Native American Instagram account


“How can we be seen as modern successful people if we are continuously represented as the leathered and feathered vanishing race,” asked Matika Wilbur, founder of Project 562, in her TEDx Talk: “Surviving Disappearance, Re-Imagining and Humanizing Native Peoples.” A member of the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes of Washington, Wilbur set out in 2012 to document at least one Native American person from each of the 562 currently recognized Tribal Nations in the United States. “For the last ten years,” Wilbur shared, “my work has been about counteracting these images, to create positive indigenous role models from this century.”

And that’s precisely what she has achieved. Eight years ago, the artist sold everything she had in her apartment in Seattle and packed her camera, boots, and set off not only to capture portraits but to listen and document stories. On the road for 416 days, Wilbur drove over 58,000 miles over the western United States from California, New Mexico, Wyoming, to Montana. Through exhibitions, presentations, and via her online gallery and social media platforms, Wilbur has shared this work and offers a new perspective of the lives lived by Native Americans across the US today.

Covering this diverse cultural landscape was vital to the project, as Wilbur was able to collect stories from a rich variety of folks in an array of different environments. She remarked in a video on her YouTube, “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 crisis, and in settings of extraordinary natural beauty.”

It is the hope that by presenting this visual voice to contemporary Native issues, Wilbur can continue her work with activists, elders, other artists, and leaders within the community and help shift our collective consciousness and work together with a shared humanity. The project has made huge strides in this goal over the past decade. Visit the online gallery or follow on Instagram to read in detail the many stories shared by Project 562. In the meantime, here is a small selection of Wilbur’s work as seen on Instagram, along with the stories behind the photos.

1.Wilson Mungnak Hoogendorn and Oilver Tusagvik, Inupiaq

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Hi friends. We’ve decided to spend this week sharing some of our favorite stories from our time on the road. I thought we could all use a little inspiration right now. ☺️ I’m elated to introduce you to these two: Wilson Mungnak Hoogendorn and Oilver Tusagvik, Inupiaq brothers from Nome Alaska, were the first to summit North America’s highest peak, Mount Denali, in the 2019 climbing season. I asked them how they prepared: “Doing hard things,” Wilson chuckles. “If you’re just constantly doing hard things, it’s a blip upward if you want to go. Do something crazy,” Oliver explains. Wilson agrees, “Just doing hard things makes everything easier.” They recall walking into the ranger station to register to climb and being met with sideways glances, “Are you sure?”, the ranger asked. “Probably because we didn’t look fancy”… Wilson mentions that most of the people that climb have really expensive equipment and many even have sponsorship. Despite doubt, they proceeded to break trail for the 2019 season at the third most prominent and isolated peak on Earth, after Mount Everest and Aconcagua. Denali, a kuyokon word that means “high”, “tall”, or “great one” is the highest mountain in North American at 20,310 feet above sea level. Oliver turned 22 years old a couple of months after the climb. He just graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology. Wilson is 21 and is attending the University of Alaska Anchorage, majoring in aeronautical studies. He recently earned his pilot license!! 👏👏👏

A post shared by Matika Wilbur (@project_562) on Apr 20, 2020 at 11:05am PDT

2. Gracie Pacheco, Chumash

3. Virginia Christman, Kumeyaay

4. Robert Suarez, Payómkawichum

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Meet Robert Suarez, a Payómkawichum Native from the Rincon Nation in Southern California. Robert is dedicated to finding innovative tools to lead his people toward positivity and a sustainable future. As the manager of IslandTat, they have found ways to go beyond what one would imagine as a tattoo shop. They help people connect spiritually with their tattoos. They produce a podcast. They are starting a museum. They see their space as a place for community: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ “I work at a shop called IslandTAT, everyone thinks TAT is for tattoo, but it stands for ‘Traditions All Together’. My boss who taught me a lot, he is like a mentor to me, he has really opened my eyes to not being higher than anybody and to be humble. He has been in the industry for over twenty years. He is one of the best artists you probably will meet. He is very humble about it, he wants to help people grow.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Working at IslandTAT helped Robert to reconnect to his traditional teachings: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ “If you are walking and a raven crows above you, that is something you should be worried about because he is saying, ‘I am going to kill you’, and that is when you are supposed to pray and say don’t kill me, I have much to live for, you stop in your footsteps and say what am I doing wrong in my life right now. Our traditions teach us how to be. We believe we are people of the stars and we come from the milky way, we are supposed to live our lives to a certain standard to return home. You are supposed to be able to return to the stars if you’ve lived a good life.”

