Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today’s True Native Americans

Posted October 5th, 2015 at 2:12 pm (UTC-4)


Josh is a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) Kalo farmer, activist, and educator from the beautiful island of Kauai. He works with youth to be proud of their Hawaiian culture and community, and believes that through education there can be healing. He says, “We have a lot of sickness. I believe the spiritual sickness and a lot of the physical and mental sickness we encounter in our communities, when we focus our energy, our mana, onto fixing that, we put our minds together and we get our energy moving in the same way, it’s through education.” (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Matika Wilbur is on a mission that will take her across the United States. Weary of stereotypical representations of Native Americans, the high school teacher is determined to photograph every federally-recognized Native American tribe in the country.

“When you see us represented in mass media, you see Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves and Twilight, or maybe on some Netflix series you’ll see an Indian who’s fighting with Congress to have a casino,” Wilbur said. “What you won’t see is doctors and lawyers and contemporary people living in the present.”

Wilbur, a Native American woman of the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes, is out to change that. She hopes her pictures will present a well-rounded portrait of today’s Native Americans: People fighting hard to maintain tribal sovereignty and protect ancestral ways, who also have children and family problems and chaos and order and love, like any other people.


Ray, 82, and Fannie, 83, have been married for 65 years. They only speak Dine, so their daughter had to translate for me while I was visiting them. This picture was taken at their sheep camp, where they live without running water. Fannie is a weaver, she shears the wool from the sheep, spins and hand dyes the wool to create beautiful Navajo rugs. Ray worked for the railroad for most of his life but he is now retired to ranch life. (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Wilbur has been on the road for more than three years now on a journey that has covered more than 250,000 miles so far.

It’s worthwhile trek, she says, to uplift young Native Americans who are inundated with stories about themselves that revolve around poverty, alcoholism, stereotypical representations, lower life expectancy and a myriad of other social problems.

“I think it’s the result of brutal colonization and the years of genocide, all of the racist federal policies: termination, relocation, assimilation,” said Wilbur. “These policies that have aimed to erase our people have left a lasting impression and we’re in the throes of attempting to recover from the sum of those experiences.”

Wilbur’s venture is called Project 562, after the 562 federally-recognized tribes she plans to photograph, including some on reservations in remote areas of the country. She ultimately plans to exhibit the photos, publish them and see her images used in education curricula.

Darkfeather, Bibiana and Eckos Ancheta from the Tulalip Tribe. (Photo by  Matika Wilbur)

Darkfeather, Bibiana and Eckos Ancheta from the Tulalip Tribe. (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

She hopes her photos will help reshape the public’s perception of who Native Americans are.

“There’s something in this collective consciousness that still believes that Indians are lesser human beings, savage, that we’re conquered,” Wilbur said. “It’s like someone is throwing stones at you and it lands somewhere. It lands somewhere on your spirit, and your heart and how you feel about yourself.”

Wilbur’s goal is for her photos to help reshape how young people, like her former high school students, feel about themselves.

Native American youth have the highest suicide levels in the country and Wilbur saw first-hand how false and outdated impressions of Native Americans negatively impacted them and how they felt about themselves.

Ultimately, she hopes her photographs of a diverse people will be not only informative, but also uplifting.

“Hopefully we create something beautiful and positive, something that shows stories of hope and endurance,” she said. “It’s not the dying race, it’s not a manifestation of a romanticized version [of a people].”


Juanita (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Calling Walwatoa (Jemez Pubelo), New Mexico home, Juanita is a community wellness advocate and works for her tribe’s community wellness program. She lives on her tribal lands, and feels grateful for the opportunity to serve her people. Born in Washington, D.C. while her mother was working for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Juanita moved back to her community when she was young. (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Fishermen (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Treaty fisherman Chase, Nancy, Tandy and Tanner Wilbur standing in front of the Wilbur family purse seining boat at Swinomish. (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Industrial engineering student, Stephen Yellowtail, of the Crow Nation, at his family's cattle ranch in Montana. (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Industrial engineering student, Stephen Yellowtail, of the Crow Nation, at his family’s cattle ranch in Montana. (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Cousin (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Jaclyn Roessel, Dine’ (Navajo Nation), has an MPA from Arizona State University and works as the Heard Museum’s education and public programs director. She also owns the Naaltsoos Project, which prints cards with Navajo greetings, produces the podcast “Schmooze”, which features interviews with Arizona women about topics ranging from the arts to immigration, blogs at Grownup Navajo, and runs a fashion blog Presence 4.0 with Chelsea Chee and Nanibaa Beck. (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Zunii (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Zunii (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

(Photo by Matika Wilbur)

Viola Richards of the Tolowa. (Photo by Matika Wilbur)

111 responses to “Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today’s True Native Americans”

  1. CS says:

    What a great project. My only problem is with some of the terminology. Pocahontas, Sacajawea, and many other Native Americans who had certain types of experiences with Europeans who had come to America centuries ago are not “stereotypes.” They were real people. And there really were people of European descent who did what was ethical in their relations with Native Americans. Sadly, there were not nearly enough of them–there were people who were blind, indifferent, and much worse, and many of them were in leadership positions, like President Jackson. Perhaps that’s why you want to get away from representations of “good guys” in well-known films–not that they weren’t real, or that there weren’t real people like them; the problem is, it’s easy from the movies you mention to think they were typical, and they weren’t. –I prefer phrases you use like “broaden perceptions and knowledge” rather than “get away from stereotypes.”

    • Jenifer says:

      You are correct in that Pocahontas and others mentioned were real people. Real people from the past. These individuals are used as a stereotype. When folks in this time imagine what an Indian is this is whom they reference.
      They are not shown Natives living today. This is why this artist has been working on this project. To show natives living today. That we don’t All Run around in headdresses and regalia. That we are doctors, lawyers and even struggling to make ends meet on reservations. So yes this project is to break the stereotypes.

      • Doc Moore says:

        I grew up in the Southwest 50 years ago when “Cowboy and Indian” movies were popular. I have since traveled to every state in the country and lived in many of them. In my experience no one ever did visualize or even imagine contemporary “native Americans” in the images of the “stereotypes” you suggest. It seems to me that everyone who got past the 3rd grade soon realized that native American’s were forced into reservations, mostly lived dismal lives, tried to follow tribal customs, wore jeans and drove pickups. I think anything you can do to promote these people and accurately portray their heritage and who they have become today is very important. Good for you. But I think most people do not think of Pocahontas as a stereotype.

      • CS says:

        I think your project is great. If you’re going to reference history at all, however, please don’t minimize the contributions of people (too few of them)–native Americans and Caucasians–who tried to make things work and were ethical.

      • CS says:

        Just take “Goodbye, Pocahontas” off the title. It sends people down tracks which the site isn’t meant to be about, as you’ve said.
        I love the comments from people who want to know more about their tribes.

        About teaching about Native Americans in history classes: the history textbooks I was given to teach from in my school district treated Native Americans with respect, in detail, and didn’t “stereoptype” them at all.

        Perhaps a focus in schools could be in elementary education. It may be there that the “stereotype” is planted in children’s minds, partly because it’s easy to dramatize the stereotypes. I can imagine a terrific children’s program that begins where Native Americans are now.

        I think a huge effort to give up stereotyping is the abandonment of Native American terminology for athletic teams.

