyphenated Nancy Wilbur

Matika’s mom, Nancy, and daughter, Alma Bee. Credit score: Matika Wilbur

As time went on, Wilbur felt deeply modified by the work, gaining a higher understanding of herself in relation to the land on which she was raised.

“We do have these systemic methods of creating our kids to have relationships with the place that they arrive from, and to… train them to turn into stewards,” Wilbur mentioned. “As I began touring, I began to place collectively and notice the totally different ways in which these totally different communities try this. For me, it felt intrinsic, as a result of I grew up fishing, I grew up on canoes, I grew up going to the longhouse, I grew up going to ceremony. And all of these items made me an individual of the tide, however I would not have informed you 10 years in the past, that that was how I establish.”

And the extra she traveled, the extra she understood how “site-specific” her id was, Wilbur defined. “I’d meet the individuals of the blue-green waters and the individuals of the tall pine bushes or the people who dwell inside the 4 sacred mountains, and I’d get to go to ceremonies and witness cultural protocol that made their communities deeply, intrinsically, inextricably linked to the land that they arrive from. That was profound for me.”

Beneath are some portraits featured in “Challenge 562,” and the tales behind them.

Dr. Henrietta Mann


Dr. Henrietta Mann has been an educator for greater than 5 many years, architecting Native American research packages for a number of universities. She was not too long ago honored with a Nationwide Humanities Medal by President Biden and seems on the quilt of “Challenge 562.”

03 project 562 hyphenated Henrietta Mann

Dr. Henrietta Mann Credit score: Matika Wilbur

“I needed to have a matriarch on the quilt,” Wilbur informed CNN. “I actually have thought lots about rematriation (restoring sacred rules), and the work of rematriation and the way necessary it’s to uplift our girls who’ve labored for many years, like Auntie Dr. Henrietta Mann who devoted her life to the betterment of Indigenous individuals.”

Hannah Tomeo


Hannah Tomeo is an athlete and a Northwest Indian Youth Convention Princess. Wilbur photographed her within the Methow Valley exterior of the multiday convention, which is hosted by a special tribe within the area every year. On the 2016-2017 occasion, Tomeo and Wilbur had been each keynote audio system.

Hannah Tomeo

Hannah Tomeo Credit score: Matika Wilbur

“Working has been my absolute ardour and my stability, however I felt as if nobody needed me to reach highschool,” Tomeo informed Wilbur for “Challenge 562.”

“My trainer informed me it was in my genetics to be an alcoholic; my basketball coach would drug check solely me on the group; my monitor coach informed me I’d simply be one other silly Indian runner with no probability in the actual working world. I let these phrases encourage and push me till I earned the quickest instances within the faculty, however they nonetheless would not let me race.” Tomeo was changed in races with no clarification till she lastly give up, she defined. “My spirit had formally been damaged. I by no means thought I’d run once more. Then my dad gave me these phrases: ‘You possibly can both be a quitter or come again successful story. Your selection.'”

“That summer season I educated more durable than ever and got here again sturdy. I made it to State. I made first group and positioned within the Nike meet in Boise and at Footlocker in California… My story is not over.”

Darkfeather Ancheta, Eckos Chartraw-Ancheta, and Bibiana Ancheta


Darkfeather Ancheta (left) and her sister Bibiana have turn into “like sisters” to Wilbur, she famous within the ebook. Right here they’re pictured with Bibiana’s son, Eckos.

02 project 562 hyphenated Darkfeather

Darkfeather, Eckos and Bibiana Ancheta Credit score: Matika Wilbur

“I had a dream about them standing there like (within the {photograph}) in entrance of Tulalip Bay,” Wilbur informed CNN. “So I referred to as them and requested them if I may take their picture in the best way that I would seen in my dream.”

“Our communities nonetheless have these kinship programs and these familial ties the place an auntie is sort of a second mother. She is the protector and equally invested within the rising of the kid… I needed to attempt to create a picture with this picture that basically confirmed and encapsulated, you already know, the best way that we deal with our infants, the best way we love our infants.”

Joshua Dean Iokua Ikaikaloa Mori


Joshua Mori is a farmer, trainer and founding father of group, wellness and agriculture nonprofit Iwikua in Kauaʻi, Hawaii. Wilbur photographed him with one among his three kids on his aquaponic farm, a technique for water-based farming that makes use of fish as a pure fertilizer.

