Home Culture One woman’s mission to photograph every Native American tribe in the US

One woman’s mission to photograph every Native American tribe in the US

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Three years ago, Matika Wilbur sold almost everything she owned, left behind her apartment in Seattle, and set out on the open road. The former high school teacher had one goal: to photograph members of each federally recognized Native American tribe in the United States.

Wilbur’s photographs are mostly black and white. She shoots on a Canon EOS 7D digital, and a Mamiya film camera. When she finishes Project 562 (named for the number of federally recognized tribes at the time Wilbur began her work), she plans to compile the photographs and share them with the public through various publications, exhibitions, and curricular material.

To date, the 31-year-old has driven more than 250,000 miles and has nearly completed her journey. She will finish her tour at the end of the month in the northeastern US. Wilbur has taken thousands of pictures so far.

She has met with a range of people that include PhDs, lawyers, tribal elders, designers, grandmothers, and artists. But sometimes she worries it isn’t enough.

 

Darkfeather, Bibiana and Eckos Ancheta from the Tulalip Tribe Photograph: Matika Wilbur for the Guardian

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