The Legacy of a Marvel & Star Wars Artist

   By Joshua Arce

Jeffrey Veregge is an award-winning Native artist and writer from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe near Kingston, Washington. Thanks to a mutual friend, Jeffery was one of the first people I met in my new role as PWNA President & CEO. Not only was I impressed by his “rezume,” but I immediately fell in love with his work. As a fan of the Marvel and Star Wars franchises, I bought several of his T-shirts representing Captain American and Godzilla. My “indigi-nerd” was going wild! His designs weave together iconic characters and elements of Northwest Tribal design.

During our visit, I was recruiting for a new Board member. Jeffrey shared his experience with a direct mail program and offered to share some of his artwork for a calendar. His friendliness, willingness to help, and authenticity was a breath of fresh air in my nonprofit journey. The need to complete an exhibit installation meant he could not commit to our Board. Although interested in a future opportunity, his lupus kicked into high gear. So, we did not have the chance to make good on that. It was a missed opportunity for us – but losing him has been harder on his family. Seeing him recognized in the recent Marvel publications is a tremendous gesture by the industry. I am glad to see them honoring his memory, contribution, and groundbreaking style.

What Jeffrey Represents

Jeffrey represents many things to me. Visibility and representation in popular mainstream media are crucial to fighting the erasure of Indigenous peoples from society. Additionally, infusing Northwest Tribal designs through the art medium is empowering because of the superhero and iconic status of the images. All in all, it is a direct counterattack to the negative stereotypes about Native Americans, racist tropes, and mocking imagery that have saturated mainstream media for decades. And it informs the future: The inspiration, encouragement, and humanization from blending these two worlds is a model for healthy adaptation by mainstream protectors of Indigenous people. As we all know, the impact of imagery cannot be understated. Being a champion of hope, a crusader against the wicked, or a defender of sovereignty can start at an early age. This, in turn, morphs into public service workers, educators, and leaders in Native communities!

Jeffrey and Healthcare

Another aspect Jeffrey brings to the forefront is healthcare access, life expectancy, and staying healthy as a Native American. COVID cast a bright light on the inequities of access to adequate healthcare in Tribal communities. The impacts of historical policies that adversely affect the social determinants of health also contribute to the lower life expectancy of Native people by up to 10 years. To address this challenge, some Tribes are lowering the age for eligibility to receive ‘Elder’ services. Navigating the medical waters of healthcare post-COVID also brings new challenges, such as understanding immune deficiency diseases like ulcerative colitis, lupus, and arthritis among Native populations.

In my mind and heart, Jeffrey will always be kind, smart, and funny. His creativity, professional experience, and boundary-breaking mindset would have made him an excellent candidate for Board culture. I wish we had more time together. Unfortunately, at the young age of 50, he was gone. Thankfully, you can see Jeffrey’s work here and purchase his shirts here. You can also contribute on a GoFundMe me page to help defer his lupus expenses.