        Side note: in French literature, the idea of the “noble savage” in the 19th century– that non-Europeans in the Americas were exemplary, to be admired. “Savage” in that context just meant that they were not part of European culture and was not derogatory. –I do know, of course, that the word was used in other contexts in a derogatory sense which was very damaging.

    • Daniel Onefeather Sylvernale says:

      Ironically being of Cherokee descent I served my country in the US Navy that was named after President Jackson’s estate, The Hermitage. Ironic that he was the one President that put my people on the trail of tears, among other tribes.

    • Doris Delaney says:

      During the 1990s Dances With Wolves created sympathy and positive support for Native Americans that helped pave the way for the James Bay Campaign by the Cree Indians of Northern Quebec — according to Winona :LaDuke, it was the most successful joint effort by Natives and non-Natives in modern history. A great river was saved and lifelong bonds of friendship and understanding were forged during that years-long effort to prevent industrial development of the Crees’ wilderness homeland. When the public came out to hear a Cree representative speak they did not expect to meet Graham Greene. But thanks to that film, they did indeed come out to listen, and to learn, and so the stereotype served a purpose. There are good reasons to object to stereotypes and this project, to introduce the REAL Native American, is a wonderful achievement. But in my humble opinion, so was Dances With Wolves. Thanks for the article and the discussion.

    • JC says:


      Being seen from a non-minority group perspective, like the Caucasian pop. in the US, stereotypes for minorities, which still include Native Americans today, are seen as normal from that perspective. Not only are the stereotypes time-stamped, but they are completely off compared to modern times. Stereotypes are offensive. It is important to provide literature and expand knowledge to beable to erase these offensive stereotypes. The history taught today is completely white-washed & seeing Native Americans & other minorities from a better perspective is very necessary. Though their might have been “good” Europeans, there weren’t enough to ignore the horrible things that Native Americans & other minorities were put through by Europeans.

  2. Rick McNicholas says:

    I believe what you are doing is very very inspiring, I have always felt compassion for the Native Americans in this country and I feel like if they controlled America it would be a much better place to live your life and raise a family with some real and true values about earth and the precious balance we are destroying

    • Colleen says:

      I agree with your statement. Being 1/16th Cherokee, I want to learn so much of my great, great grandmother’s tribe and understand their way of living.

  3. SweetGaBrownin says:

    What an amazing idea! I would love to see this project thrive.

  4. Dixie says:

    I get weary of white people being blamed for all the ills of…..well, okay, Native Americans (although anyone born in America is a native American). Now their suicides are the white people’s fault. Why can’t Native Americans pull themselves up by their bootstraps and learn to assimilate into the rest of society, instead of worrying about losing the old ways? Nobody does anything the same way they used to, but Native Americans think they will somehow lose their identity if they give up the old ways. That’s bull hockey-doo doo! Some people in this world just can’t let go of the past, and it’s easier to play the blame game than to move forward and improve their own lot in life. Do you think I constantly concern myself with what happened to my ancestors and how it affects me today? Why should I? Today is today, and I don’t let the past and other people’s perceptions of me affect how I feel about myself. To do so is weakness.

    • Obsidiana says:

      I have never blamed the white man for any wrong in my life. There are those that are still bitter yes but we are working on moving forward. Also my people have walked this land for thousands of years but according to the white man we have no right to claim it. Yet they claim Ireland, Scotland, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, England, Australia, etc. How can you claim those lands when your people didn’t originate there? Why is that my people can’t claim this land we have walked for thousands of years but you can still claim those lands? The Kennewick man is thought to be about 8,600 – 9,000 years old and when they did DNA testing they found he was Native and yet your people still refuse to allow us to claim this land. Why? Think about it, if you say we have no claim to this land than in the minds of those people that absolves them from the atrocities their ancestors committed against he Native population. I am blaming your ancestors but they think believe that justifies their taking of this land and trying to commit genocide against my people.

      When my people were here there was very little disease, we learned how to use all parts of an animal so nothing went to waste, we were able to find plants and use them to treat different ailments, every tribal member had a house and there was no such thing as taxes, the tribe took care of its own and if a family was in trouble the whole tribe stepped up to help that family until they could get back on their feet, there was no medical insurance, no social security, no over priced drugs, etc.

      Your people thought mine were savages but in reality your people were not much different than a savage.They barely bathed and were riddled with disease yet they were supposed to be superior? Not to mention the fact they hunted the buffalo to near extinction.

      • J says:

        Guess what, all Europeans were in the same situation as Native Americans at an earlier part of their history. We adapted to the changing world of migration, warfare and ended up traveling ourselves to other lands.
        Staking claim to the land to which you live is all fair for the time you live, unless some outside force changed that. No country on earth was ammune to that. As civilizations grew, land was taken from just about everybody with very little exception and others subplanted the local populations.
        Don’t think for one minute that Native Amrericans cornered the market on having land taken from them. This is the way humans are. In fact there were plenty of instances of Native American populations being forced out of their land or even being wiped out entirely by other tribes.
        As for Europeans being savages, well we were all savages at one time.

        • TLStrongfeather says:

          The old was is best for us. We as a whole have been dying off. We will become extinct. Not like the Europens or the Africans that are hardy in population. And you seem to be a very bitter person towards our way of living and surviving. You live the way you want to and we live our way. Our culture. Our heritage means everything to us. And we will continue this by passing it down to our children.

          • Jade says:

            I hope Strongfeather that you and your people survive and continue. I believe that your way of life was actually the wisest way: you understood man’s place in nature and how to maintain the crucial balance between humanity and the world around it. Sadly, my people are takers and hoarders, it is their cultural myth that they can expand and grow without limits and they see everything around them as something to possess and conquer. One day, when they have completely destroyed their home, the earth, they will wish they had taken the time to sit with your people and listen and learn. I wish the day would come when they would listen, I hope that some will start before they destroy the world for everyone.

        • RI says:

          I am so sad that I never learned anything about my grandmother’s culture, because her generation wasn’t even allowed to speak their own language. She was taken from her parents to be raised by my white great grandparents. She was tied to a chair as a toddler to keep her from “running wild”, so often that she was wheelchair bound for the rest of her life. Learning the old ways isn’t so much about not wanting to stay the same, but about learning where you come from. We read history books that praise Columbus, Jackson, and many other leaders who brought misery to people they considered savages. I can’t help but wonder how much valuable knowledge has been lost over the millennia while people were obliterating whole civilizations. I mourn for my grandmother who told me when I was a child that she was abandoned by gypsies, because she was ashamed to let me know she was native. I am glad to be able to celebrate holidays and cultural traditions that might be considered old fashioned, but that haven’t been banned because they are different or simply misunderstood…

          • Colleen says:

            I feel the same thing. I wish that I learned about my great, great grandmother’s tribe and understand their way of living. I also wanted to meet any of her family descendants because I believe in family. I believe that this is a great project and I hope that it will change the way people see Native American tribes in a different way

      • Rebecca says:

        It’s no secret that Europeans ruined this country! They brought disease, alcohol, crime and a host of other issues. They are absolutely to blame for the oppression of the Native American which unfortunately still thrives today. The Europeans were the dirty savages in this scenerio!

    • Hugh says:


      Your thinking is just like their life style, very dated.

