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

Matika Wilbur has traveled more than 250,000 miles to ensure stereotyped images are replaced with accurate ones to change history’s collective psyche

A search for Native Americans on the internet yields almost nothing but reductionist, 18th-century representations images, Wilbur explains. She hopes the pictures she is taking can someday replace the stereotyped, dated ones found in internet searches, and the ones we hold on to in our collective psyche.

“I’m ultimately doing this because our perception matters,” Wilbur says. “Our perception fuels racism. It fuels segregation. Our perception determines the way we treat each other.”

Read the article and see more photographs


Pay it Forward:
Boutique owner and academic Jessica Metcalfe shares some badass ladies we should know

This week’s Badass Lady, boutique owner and former professor Dr. Jessica Metcalfe, lists six Native women everyone should know:

Matika Wilbur – badass Native photographer who is photographing members of all Native tribes

Adrienne Keene – badass Native scholar who is the brains behind the popular blog, Native Appropriations

Bethany Yellowtail – badass Native fashion designer, who, by the age of 25, has her own label

Jamie Okuma – badass award-winning Native American beadwork artist and fashion designer

Winona LaDuke – a badass Native American activist

and Louise Erdrich – badass award-winning Native American author who is from my tribe.”

Jessica also asked the Beyond Buckskin Facebook page for suggestions – check out this amazing list of badass Native ladies, and be sure to read her interview about her career, its challenges, and staying inspired!

It’s Been Over 100 Years Since An Artist Has Done This In America. About Time Someone Did It Again.

More than a century has passed since a photographic journey explored Native Americans with such a broad scope and in this amount of detail. In 1906, photographer Edward S. Curtis was commissioned by J.P. Morgan to capture the “disappearing” race.

In 2014, to change perceptions about Native Americans, photographer Matika Wilbur believes we have to update the kind of imagery we’re looking at when we think of her race. It’s a beautiful — and important — idea.


Here we have Matika Wilbur explaining project 562!  This project highlights contemporary Native America, our issues, our relevance, and how special and important each and every one of us is as Indigenous people. <3


Shattering Stereotypes: This Is What Native Americans Really Look Like Today

As we celebrate the supposed historical unity among Native American tribes and European settlers each Thanksgiving, we often forget that story’s dark side: exclusion, racism, even genocide. In Project 562 (named after the 562 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States), photographer Matika Wilbur — a Native American herself — seeks to dispel the stereotypes surrounding European oppression of Native Americans and to reclaim Native American identity through portraiture. Wilbur’s photos reveal the true resilience and diversity of today’s Native Americans.

(Continue Reading)


Surviving Disappearance, Re-Imagining & Humanizing Native Peoples: Matika Wilbur at TEDxSeattle

Last December, I sold everything in my Seattle apartment, packed a few essentials into my war pony, and hit the open road. Since then, I’ve been embarking on an epic adventure: Project 562.

For the past year I have been fulfilling the project’s goal of photographing citizens of each federally recognized tribe in the United States (there are now 566). Most of the time, I’ve been invited to geographically remote reservations to take portraits and hear stories from a myriad of tribes, while at other times I’ve photographed members of the 70 percent of Native Americans living in urban settings. My hope, is that when the project is complete, it will serve to educate the nation and shift the collective consciousness toward recognizing our own indigenous communities.

Imagine walking through an exhibit and realizing the complex variety of contemporary Native America. Imagine experiencing a website or book, that offered insight into every Tribal Nation in the United States. What if you could download previously untold histories and stories from Apaches, Swinomish, Hualapai, Northern Cheyenne, Tlingit, Pomo, Lumbee, and other first peoples? What if you had heard those stories in grade school?


Rejecting Stereotypes, Photographing ‘Real’ Indians

“(…) What started as a small project on her community’s elders has since morphed into an ambitious attempt to document citizens of each of the more than 560 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States. She has driven more than 60,000 miles to meet with native people: doctors and tribal leaders, artists and entertainers. She wants the endeavor, called Project 562, to be an extensive and accurate visualization of Native Americans, offering a perspective often missing from American history lessons.

“People often ask me why I don’t photograph real Indians,” said Ms. Wilbur, who marked documenting her 180th tribe in Phoenix last week. “But the people that I photograph are real Indians. These are my people.” (…)”

(Whitney Richardson - - 19/02/2014)
DailyGood: Project 562: Photographing Beyond Stereotypes
Three years ago, photographer Matika Wilbur set out on an ambitious undertaking, traveling across America to photograph members of all 562 of America's federally-recognized tribes. Through her project, Wilbur has sought to address the problematic and romanticized depiction of Native Americans in the majority of images featuring them. Herself a member of Native-American tribes, Wilbur asks,

A Contemporary Portrait of Native America

Matika Wilbur was living in Seattle in November 2012 when she decided to sell most of her possessions and embark on an epic photographic journey. Since then, she’s been on the road working on “Project 562” with the goal of photographing all the federally recognized tribes in the United States. (There are now 566.) With support fromKickstarter donors and several grants, she’s traveled nearly 100,000 miles and visited about 200 tribes, capturing beautiful images and important stories along the way. 

Part of Wilbur’s mission is to present a positive and contemporary look at the tribes and to correct outdated and inaccurate portrayals of Native Americans in popular culture. Wilbur, who is from the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes, said she constantly feels the damaging impact of misrepresentation in Hollywood and media. “What happens to our children when they turn on the TV and the only way they see themselves is something they can never be? When I sit with my niece and watch Peter Pan, it’s incredibly derogatory and racist. I watched The Lone Ranger with my 7-year-old nephew and it’s a non-Indian playing an Indian dressed up in a way a non-Indian imagines a Crow person should look like,” Wilbur said. “How does that affect my nephew when he sees that image and he can never be a whooping and hollering Indian on the plain wearing a loin cloth?”

The article (in Slate), and more photos can be read in the article with this link.

“My goal is to represent Native people from every tribe. By exposing the astonishing variety of the Indian presence and reality at this juncture, we will build cultural bridges, abandon stereotypes, and renew and inspire our national legacy.”

Matika Wilbur of the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes of Washington is an artist and social documentarian in Indian Country.

Through her national documentary project, @project562, she explores the contemporary Native identity and experiences by capturing images of people from all 562 (there are now 567) federally recognized Indian Tribes and Nations. Through the project, she has defeated stereotypes that all indigenous peoples are not monolithic. 


Matika Wilbur is a native photographer who’s been working on Project 562, which is about documenting contemporary Native American people. Watch the video (and others on her channel) and visit the Project 562 site for more information.

 This is the newest video on Matika’s YouTube channel, and it’s about finding out whether or not the people of New York can recognize the race of an indigenous woman and man just by looking at them (the woman wears everyday and traditional garb in the video).
Project 562

“Project 562 creatively addresses and remedies historical inaccuracies, stereotypical representations, and the absence of Native American images and voices in mass media and the national consciousness.  I believe that there is an open space that is yet to be filled- that space is authentic images and stories from within Native America. My work aims to humanize, the otherwise “vanishing race”, and share the stories that our people would like told. In this respectful way, I have been welcomed into hundreds of tribal communities, and I have found that people welcome Project 562, because they are ready to see things change. Conversations about tribal sovereignty, self-determination, wellness, recovery from historical trauma, and revitalization of culture will accompany the photos in captions, video, and audio recordings. 

The time of sharing, building cultural bridges, abolishing racism and honoring the legacy that this country is built on is among us. Project 562 is that platform.”

-Matika Wilbur