Female identified person with a black shirt and a white and blue skirt wearing a woven headband and standing near a body of water

Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women

March 13, 2021 - June 13, 2021

Lightcatcher Building

Exhibition by Matika Wilbur

In 2012, critically acclaimed photographer and social documentarian Matika Wilbur (Tulalip & Swinomish) sold her belongings and set out on the road to launch Project 562, a crowd-funded initiative to visit, engage, and photograph people from 562+ sovereign Tribal Nations in the United States.

Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women features 28 photographs of Native American women, along with interviews, written narratives, and a compelling sound-scape of voices and original music. Wilbur has selected the striking photographs from among the thousands of portraits she has taken in recent years, including a new special selection from local Tribes. Elders, activists, educators, culture-bearers, artists, and students have shared with Wilbur their realities as Native women to convey how ancestral and contemporary identities shape their hopes and dreams.

As Wilbur explains, “I believe the viewers will experience great insight and connection with these remarkable women, just as they have enlightened and inspired me. Native women are traditionally the stewards of the vital relationship with land, and have remained principal advocates for Mother Earth, from fracking protests to upholding vital matrilineal values. By sharing the astonishing variety of the Indigenous presence and understanding, we will build cultural bridges, abandon stereotypes, and renew and inspire our national legacy.”

Black numbers 562 with gray whale fin, red circle, and turquoise semi-circleAbout Matika Wilbur
Matika Wilbur, one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading photographers, has exhibited extensively in regional, national, and international venues such as the Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, The Tacoma Art Museum, the Royal British Columbia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Nantes Museum of Fine Arts in France. She studied photography at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Montana and received a bachelor’s degree from Brooks Institute of Photography in California. Her work led her to becoming a certified teacher at Tulalip Heritage High School, providing inspiration for the youth of her own Indigenous community. Wilbur, an Indigenous woman belonging to Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes, is unique as an artist and social documentarian in Indian Country—the insight, depth, and passion with which she explores the contemporary Native identity and experience are communicated through the impeccable artistry of each of her silver gelatin photographs. Her collection of photographs and narratives from Project 562 is soon to be published by Ten Speed Press/Random House. Learn more about Matika at www.matikawilbur.com, Project 562 at www.project562.com, or check out her Instagram account. Wilbur is also the co-host of the podcast, All My Relations.

Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women, was originally shown at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. The Whatcom Museum’s showing of the exhibition is presented by the Lhaq’temish Foundation, Lummi Nation, with additional support from Jean Andresen, Rafeeka & Neal Kloke, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, the City of Bellingham, and Grantmakers for Girls of Color.

Community Photo Project: Celebrating Our Matriarchs

Matriarchy is a social system in which women hold power—politically, morally, socially, and economically. A matriarch shapes family, holds community, and makes space for inclusion. Before colonization, Pacific Northwest peoples thrived for millennia in matriarchal social systems. Many Indigenous scholars and activists are calling for rematriation in Tribal nations. But what does that look like? In Matika Wilbur’s exhibition, rematriation is unpacked. In honor of her exhibition, the Museum hosted a community photo project inviting people to submit an image that celebrates a matriarchal figure in their life. See the stunning photographs submit to this virtual exhibition.

The Whatcom Museum acknowledges that we gather on the traditional territory of the Lhaq’temish – Lummi People – and the Nuxwsá7aq – Nooksack People – who have lived in the Coast Salish region from time immemorial. The Museum honors our relationship with all of our Coast Salish neighbors and our shared responsibilities to their homeland where we all reside today.

The Whatcom Museum is offering free admission to the Lightcatcher building to Indigenous Peoples upon request at the attendant desk inside the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St.