    • Joel says:

      No…it’s the stereotypes they project about Native Americans, the indignities that they cast upon them (and just about every other ethnic minority in the US) that gets them blamed. The typical brush off response of “has nothing to do with me” all the while refusing to acknowledge that these atrocities ever happened by trying to rewrite the past. If you want to stop being labeled as bigots accept and acknowledge that our ancestors suffered at the hands of yours…sometime just for your amusement. Twice a year everyone in the US is forced to acknowledge the plight of your ancestors and how they fled a tyrannical system that oppressed them from practicing their religious beliefs.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m afraid that your comment is clearly informed more by your own manipulative biases and pre-conceptions than anything actually written in this page or pertinent to the project.

      The point of this project is not to play the blame game, to try and find a scapegoat for the woes of the Native American people, but much the opposite (you just might notice if you actually care to read the article again): it is showcasing and celebrating, candidly, the reality of modern Native Americans–a people who have, despite your assertions, fought to assimilate themselves into the present day as meaningful, contributive citizens. Again, I will reiterate: all the project hopes to accomplish is to provide more genuine representation of a people group that is so often marginalized, and to encourage Native Americans to celebrate their heritage and culture (which is very much not the same thing, I might add, as being too caught up in the past to live in the present).

      That you seem to find this troubling is disturbing. If you really feel like the idea of Native Americans being marginalized is a false problem, than I advise you to invest more study into history, and to maybe actually engage and hear out Native Americans themselves.
      So often stigmatization is perpetrated in small ways and big ways by people who don’t feel like it’s actually a problem, and I would like to hope that is not your goal.

      • Crystal says:

        I wish we could ‘like’ the comments people leave.. I would like yours most definately!! People have overlooked the entire purpose of this project completely.. Made it about something entirely different.. For the sake of argument.. Sad..

        • Wolf spirit says:

          I agree
          Such a disgrace that something so beautiful and creative can be taken negatively be ignorance.
          I am proud mi’kmaq married to a proud wolastegey Skitap and raising proud skicin of our own.

    • Hanseman says:

      How many Native Americans were killed when the Spaniards and Portuguese invaded. Millions and millions. And the white people are still causing most of the problems we face to day on this globe. But you americans are to ignorant and self centered to realize the problems we face.

      • P says:

        The Spanish and Portuguese are and were part of Europe, that makes them white. They’re not English or Dutch or French but they’re still white.

    • AC says:

      This is exactly the kind of attitude this project is going to address. True, anyone born is America is a “Native American,” but there are so many different tribes that I think it’s easier for some people to refer to us as Native Americans or American Indians, even though we are neither. Why can’t we learn to assimilate? Well, that’s exactly what our elders were forced to do, when they were beaten for speaking their language and they had their hair chopped off when they were stolen from their families and sent to boarding school when they were small children. Our “old ways” defines who we are, they ARE our identity. It’s not about living in the past, it’s about what makes us who we are, which I don’t expect you to understand. Also, if you read the article, the project is also about indigenous people doing exactly what you question, “assimilating” by becoming doctors and lawyers, while still respecting their culture. This project is aimed at uplifting our youth and changing peoples perceptions of indigenous people, not to play the blame game.

      • John says:

        AC, I am not aboriginal and cannot know how you feel and have no real right to make a suggestion, but I like the Canadian term of “First Nations”. It is a reminder that there were peoples here before Europeans arrived who were worthy of respect and that they were far more than “ignorant savages”. In my mind that respect is greater now after you have managed to adapt without losing your identity after all you have been through. I wish you better times ahead.

    • bobmatthews says:

      If USA gets invaded and occupied you think its population will have to just deal with IT.Genocide is still on going,land theft is still happening (look at the Apache dance grounds stolen this year with help from John Mccain!

    • Jeffery says:

      You took the words right out of my mouth, Dixie. . I researched my ancestry (English, Scots-Irish, German), and I’m aware of their struggles, but I’m not going to let their struggles slow me down in the present.

      • TSD says:

        That is in no way the same. Comparing anything your Scots-Irish or German ancestors went through, that you actually know of, to that of Native Americans is ludicrous.

        My ancestors had a fresh start in a completely new land THEY CHOSE TO GO TO, whatever they dealt with before was irrelevant and their current country, the US, had nothing to do with it. Furthermore you have to go pretty far back to where you couldn’t possibly even trace an ancestor back to find a comparable struggle. i.e. The Romans subduing gallic/celtic/germanic european tribes. Which would be far more akin to what happened to the Native Americans and still very different, even European royalty can’t trace their genetic lines that far back.

        Native Americans had it forced upon them.

    • Mike Sadlier says:

      The effects of the destruction of Native cultures will take a long while to overcome. You do not seem to understand how having everything taken away from you can leave a people destitute, culturally and economically, in a system they did not understand. The old ways were dead, the new ways a mystery. Pretty easy to say “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps” when you are the conquering race with a huge technological advantage and have appropriated the overwhelming portion of the lands resources.

    • Sam says:

      Dixie, I really don’t know how to address you seeing how stupid and ignorant your perception is. How should they “pull themselves up by their bootstraps and learn to assimilate into the rest of society, instead of worrying about losing the old ways?” Uh first, it’s THEIR lands that were being invaded. Ever heard of the of the ‘Trail of Tears’? How about the British and Dutch in South Africa? To forget your past is rejecting what makes you, the self! Just because you’re careless about your ‘self’ doesn’t mean someone else should. Newsflash, a lot of Native Americans have ‘assimilated’ as you say, they just don’t scream it!
      You are part of the crowd that wants to rewrite history just as Texas now teaches students that black slaves, I mean employees, came to the Americas as immigrants but weren’t slaves.
      It’s your right to be ignorant but just keep that to yourself. Showing blatant and rude ignorance is not a bliss!

    • Padma says:


      If you live on land appropriated from indigenous peoples, then you continue to benefit from the worst genocide in human memory. Has your language been stripped from you? Your religion? Your food-sources? Have you been victimized by scores of treaties entered into in good faith broken at will by the government that wrote them? Have your people been led into massacre like the Arapahoe and Cheyenne at Sand Creek, having already signed a peace treaty and flying the American flag?—like the Sioux at Wounded Knee?

      Your argument boils down to “assimilation”—if they’d only be like us. Not unlike us, but like us. This “us” has exploited North America with unbridled wantonness, destroyed its forests, its beautiful places, its bison herds, its natural predators. This “us” was built on child labor, the labor of slaves and the slaughter of native peoples. This “us” has led the world into a era of global warming that can no longer be stopped—we’re already well past the tipping-point. Our seas are rising, wild fires are rampant and droughts are destroying our crops. Why would they want to be like “us”? When we’ve proven ourselves to be little more than greedy little tyrants, selfish pigs who care little for the future of our planet or our children’s children. This “us” has hardly proven itself a worthy steward of this land or this air. We poison our land, we poison our air, we treat our crops with poisons. Our slaughter of animals for food is grotesque and horrifying—nothing humane about it.

      When asking yourself why America’s first peoples don’t want to assimilate, take a good look in the mirror. Maybe they just don’t want to be like “us.” Can you really blame them?

      • Kristine says:

        Amen Padma! I love all that you’ve written here. I truly hope this project is a raging success! And that all Native Americans can move forward with pride, health, love and prosperity. 🙂

      • Vicki says:

        Well said. I’ve been accused of abandoning my heritage and “going native” but it’s simply because the Native Americans lived in harmony with the land and only took what was needed to survive. No greed like the Europeans that came over here. They had the right idea…live in harmony with nature. We should all be trying to live like that.