08 project 562 hyphenated Joshua Dean Iokua Ikaikaloa Mori

Joshua Dean Iokua Ikaikaloa Mori Credit score: Matika Wilbur

“My work is about desirous to take again the meals system and actually assault colonialism on the supply,” Mori informed Wilbur for “Challenge 562.” “At our root supply, our food regimen, which impacts every little thing in our our bodies — how we really feel, how we predict, how we love, how we procreate. Meals, for my part, impacts all of that. So we’re doing aquaponic farming, which is simply taking a standard mannequin of a meals system and simply shrinking it right down to trendy know-how. We take our conventional Native data and combine it with trendy know-how to make it extra accessible.”

“The youngsters study once they come out right here conventional hale constructing (home constructing), conventional farming, working in kalo patches, and likewise trendy farming methods,” he added. “They discover ways to spearfish and fish historically. Additionally, star navigation. Tips on how to use all the instruments, actually, how Hawaiians turned Hawaiians.”

Drew Michael


Drew Michael is a standard Yup’ik mask-maker and identifies as Two Spirit, or having each masculine and female spirits. Michael and his twin brother had been adopted and raised by non-Native dad and mom in Alaska and spoke with Wilbur about reconnecting to his Indigenous id. Wilbur photographed him in his dwelling.

04 project 562 hyphenated Drew Michael

Drew Michael Credit score: Matika Wilbur

“Rising up, I didn’t have sense of my tradition or id as a Yup’ik and Iñupiaq man… I didn’t have entry to that till I took a carving class with my father,” Michael informed Wilbur in “Challenge 562”. “I used to be in a position to create my very own piece, my very own illustration, nearly a replica of a masks in a ebook from an exhibition. That was the primary time that I used to be launched to my tradition, and I felt like I used to be beginning to personal it a little bit bit. As I realized extra about masks, why they had been used, who used them, after which the ceremonies and rituals, I began to see and study myself by way of the masks.”

“I do know particularly in Yup’ik tradition, individuals had been Two-Spirited, and sometimes they might be healers as a result of they may see into each worlds, the masculine and female, and may nearly maintain arms with each… so, since I’m Two-Spirited, and I additionally do masks and different types, I attempt to discuss totally different therapeutic inside my work.”

Fannie and Robert Mitchell


The Mitchells have been married for greater than six many years. Robert, a former railroad employee, now raises livestock on their land. The couple want to talk in Navajo, so their daughter-in-law translated for Wilbur. Wilbur spent her thirtieth birthday with them, and was handled to dinner, cake and presents of their dwelling.

05 project 562 hyphenated Fannie Robert Mitchell

Fannie and Robert Mitchell Credit score: Matika Wilbur

“There’s not loads of Native individuals that you simply meet anymore that simply converse their language. And so for me, it was a profound expertise, to be in a house the place they’re nonetheless dwelling very historically, and taking good care of sheep, and talking their language,” Wilbur informed CNN.

“In my time on the highway, I approached it in actually the one means that I understand how — which is as a Native individual. You do not present up empty-handed, you convey meals, you keep some time. You permit conventional presents behind, you keep in contact with of us, and so I felt actually lucky to get to fulfill these of us and to get to be of their dwelling for a short time.”

Out of body, she mentioned, there was a contact of chaos going down. “There is a drawn-back model of this portrait, the place there is a sheep licking me as I am taking this picture and there is two horses attempting to eat my mild… and that is why they’re laughing.”

John Sneezy


John Sneezy, who recognized as Two Spirit, was a Grass Dancer at powwows for greater than three many years, however was not in a position to carry out within the Conventional Fabric class — which Wilbur notes is danced by girls — till 2016, when he participated within the Bay Space American Indian Two-Spirit Powwow (BAAITS). Wilbur photographed him in San Francisco. He died earlier than the ebook revealed.

07 project 562 hyphenated John Sneezy

John Sneezy Credit score: Matika Wilbur

“Our younger Two Spirit individuals in Indian Nation expertise loads of violence for his or her id. John would say, ‘I dance, and I put on girls’s regalia, and I need to be proven in your ebook like this,'” Wilbur recalled to CNN. “John referred to as me and informed me that it was actually necessary to him that we proceed to uplift tales about Two Spirit individuals, in order that our younger Two Spirit family members really feel secure and seen and heard.”

“John had spent his entire life wanting to bop in a lady’s Apache gown, however did not really feel secure to take action till he traveled to the Bay Space American Indian Two-Spirit Powwow, which I feel says lots about the best way that members of the LGBTQ+ group are handled in a few of our communities. It is actually necessary in nationwide conversations about Indigenous id that we ensure that to acknowledge our Two Spirit family members and create area for illustration. And John would need me to share that with you.”

Challenge 562: Altering the Means We See Native America” is accessible now.

Prime picture: Amanda Attla (Athabascan, Yup’ik) from Huslia, Alaska.