The 562 Project: Seeing Native America Differently

   By Helen Oliff

October is National Arts & Humanities Month and a great time to check out some incredibly talented Native artists that have dedicated their life to their craft. Oral history and passing down our truth through the generations is a tradition among Native Americans. Art is another form of passing down truth, whether through photography, painting, pottery or other forms of expression and sharing.

Makita Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip), a Native photographer and author, has done so much in the spirit of educating those who view her work. Her collection – titled Project 562 – was done in honor of the 562 federally recognized tribes at the start of her journey. In 2012, she packed up her life in Washington and drove cross-country in an RV, traveling 600,000 miles and visiting more than 400 tribal nations. Her goal was to portray Native cultures and people as they are today.

Finally this year, she published her book titled 562 Project: Changing the Way We See Native America, a New York Times bestseller. In an article for The New York Times Wilbur states, “In the beginning, the work was very much about overcoming stereotypes of the leathered and feathered Indian. How do we help people to realize that Native America is complex, that everywhere we are is Native land, that there is a Native identity that is always around you, if you choose to listen and engage? It was certainly about that.”

What’s in the 562 Project?

In her collection, viewers will find stunning images of Native families and individuals. They range from a young boy of the Colville Tribe in Washington playing an electric guitar to Fawn Douglas (Las Vegas Paiute) wearing a traditional Jingle Dress in front of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that her grandfather helped fabricate. To us, Wilbur’s work is the epitome of the intersection between art and humanity. It’s also a great way to gain insights into the many cultures of Indigenous peoples.

Becoming More NativeAware™

One of our main goals at Partnership With Native Americans is to inform and guide people to become more NativeAware™. We are so thankful for those that do what they can to expand awareness through art and change the narrative. We encourage you all to explore Makita Wilbur’s “Project 562” and learn more about other artists who excel at their craft, such as Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (French-Cree, Shoshone and Salish) and Oscar Howe (Yanktonai Dakota).

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