        • Marcus Aurelius II says:

          I think most people all over the world prefer the freedom to travel, the comfort, the conveniences, and the interests in life that our technological society affords. I don’t think most people would prefer to live as their ancestors did centuries ago. But there is a price to pay for this and it has to do with the impact this life style has on the natural world given our current level of technology. We do our best to minimize that impact and forgo some of the conveniences but the planet can only support so many people without permanent and sometimes seriously degrading changes. Of all the subjects related to climate change only one is taboo and that is population control. There are simply too many people who live at a modern level for our planet to support. The alternatives are permanent impact, fewer people, a much lower standard of living, or a much more efficient technology. Marginal changes to save a watt here and another there will not have any effect. It is a dangerous delusion to think that it will.

    • jason says:

      I’m sorry for you Dixie. You really don’t understand (1) the Red Road, (2) its more than a belief but a way of life.
      Once this is gone than the Native Americans are gone; something that we could never get back. As for myself, I am Kiowa/Choctaw/Irish/Dutch German, a cradle Catholic that follows the Red Road, because that is where I have my connection with the Creator.

    • Kathy says:

      Hey Dixie, where did you learn your HISTORY??? Anyone born here is NOT NATIVE AMERICAN!!! The Native Americans were NOT from another country, were NOT descendants of another country, did NOT have ancestors born in another country! Native Americans formed this country, were born here, their descendants are from HERE, not another country. My great great grandfather was Geronimo and I am damned proud of that heritage. I am only half Native American, but Native American just the same. The White man STOLE the land from the Native Americans and put them all on reservations so they could take the land for towns, for farms etc. Before you open your obviously BIG mouth about things you have no knowledge of, STUDY YOUR HISTORY FIRST!! Get your facts straight FIRST BEFORE you post! Obviously you need to go BACK TO SCHOOL! Oh, and btw, the other half of me is SICILIAN and my great great grandfather on that side is AL CAPONE! Got anything to say about that???

      • Garnett says:

        And to you Kathy – think about this, I was born in America so, even though my ancestors were from Europe (native Europeans), I am technically a native American. You are right to be proud of your ancestry but American Indians were not from America. They were here long before this country got it’s name in English. And, of course, Indians were called Indians because Columbus thought he was in India.

    • Alma Perez says:

      As a Hispanic women, I take offense against the person who feels that the TRUE Americans should JUST get over IT!! If you and your people had gone thru what the native americans, blacks, mexicans and asians had gone thru you would NOT have the nerve to talk that way! STOP being stupid like the rest of White america and READ!

    • Garnett says:

      It’s not that easy, Dixie. Some Indians are able to do what you suggest. Check out Pine Ridge Reservation. About 40.000 Indians here live on 2,000,000 acres, Like others, have been forced onto reservations decades ago. Then some of that land was taken because there was gold there. There are no opportunities for employment nearby. However just across the border in Nebraska is the small town of White Clay are a few whites who own liquor stores where they sell millions of cans of beer every year – taking advantage of the Indians and the despair they live with. Many believe all Indians get money from the government. What the organizations on the reservation receive comes nowhere near what is needed.
      Because of the scarcity of money residents eat poorly. The result is that diabetes is very common. Housing is poor. Medical facilities are few and far between. Indian families consist, not only, of mom, dad and children but include what whites consider extended family, i.e. aunts uncle, cousins, nieces and nephews. It’s very difficult to break away from the culture and family that you’ve grown up with.
      Bottom line for you, Dixie, is “if you don’t know the facts, don’t pass judgement.”

    • MAp says:


      I’m sad for you and your narrow view of history and human suffering. This lack of compassion is inhumane. I can clearly see why history repeats itself. If we continue to learn nothing from our past and have no consequences we will continue moving towards division and war. Your words, although mostly ignorant, are hurtful and piercing. Please consider broadening your view for the sake of our children.

    • DeeShu Huse says:

      Here’s an idea
      …get rid of St. Paddy’s Day,Columbus Day,bagpipes at funerals, Asian-American month,Black history month,President’s Day-just to name a few.Let’s wipe out all vestiges of cultural identity and wander the planet like Z Nation.

      EE Ia

    • White-Scalper says:

      You claim that what happened to native Americans is the past but it’s very much moser. History. The US army killed men women and children here on American soil as later as the 1890’s and possibly later… Not to mention comments like yours are outright racist (there’s no way around it) so we are being hated on to this day, and being killed out on the streets. When Europeans became Americans they lost their culture and now whites are envious that the natives actually have culture and you don’t.And a Siberian tiger that is born in LA zoo is not considered “native” to North America so why should we apply the same logic to humans? Assimilate ? You sound like hitler! Only worse because you are applying your views to the people who’s land you are living on.

      • Justus Nospam says:

        I think everyone needs to get a grip. There are NO indigenous people in North American. Some walked across the land bridge from Asia, some boated over. Nobody has a more senior claim to this land other than it’s current owner, and of course the federal government, which supposedly represents all of us. Get a DNA test, and you’ll find out what asian race you can attribute your heritage to. I am a small part cherokee, but a larger part english, danish, swede, with some touches of irish and scotch thrown in. Assimilate or die off and be forgotten, which you pretty much are anyway.

    • m says:

      In regard to your comment about how all people born in the U.S. are “native Americans”, Great, That’s fair , but this label was not assigned to the indigenous peoples of the Americas anyway. To alienate indigenous people for how the white man labelled us is just ludicrous as we did not assign this to ourselves.
      For you to tell indigenous people to get over the plight of our people is not as easy as you make it. And I assume that you are the same type of person to tell black Americans to get over slavery. It is not easy to get over an issue when you still face issues that render you “inadequate” in the eyes of society. Our people face problems that are a direct result of our plight as well. You can get over your own ancestry because you do not currently face the effects of their plight and can still serve as an ideal citizen of the society.
      In addition, we are trying to affirm our identities in a society that tells us to assimilate. Letting go of our “outdated pasts” is wrong. I invite you to do some research on modern-day traditional practices. Indigenous peoples have assimilated into modern ways of living by keeping elements that our true to our cultures. Assimilation is not the issue at hand then, my friend, as this photo exhibit shows.

    • Robin Hughes says:

      There are 2 precepts which I say guides most bigoted human interactions: 1) If you look like me,or,I perceive you to be like me, then you must BE like me, want what I want,, think like I do,dress like me, etc. This is the basis for all the assimilation policies of the past – & any other policy currently in vogue trying to impress their will/ways on others (Kim Davis). The 2nd precept is that if you are NOT like me, then you cannot think like me, have what I have, or be like me. This results in the reservation system with its denial of basic human services of food, health care, education, etc, and of the segregation policies practiced on Blacks, an example being the white flight of neighborhoods when Black people tried to better their living conditions. I state these to you,Dixie, as you are clearly operating under precept #1 when you insist on assimilation. For native American Indians, it is more about a merger of two worlds, an adaptation.
      Another thought, we as Americans pride ourselves on our freedoms. While we have the freedom to be (white) we also have the freedom to NOT be (white). Unfortunately, most don’t accept the opposite side of the coin, hence your common attitude of “leave the reservation and assimilate”. We shouldn’t have to in order to prosper.

    • Tally says:

      You used assimilate and hold onto your old ways in the same sentence.

