Matika Wilbur: How can we be seen as modern, successful people if we are continually represented as the leathered and feathered “vanishing race?” The last ten years, my work has been counteracting these images to create positive Indigenous role models from the century.
The journey began last December. I sold everything in my Seattle apartment, packed my camera, boots, and film into my war pony, and set off on an epic adventure into Native America.
For hundreds of years, our Native ancestors have been calling for the authentic story of our people to be told, but an elder told me that our stories cannot be shared overnight. It takes a lifetime. We are telling that story.
Kickstarter support has allowed me to be on the road for 416 days. I have driven 58,000 miles through all of the Western United States, from New Mexico, to Montana, Wyoming, to California.
I have photographed 161 tribes. I have joined our people in their homes, in tribal schools, in ceremonies, in places of immense and painful history. Places of environmental and economic crises, and in settings of extraordinary natural beauty.
Participant 1: My happiness is (Native American word) that means “you’re happy all the time,” and (Native American word), that means “you’re both the same.” We forget about that.
Matika Wilbur: I’ve collected stories from elders, poets, leaders, tribal youth, activists, and culture bearers. Project 562 has attracted crucial allies in the world of media, arts, and ideas. During this period of your support, the University of Washington Press has invited me to publish my work as a multi-volume fine arts portrait series, the first of its kind.
The Tacoma Art Museum is preparing for an exclusive exhibition of Project 562 on May 17, 2014, and in May of this last year, I spoke at TED X in Seattle about Project 562, “Surviving Disappearance.”
Project 562 has been featured in eighteen national print, media, and radio outlets including NBC, Indian Country Today, and NPR. Although my focus has been on photographing tribes, I’ve been awarded grants from The Tulalip Charitable Contribution Fund, the Pechanga Tribe, and The Potlatch Fund.
The most amazing part of this journey though has been the generosity and kindness that our people have offered me, and their enthusiasm and hope that has come from them believing in what I am doing.
I believed I could do this project in four years. In one year, I have already completed one-third of what I set out to do. But we can’t do it alone. With your support, we can bring integrity to contemporary representation.
Let’s shift our collective consciousness and remember that we belong to one another. The time of sharing, building cultural bridges, abolishing racism, and creating a lasting legacy that will unite the next seven generations is among us.
For every $3,000 I raise is one more month on the road. Please join us. Help us to keep the momentum going. Contribute if you can. Every little bit helps. And please share the project with your friends.
My name is Matika Wilbur. This is Project 562. Thank you for listening.
[Title card: Your support enables Matika to celebrate an unprecedented national legacy of Native America, through multi-volume photography books, exhibitions, curricula, and transformative art. Please become a part of this remarkable quest. T’igwicid.]