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Natural Wanderment: Stewardship. Sovereignty. Sacredness 

Photographs by Matika Wilbur now on display at High Desert Museum —which reopens this week

The exhibit, "Natural Wanderment: Stewardship. Sovereignty. Sacredness." features the beautiful and rich portraits of Native Americans by photographer Matika Wilbur, a member of the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes located in the state of Washington. With the High Desert Museum opening this week, locals now have a chance to see the images up close.

Traveling over 400,000 miles, Wilbur photographed members of the 562 federally recognized indigenous tribes in the United States. As Wilbur stated, "I have had to experience for myself the incredible range of homelands of tribal nations, to interact with peoples in their ancient territories to grasp how the connection to natural places makes us who we are."

Dr. Mary Evelyn Belgarde (Pueblo of Isleta and Ohkay Owingeh), 2014. - MATIKA WILBUR
  • Matika Wilbur
  • Dr. Mary Evelyn Belgarde (Pueblo of Isleta and Ohkay Owingeh), 2014.

The connection to the land is prominent in the portraits and accompanying text. Each subject is shown against the backdrop of where they live; the accompanying text often gives historical context to the landscape. These stories are not just told in historical context, but often give voice to the portrait subject, who is relating their own stories in first person. The result is a deep and thoughtful look at contemporary Native American life.

It's obvious that the relationship between subject and photographer is that of reverence, respect, love, and admiration. Oftentimes, the subjects look directly in the camera. By contrast, in historical images, Native Americans were portrayed as if the subjects were objects on display.

Wilbur's work is rich in its storytelling, reminding us that the best tellers of stories are the people the stories are about. This project is a reminder of our own connection to the land we live on and our responsibility to know its stories and respect the people who have been here for centuries telling them.

Natural Wanderment: Stewardship. Sovereignty. Sacredness.
High Desert Museum
On display through Sept. 7

See more of Project 562 by Matika Wilbur:
Via Instagram : @project562

About The Author

Teafly Peterson

For the last 20 years, I have been working as an artist and an educator. Some days I am better at one than the other. The good days are when I am excellent at both simultaneously. I love those days. I teach a variety of mediums– painting, drawing, photography, writing, film making. Mostly what I teach is how to...
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