    • Ginger says:

      Let go of the old ways? Assimilate? You have to be out of your mind. My father in law is 88 and goes to the long houses to worship and tells me of the old ways and speaks the language. I am very proud of him. If it weren’t for our elders we would be no where. He is a WWII and Korean vet. I think he has assimilated enough.

  5. Lynton says:

    Magical. Pure magic.

  6. Lorin smith says:

    You are not alone and keep up the great work

  7. Patrick says:

    I wish you well on your project! I hope you will you be publishing your photo’s! You do very nice work with your photography and your composition is very well done. Don’t stop, complete your journey.

  8. CS says:

    Native Americans were not “savages,” as William Penn and many other early settlers knew and acted on. Samuel Champlain knew it also.
    And the way Native Americans treated/treat nature we are all trying to learn from. Yet they were not perfect, any more than any other groups of human beings. They took revenge on and tortured each other, just as Europeans had done to each other as a matter of course in centuries past (but forgot in times closer to the present, as in Nazi Germany) and were trying to learn not to do–and in the present, revenge and torture are not a part of the lives of native Americans. But be careful as you bring to the minds of all of us the virtues past and present of Native Americans, and the grievous faults of those who wanted the continent for their own way of life and ran roughshod over the Native Americans–remember that the Native Americans were not exemplary in all their dealings, especially with each other.

  9. Patrick says:

    This is exactly what Matika Wilbur is speaking of. This isn’t an essay about who did what to whom,first, most, or longest. This is an essay about a contemporary people. Too many people in our nation who can hear but not listen, too many who have sight but cannot see, too many with education but will not learn.

  10. maria says:

    No other group in this country would have tolerated the stereotypes and prejudices inflicted upon.the American Indians. The government made sure they had no political power to effect change by denying voting rights. I hope this photographic pursuit is a.success.

  11. mike says:

    The problem I have is that these are not the only types of Native Americans…When the Europeans first arrived, Many of the Natives on the East Coast were Black Natives…at the time the Americas were full of Black and Red Natives, that at some times didn’t get along. Many Black natives were captured and enslaved, history tells us this but many believe it was the mongoloid “Indian” that they were speaking of. They were transported to the Caribbeans, some to other parts of the US and most to Europe. The slave trade actually began in the Americas, not from Africa to Americas…History keeps dismissing the Black indigenous peoples of the Americas, usually misclassifying them , on purpose, as African slaves.

    • J says:

      There were no “Black Natives” as you discribed here in North America prior to the European migration. Africans did not know how to navigate the oceans so your statement is incorrect.

      • S says:

        J, you need to check your facts as there were Blacks here with the natives before Europeans “discovered” the land. Do your homework and read “They Came Before Columbus” by Ivan Van Sertima. Open your mind and read a book (fact not fiction)….there are many facts out there regarding this country that are contrary to the drivel they publish in “history” books in school. I for one think the conversation has gotten away from the main subject which is to bring positive Native images into light.

      • mike says:

        Africans being the first people were the first on the seas. Egyptians, phoenicians and the original Arabs..also the Anericas were apart of Africa at one time..Caucasians give themselves too much credit..they were late in the game seeing that they come from the mountains and steppes of Asia…nost of what you have been taught is wrong.

  12. Don says:

    I am of European decedent and was born and raised in this the US.
    I think the actions taken against the Native Americans was appalling.
    Yes people conquered people all over the world and all people have suffered one time or another
    But the treaties that were made in good faith with the American Indians, and broken because of greed were shameful
    I support a Native American school in the Dakotas to try and help those children have a better life
    I have no stereotype thoughts towards the American Indian, I know there are those among the tribes that
    are excelling in this world. I think any and all people should be allowed to maintain there heritage, just look
    at the immigrants coming into this country now, they move into small neighborhoods and basically set up
    little Korean Town or China Town or Little Iraq just to maintain their heritage. I wish you luck in this endeavor
    and support you. Good Luck.

  13. Rosa says:

    I am appalled at all the hate in these comments. I’m amazed anyone can even say that “anyone” who has been born in American soil is a “native american.” The Native Americans were here way before anyone got here in the Mayflower. This was their land. If that bothers you. Then, too bad. The point of this beautiful project is to show YOU haters, exactly how normal, unassuming Native Americans are. They work, they get degrees, the get married, they laugh and they are like anyone else. There was no intention in this article to “blame” the white man for anything. I love the project. Yes, there are stereotypes in every culture that there is. Yes, Pocahontas was real… But, there’s more to it than Pocahontas in the Native American spectrum. I congratulate and celebrate this beautiful project. Keep them coming!

  14. mark says:

    Being a Southern white guy i know what i say means nothing, but i hate what happened back in the day. But in the now i think as long as Native Americans are willing to sit on reservations in the middle of nowhere waiting for scraps that’s just what this government will let them do. What you could be doing is uniting all the tribes and demand change, i will back you up, but i don’t think you would ever unite. Not trying to be mean, i;m for you.

    • Kat says:

      That’s not how reservations work at all. Educate yourself

    • Jeremy says:

      You might want to look at NCAI or the countless pan Indian organizations over the last century.

    • AC says:

      Ahh yes, look at these natives sitting on their rez waiting for their government handouts:
      William Mervin “Billy” Mills, also known as Makata Taka Hela, is the second Native American (after Jim Thorpe) to win an Olympic gold medal. He accomplished this feat in the 10,000 meter run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

      Jacoby McCabe Ellsbury is an American professional baseball center fielder for the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball. Ellsbury is an enrolled member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes; Ellsbury’s mother, Margie, is full-blooded Navajo.

      Shoni Schimmel is an American professional basketball player. She was an All-American college player at the University of Louisville and a first round draft pick of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. Raised on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Mission, Oregon, she was the subject of a documentary by filmmaker Jonathan Hock called Off the Rez, which chronicled her journey to earn an NCAA scholarship with her basketball ability.

      Adam Beach is a Canadian First Nations actor. He is best known for his roles as Victor in Smoke Signals, Tommy in Walker, Texas Ranger, Kickin’ Wing in Joe Dirt, U.S. Marine Corporal Ira Hayes in Flags of Our Fathers, Private Ben Yahzee in Windtalkers, Dr. Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa) in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Chester Lake in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Officer Jim Chee in the film adaptations of Skinwalkers, Coyote Waits, and A Thief of Time. He recently starred in the Canadian series Arctic Air.

      James Junes and Ernest David Tsosie, III are sober and drug free performers, presenters, and motivational speakers. For the past 10 years J&E have been presenting and performing comedy with a positive message through out Native America and even making their way into Canada to perform their hilarious take on Native American life and current affairs.Their comedy presentation has been described has a “healing medicine good for all people!” J&E have visited many tribes in Native America with their healing comedy and strong testimonies of surviving and defeating drug addiction, alcoholism, child hood abuse, and more. They have visited the mighty Sioux in South Dakota, the Pueblos of New Mexico, The Rancherias of California, even the Seminoles of Florida, and many more sharing their comedy and inspiring stories of success. James and Ernie were voted “Comedians of the Year” at the 2009 North American Indigenous Image Awards, an award that includes both the USA and Canadian talent. They have played and hosted some of Native America’s most popular entertainment events such as the Native American Music Awards,James & Ernie have even made their mark in the movies starring in films such the award winning
      feature film “Mile Post 398” in which Ernie was awarded “Best Supporting Actor” at the 32nd American Indian Motion Picture Awards in San Francisco, CA and nominated at the 2009 North American Indigenous Image Awards. The pair also produced two award winning comedy videos

      This is only a sample of what Indigenous people can accomplish. There are countless others who are not famous, but are working their hardest to prove your stereotype of the “lazy Indian” wrong. Guess what, we work, we graduate from college. True there are some that couldn’t leave the rez, but that is true of people across the country. Not just Indigenous people. We ARE united. We all have one goal. Hold on to our culture for our children while surviving in today’s world.