A post shared by Matika Wilbur (@project_562) on Feb 12, 2019 at 11:57am PST

5. Alexis Russell, Tsmishian

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Meet 17 year old, Alexis Russell, a Tsmishian baller from Metlakatla, Alaska. She’s only a junior in high school, though she’s already averaging 13 points, 5 assists, 3 steals and 4 rebounds per game. Last year, their team won regionals and took second in the state: Why do you like to play basketball? Because I like to be in charge. And on the court I’m in charge. I just like the feeling of being good at something. You guys live on a tiny island, how do you manage to play ball? We have to ferry and fly to every team in our conference. We have to ferry to Craig. And fly to Wrangell and Petersburg. We have to fly Juneau and ferry to Haines. That’s the farthest trip. It’s 381 miles away. We play Friday and Saturday night, and then on Sunday we start our travel back. We’ll sleep in the classrooms. So we have to pack mattresses and sleeping bags. Why take your photo on the court? It’s kind of where I grew up. It taught me leadership and gave me more confidence than anything else ever has. It’s where I forget what’s happening around me and can just focus on the game. #nativeathlete #rezball #metlakatla

A post shared by Matika Wilbur (@project_562) on Dec 12, 2018 at 5:58pm PST

6. Dr. Henrietta Mann, Cheyenne

7. Matt Remle, Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Charging Thunder), Hunkpapa Lakota

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Today we celebrate Matt Remle, Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Charging Thunder), who belongs to the Hunkpapa Lakota people. . ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ @mcremle is a fierce activist, writer, father and editor of an online publication, the Last Real Indians. . Matt has been at the helm of major community movements since the 90’s: . He was first involved with raising Washington State’s minimum wage initiative. Then he went onto organizing against the WTO when it came to Seattle, opposing the Iraq Warc, and rallying against The Patriot Act. . ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ From 2000-2004, he was the lead organizer for the Seattle based Community Coalition for Environmental Justice (CCEJ), which addressed the adverse impacts of the siting of toxic and hazardous waste facilities in Seattle’s low-income and communities of color. CCEJ led successful campaigns at shutting down a medical waste incinerator located in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood and the closing of Long Painting’s paint and sand blasting facility located several feet from residential homes in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood. . In 2012, he drafted a resolution and lobbied the Washington State Board of Education to end the use of Native American race based mascots in the state’s k-12 public schools. The WSBE passed the resolution in 2012. . In 2014, he wrote a resolutions for both the city of Seattle and Seattle School Board to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Since then, he has worked with several communities around the country in drafting and supporting efforts to abolish-Columbus Day in their jurisdictions. . Last october, Matt led conversations with the city of Seattle to close its accounts with Wells Fargo, for funding The Dakota Access Pipeline. Those conversations with Sawant led to a bill that would make Seattle the first city in the nation to divest from Wells Fargo. Months later—following rallies, public testimony and mass protests at Wells Fargo branches—the council voted unanimously for the divestment ordinance.

A post shared by Matika Wilbur (@project_562) on Nov 5, 2018 at 10:38am PST

8. Dyami Thomas and Becca Lynn, Klammath and Ojibwe

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Meet Dyami Thomas and Becca Lynn (Klammath and Ojibwe) from Portland, Oregon. This brother/sister dynamic duo inspire Indian Country with constant motivation and positivity. As certified suicide prevention peer counselors, they are often on the road, working with native students: + ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ “We want Indigenous youth to know just how valuable their life is and how precious it is to be alive. It is so rare and amazing and beautiful to be indigenous and to have that culture. Our indigenous ancestors have prayed for us to be here today, and we have to honor that”. -Diyami + “There is a huge disconnect between us and our spirit and the Creator and I feel that with all of the things that come with the mainstream society like social media, the entertainment industry, drugs and alcohol, those things are just pushing us all further from our spirit and our connection with the Creator and I know that when we start reviving our culture, practicing our ways and really deeply rooting ourselves into our prayer, that’s how we’re going to come back to ourselves.” – Becca + ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ “It’s not about blood quantum, it’s not about skin color, eye color, hair color, or where you live, when it’s all said and done at the end of the day in the Creator’s eyes (and your eyes also), it’s about who you are and what you do with your life”. -Diyami + ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We are super grateful to have had the opportunity to meet these two and spend a wonderful afternoon with them. Thank you for all the work you do. Keep shining! @dyamithomas @queenfirerose Shot by @matikawilbur ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

A post shared by Matika Wilbur (@project_562) on Sep 6, 2018 at 6:22pm PDT

9. Lena Charley, Taa’tl’aa Dena’

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Meet 90 year old, Lena Charley from to Taa’tl’aa Dena’ (Headwaters People). She’s pictured in her smokehouse, where she is smoking an entire moose! She was one of the few women to be a big game guide in Alaska in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s and among a cherished few Athabascans that tans her own moose hides and other furs. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Mrs. Charley is also a fluent language speaker, primarily speaking the Upper Ahtna dialect of Batzulnetas and Mentasta. However, like all multilingual elders of her generation, she occasionally uses words from the other languages and dialects she learned growing up. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We met Mrs. Charley last fall, after we photographed her daughter Evelyn Better, who is a world renowned dog musher, hunter and president Mount Sanford Tribal Consortium (MSTC). She told us that her Mom taught her how to hunt and prepare food for the long winter, since the nearest grocery store is over an hour away, and the price of fresh food is majorly conflated. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Christochina, Alaska (Tsiistl’edze’ Na’[ Ahtna Athabascan), is located between mile 31 and 37 on the Tok Cutoff Highway, and it’s population is only 93 people.

A post shared by Matika Wilbur (@project_562) on Aug 25, 2020 at 6:01pm PDT

10. Elsa Armstrong, Ojibwe