    • chelby says:

      I appreciate the support but Im Comanche and have never lived on a reservation, nor survived on handouts. I am currently putting myself thru college as i have a son getting ready to go to college himself. What you see as Natives sitting there waiting for handouts is simply not true. I am a living example of that.

      • mark says:

        My words were harsh, i’m sorry, i depend on news outlets for my info and for years i have seen reports of how bad it is on the reservations, if that’s not true then that’s great. But all the casinos and the new “weed resort” opening in South Dakota is because they are economically depressed. When i read this story i actually had this idea “being the stupid white guy” that we had something in common, losing our culture. And i don’t mean rebel flags or confederate symbols being torn down, i own neither. I could go on and on but my skin color renders my opinion useless so i wish you the best.

  15. Cleve says:

    There was a time in the past when white people also danced around the fire and held nature sacred. Someday I hope we can all dance around the fire together.

  16. BlackVeteran says:

    Dixie – You are the reason this project was created.

  17. Kristy (Piestewa) Ames says:

    make sure to photograph my father, first Hopi to graduate from Stanford undergrad in the late 40’s then proceeded to get his law degree there I believe in 51′. His accomplishments over his lifetime ate too long to list here. He is 86 now and still practices law in Salinas, Calif.

  18. Zenith says:

    This is a wonderful project! It is typical and self centered that aomw people wlll take issue with it and claim that it’s purpose is to shame !
    Newsflash to the haters: Not everything is about you and yours. No one cares about your sick manipulative attitudes at trying to rewrite history. There have been too many years of false narrative about what has happened all over the world.

    This project is a wonderful idea and I cannot wait to learn more about the TRUTH of the Original Americans and their culture.

  19. Monty says:

    The pictures are great. I wish I knew where each pictures was taken. I only know where the Zuni live.

  20. americanprofessor says:

    Unfortunately, Matika set the tone for misunderstanding herself as reported by the author. If she had kept her narrative to her mission, all would have been well. Her reference to Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves, however, is what continues to blur the conversation. These movies are not set in the present. They are purposely set in the past to express a story from the past. Braveheart, Robinhood, The 3 Musketeers, and Public Enemy all tell a story from the past, each in different time periods. They each tell a story and each get critiqued as to its level of authenticity and how accurately it depicted the actual historical record. For all that they get wrong, it’s amazing what they are able to get right and it gives us a visual glimpse into a past that we no longer see.

    Many, Native and non-native alike, look to the past where we find strength, individualism, and integrity. We miss the values that seem to have disappeared in society today. We look to the past because it is the antidote to post-modernism (only the present is relevant). It reminds us of what was important and is a candle lantern into the future to encourage us to make our lives relevant and prepare the way for future generations.

    We need both the images of the past AND the pictures of today to show us who we are, both then and now, to reinforce our destiny. I salute Matika’s effort to record the present, but please, do not denigrate the past. Whether our ancestors wore buckskin or rug dresses, trade cotton or sealskin, this was real and we like to wear it today to remind ourselves of our proud ancestry. We can be thankful that we have progressed from caricatures to full themed (and researched) presentations because it has become a celebration of our past instead of a mockery of it. New generations can become inspired to do worthwhile projects such as Matika has chosen to do.

    The greatest aspect we must fear, and is so avidly taught in the universities, is falling into the victimization mind trap. Feeling sorry for ourselves, especially for what has happened in the past, becomes a graveyard for hope and motivation. Blacks could have succumbed to this attitude, wallowing in slavery victimization self pity, but instead, a Black was elected President. Blacks claim a new image of themselves toting this as the greatest achievement as if the scientific, medical, social, educational, technological, and inspirational accomplishments of many intelligent Blacks didn’t matter.

    Natives, too, will elect the first Indian President when we stop the stagnation in our minds and begin celebrating the collective accomplishments of our people, take pride in our past as well as our present, and push into the future with more vigor and determination than we have seen in many generations since the occupation.

    Disease ravaged North America long before Europeans came and it wiped their numbers out because they had no immunities to Native diseases the same as there was little to protect the land from theirs. There was a population in Europe during the Roman period that was wiped out or assimilated after the 10 Germanic tribes swept through and new European nations arose. Change has always occurred, but the story is told of those who can adapt and are resilient enough to keep their identity alive through those changes. All should claim credit that they can claim bloodlines instead of spilling tears over stories of conquest. Are you not still alive? Do you not still have a story to tell? You are only defeated when you cease to share it to the forthcoming generations so that they can live boldly in the future.

  21. Birk Albert says:

    Cool-list the tribe’s name by the photos too, maybe area of state,although folks move from tribal area. There are 567 recognized tribes now that feds say exist, but many more exist. Koyukon Athabascan teen (Alaskan Native: Indian from The Native Village of Ruby) and proud of it!

  22. Gloria says:

    Dixie…shame on you. I am appalled and embarrassed by what my people have done to Native Americans, African Americans, Mexicans, well…anyone who isn’t white. I am appalled and embarrassed that shallow, arroganont people such as Dixie have the nerve to have the attitude they do. Unfortunately, there are a lot of white people just like Dixie but please know that there are white people such as myself, who don’t think like the Dixie’s in this world. I think your project your awesome. I support you and wish you well.

  23. Elaina says:

    I admire this sizeable endeavor. The results are stunning and speak so much more than words could translate. I hope that it is a great success and that there is a follow up project on the non federally recognized tribes as well since their story is even less known.

  24. Nancy says:

    I think this is a wonderful project. I think all of the various means of sharing what is now true of Native peoples is worth it, and I wish you the best in continuing with your project, Matika Wilbur.
    I am saddened, though not surprised, at the negative comments contained here, and the lack of understanding as to what really happened in this country as Europeans moved in. I am of European descent, and I live and work on a reservation. I have learned a lot, though not nearly enough, in the seven years I’ve lived here with my family and the twelve years Iived worked here. There is plenty written, if you seek it out. One theme is “historical trauma”. Google it. Another is genocide. The United States government did everything possible to kill off all the Native people (I prefer to just say Native because American only applies to those since this country became a country. Canada uses First Peoples, Australia uses Aboriginals), and when that didn’t work, they started trying to eradicate the Native culture through the boarding school system, forcibly taking children from their parents and homes, forbidding the children to practice and traditional ways and making them be white. “Killing the Indian to save the man” was the phrase. Children experienced physical abuse, torture, sexual abuse, domestic violence because of the imposed systems of the government and their agents, many churches. Hitler used the American model to originally justify his treatment of the Jews and other group he tried to eradicate. This is all documented in U.S. government documents. I compare the forcible placing of tribal peoples on reservations to the apartheid system of South Africa. All of this was a product of olonization coming out of Europe from the 1400’s to present day, most notably in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. Yes, those in Europe also experienced persecution. So we continued it as we tried to move away from it. The victim becomes the offender? In my mind, it will only stop as we face the truth.

  25. Kari says:

    Awesome project! I work in a predominantly white workplace and hear colleagues referencing common stereotypes of natives regularly (laziness, drunkenness, etc). Its hurtful and most of the time people say racist and diminishing remarks without thinking. Projects like yours remind natives and non-natives that we are not invisible, we’re still here, and we’re not stereotypes as depicted by media and Hollywood.

  26. Ajay says:

    I respect all your comments, they are all great. There is one movie that reminds me of what we all went through….. it is called Avatar.

  27. Paula says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful photography. This is an important and complicated subject. I wish you well on your ongoing journey.

  28. DeeShu Huse says:

    Wonderful project.I hope,however,you consider photographing state recognized tribes in the future. We’re proud and important too…:-}
    Looking forward to seeing the full exhibit!

    Set Sun-ke Ewis

  29. chelby says:

    Blaming the whiteman for our problems? All that is asked, is that the fact Natives experienced genocide at the hands of your intruder ancestors be acknowledged. Thats it. If you look closely at the pictures we have adapted. In the beginning the choice was not made by our own free will, there is a differece between forced assimilation and adapting. No one ever tells Jewish people “shut up and get over it” concering the Holocaust. We experienced our own Holocaust. Some respect and acknowledgement would be nice. But i digress, these pictures are a celebration of our lives. I dont blame anyone for what was in the past, let us build towards the future.

  30. Terri Strong Woman Miller says:

    I love this idea !! I myself would love to know more about my own ancestors , I’m Kickapoo , but don’t know much , but so desperately want to know more !!! Even to get in touch with someone from my tribe. Thank you

  31. Curtis says:

    I am Apache and will die an Apache no matter what image is used to represent my people. Today we are successful because we refused to become what the outside world tried to portray us as in the media. But we remain a people who still follow our traditions and survive in modern day times in many professions. I am glad someone if portraying us as we are today and it is long overdue. Some Americans will appreciate it while others will remain how they are. if we don’t reach out and educate others then we should not expect others to respect us and our traditions. Knowlewdge is still the greatest power the mind must possess.

  32. Jade says:

    What an awesome project. But reading the comments on here makes me so depressed.

    To all the Native Americans reading, I would like to apologize for ignorance and stupidity of some of us white people. Some of the comments they have put up here are down right awful and they show little understanding for history, nor do they understand or try to understand what it is like to live without their privilege.

    I’m so ashamed by how they can see you celebrating your lives, hard work and individuality and turn that into a rant about hand me outs. I am so ashamed I want to cry.

    You deserve so much more than apologies for what your people have had to suffer. What you suffered was nothing short of a genocide and an apartheid. You deserve so much more…….

  33. Chris Lobo says:

    It’s too bad you have limited your work to only Federaly Recognised Tribes. By doing so have chosen from the outset to ignore the largest group of disenfranchised and forgotten Native Americans today. You are totally missing those Tribal Brothers and Sisters whom need and deserve your attention most of all. My Tribe is not recognized however I personally sat in technical assistance hearings in 2010 with Jan Earl and Lee Fleming the OFA director and Geneology expert for Criteria E. which pertains to Federal Acknowledgement Regulations 25 CFR 83.7 at the Office of Federal Acknowledgement (OFA) at the Department of Interior whom told me to my face that my Tribes Genealogical Record ie. our Complete California Mission records for each Babtism (birth), Marriage and Death for each generation of my people from First European Contact to present (1776-2015) was the very best Native American record they have observed for any Tribe in the United States proving without any doubt our Native Ancestry.

  34. Sandra says:

    Man’s inhumanity to man is the one constant theme throughout history, with few exceptions. History and current news prove again and again the savagery of the human heart. The Bible says in the book of Romans that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

    It amounts to a clash of worldviews. The first Americans were communal people with no concept of private land ownership. The nation claimed land ownership and warred against other sovereign nations to maintain that claim. It’s true that they were treated shamefully and horrendously by the government in relation to treaties. But where in the modern world could such a worldview survive and thrive today considering man’s infinite ability trample on other people’s rights? Russia? China? North Korea? What can be done to make up for the past is the haunting question?

    The crux of much dysfunction in all of Americans today, regardless of race, is multi-generational welfare that sustains dependence on the government and contributes to family breakdown.

    Factual stories like:
    Pocahontas and Susquehanna and the Iroquois Confederacy are beautiful, inspirational stories that every American should learn in school.

    My paternal grandfather was purported to be Native American. Only a genetic test would confirm this possibility. I am in the process of editing my novel that is set in the Adirondacks of NY. I have intertwined the real history of of the Iroquois Confederacy in the story and have First American characters as well. The target audience is teen to adult. I have a passion for the truth and the noble stories of history in the midst of much travesty . . .


  35. Naida says:

    I taught English at a Native American school for three years. American history tells the story of America from a biased perspective. I challenge those of you who are willing to explore both sides to read Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee or Lakota Woman. I have no dislike for any race. I am a proud mixed race woman. However, there are people out there who have no idea of the atrocities that were done to Native Americans–those peoples that the Europeans met here when they decided to practice Manifest Destiny. Educate yourself before you judge someone’s journey.

    • CS says:

      I am sorry your experience of the teaching of American history was so negative on the subject of Native Americans. The textbooks I used (provided by the school district where I taught high school for 18 years, and where I subbed after retirement) recommended the works you mentioned and taught respect for Native Americans and Native American culture in many ways. They also taught about the harmful things some American leaders did (like Pres. Jackson’s sending the Cherokees on the Trail of Tears–in defiance of the Supreme Court) and the diseases brought by Columbus and other explorers.

      That doesn’t mean, however, that the project we’re all talking about isn’t badly needed.

      • Naida says:

        I think my words may have been misconstrued. What I was trying to say was that American history/civics textbooks don’t give the full story. My comment was directed at the persons who had something negative to say about the project. Native Americans need to see their people in this positive light. I think it’s wonderful.

    • Patrick says:

      Naida, thankyou. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, actually, very near the Tulalip rez (in Everett). You are absolutely right, we have been given a biased history, one that justifies manifest destiny. Now retired, I have alot of time to read more history; Life among the Apache, The Heart of Everything that is, Wounded Knee, The Oholone Way, Blood and Thunder, and many,many more, I question why the europeans did not, for the most part, even try to understand those here before. I do not know if I’ll ever be able to answer that but my search will continue.

  36. Anne Springer says:

    My own history is mixed, and I have a trace of First Nations ancestry, as well as at least one other ethnicity that underwent persecution and genocide, therefore I support works of this type and I’m so glad you are undertaking this project.
    Here in New England, there are still people living here on ancestral land – Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Narragansett, Pequot, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, Mi’Kmaq and Abenaki, for example. Many Americans have never even heard of these nations, much less had exposure to their history or to modern people from these cultures. I can’t wait to see your book!

  37. Marcus Aurelius II says:

    I think Native Americans have become almost invisible to the mainstream. We really only learn small occasional facts about the current situations of a handful of them. We don’t have a big picture. It isn’t clear there is one or ever was one as these were very diverse cultures spread out over a vast area. It is a mistake to try to group them and generalize about them. The degree to which they have assimilated into mainstream American culture versus the degree to which they’ve remained isolated, their successes, their problems and failures is something the overwhelming majority including me know little about. I for one would like to know more.

    Still we cannot forget that they are an integral part of our history. The truths and even the myths are part of our own story. Their role was not black or white. We know where it started and we know how it ended but what happened in between was very complicated and varied. Those of us who grew up with both the history and fiction won’t forget it. I just hope schools are still teaching what we learned when there was less distance in time between the era they played an important role in American life and the time we were learning about how America got to be the way it was when we were in school.

  38. Leah says:

    I am an American of European descent and I grew up in Asia.
    I have always found it strange that Americans seldom recognize physical differences among people of the same “color.”
    It’s as if people just fall under the categories of brown, yellow, white and black with no appreciation for the beauty in the distinctive features between Brazilian and Mexican, Korean and Samoan, Norwegian and Italian, Maasai and Xhosa.
    I personally have known Native Americans of Mandan, Lakota and Ojibwa descent and they certainly don’t look the same to me.
    I am fascinated by this project and applaud what you are doing.
    There is beauty and distinction in people of all ethnic groups. I’m glad you are documenting this among Native Americans.
    It is important work. Thank you for doing it.

  39. Robin Hughes says:

    I like your idea of showing Native Americans in modern times. As a member of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria I & my family do not fit any stereotypical idea of what a Native American is. I worked for 35 years as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist and now teach that subject at a local Community College. One daughter is an artist & photographer that takes family portraits, paints nurseries and decorative, personalized glassware & other items ( her STL Cardinals & Blues shoes are amazing) and only paints “native themes” when the client requests it, another in business & son in remodeling construction; a cousin in IT, another second cousin in human resources ( was in Qatar for most of his career!). So yes! show us as Scientists, doctors, lawyers, business people – and not always as our occupation directly related to tribal affairs but just as people living.

    • Ned Rollo says:

      Hummmm, so …… now you are, what, a white red man?? Have you overcome any sense of cultural inferiority imposed on you by integrating yourself into the illusionary circle of social acceptance?? Does this render unto you a sense of dignity and self-worth, to KNOW you have so effectively adapted to your slavery having so ardently embraced the constraints of cultural bondage?? Congratulations!

  40. Marcus Aurelius II says:

    I think it’s up to each individual to decide what they want to do with their lives. Perhaps my concept of a Native American tribe is like a large extended family. It will always be there we hope for individuals to return to should they choose to live a life apart some or much of their time. I think the bonds are much tighter than neighbors you grew up with who drifted away. It’s like a home you can always return to and be welcomed. But the outside world has much to offer too. It must be a difficult decision. The tribe itself has to come to grips with what it wants to change and what it wants to keep. That must also be a hard decision. They can ignore the outside world if they want to but at what cost?

  41. Marcus Aurelius II says:

    I think those who complain that history that is taught in mainstream American education is biased or neglects important facts should write their own book. To be taken seriously it will have to be well researched, complete, and present events from all points of view as this is a vast and complex topic. Those who have made even a superficial study of it know of many of the massacres and atrocities Europeans and their American descendants committed against the Native peoples. They also know that in the earliest days the Europeans received a great deal of help just to survive in the strange and dangerous land they’d arrived at. But there is another side of it too. For example, many people were killed just crossing Native American land trying to get to the West coast. Those who set up villages, towns, farms, ranches were seen as invaders and many were also attacked. While Native Americans may have lived in harmony with the land, they did not necessarily live in harmony with the White Man or even sometimes with each other.

    The story of America is the transformation of what was a vast wilderness sparsely populated by hunter gatherers who by nature of their societies needed a lot of land to the kind of pervasive technological society we have today. That could not have happened without conflict between those newcomers who wanted change and those here previously who didn’t. I don’t think most white settlers or those traveling west wanted confrontation with Native People’s unless they’d been attacked first. But they did want to share the land which always seems to lead to conflict. The outcome was decisive because the newcomers were better armed and had the advantage of superior military force. Had the reverse been true, America might still be the way it was 500 years ago.

  42. Ned Rollo says:

    Why, pray tell, should the First People who lived and thrived for 10,000 years coast-to-coast be told to ‘assimilate’ by European invaders who never once honored their own treaties, failed to meet their moral obligations, who slaughtered the buffalo just to starve out the indigenous peoples and then, to make it worse, did all they could (all they CAN TO THIS DAY) to destroy the cultural legacy of the conquered, have any respect for or obey the bidding of the White Man??

    Nothing has changed since the Europeans set foot on this continent, only intensity and duration of abuse: different icing but the same old cake!

    There is NO way to justify the ‘might makes right’ approach put in place by self-serving white politicians and ignorant, one-dimensional Europeans who lie, cheat and steal with impunity. Be it ‘then’ or ‘now,” those who imposed their will by way of the murder of millions are unworthy of any level of respect. Go READ HISTORY!!

    • Marcus Aurelius II says:

      That’s not what they’ve been told. What they have been told is that they cannot monopolize over 2 million square miles at a density of one or two people per square mile. They have to allow other people to live here too. They’ve been given land and can live exactly the way their ancestors did on it ten thousand years ago if it suits them. No one will stop them. As for how things got to be the way they are, that is history and cannot be changed. If you own land you feel was stolen from a Native American tribe, you can return it to them and find somewhere else to live. No one will stop you either.

  43. CS says:

    Ned, however it happens–and it can happen in the same cultural groups–there is change, some OK and helpful, some not, much unjust and causing great pain as it happens (pushing peasant off the land in former centuries in Europe, for example, so the landowners could make more money by raising sheep). Some of it is very tough right now–the thousands of jobs being lost because of technology–but it’s hard to find a particular group to blame. –That is no excuse for forcing groups to adapt–I’m thinking of forced religious conversions, for instance, past and present: Christianity in former times, not so much today, and Islam both past and present in some parts of the world–as well as wrongs you mention above.

    No one on this thread is justifying “might makes right.” What was done to Native Americans in the past was wicked. But the wickedness of those actions doesn’t mean that Native Americans who enjoy the type of education that leads to careers and personal enjoyment in fields such as medicine, law, teaching, etc. are justifying the wickedness we’re all aware of.

    The photography project is wonderful in that it’s about Native Americans right now.

    About history: I agree that it should not be forgotten, just that the photography project is about what’s happening right now. –Aside to those talking about what’s being taught about Native Americans in schools today: the books chosen for the secondary schools where I taught were written in the 1990s, with new editions in the 2000s. NONE implied that Native American culture was inferior to Caucasian culture. Works like _Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee_ were recommended. The wrong things done by Americans in political leadership and others were listed and deplored. Efforts at forcing assimilation were deplored.

  44. Marcus Aurelius II says:

    Native Americans were neither angels nor devils. They are being painted here by some as a sort of angelic race that was slaughtered by white savages who threw them out of the Garden of Eden. This is hardly the case. They also committed murder against each other, even against their own kind. Visit the ruins at Tulum or Chechinitza and you will see where they threw human sacrifices off pyramids on to the rocks far below. They also each had their own methods of torture and killing. What they didn’t have was the military capability to fight off the Europeans. Let’s not glamorize them for what some imagine them to have been. Far better to see them as they really were both the good and the bad. Playing themselves as victims will do them no more good than it did for any other minority.

  45. I LOVE Matika’s work. Beautiful, powerful photos, plus excellent analysis. Thank you for featuring her work!