The Native Artist podcast takes a deep dive into the stories of Indigenous artists, spanning a wide range of artistic disciplines. From directors and writers to carvers and fashion designers, artists share their unique stories and perspectives on navigating these fields while reclaiming native identity.
Leon Misak Kinneeveauk (Inupiaq) from Pt. Hope in Arctic Alaska is an artist operating the largest ivory carving studio in Deghay’kaq, known today as Anchorage, at the Alaska Art Alliance. Carving walrus ivory is an original artform of Indigenous communities in the Arctic, stretching across Inuit lands in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.
In this episode, Leon shares the journey of discovering his role in community leadership after being incarcerated for a crime involving a death. Under Leon’s leadership, the studio offers a much-needed place of cultural belonging and camaraderie, that meets the specific needs of the art of ivory carving.
Jerome Saclamana (King Island Inupiaq) joins to share his years of experience in ivory studios, and what makes Leon’s studio a rare gem in the urban center of Anchorage.
Laine Neech.yanagút Yéil Rinehart (Lingít/Taos Pueblo) is based in Lingít lands in what’s today known as Juneau, AK.
Laine practices the traditional Lingít artform of Chilkat weaving, an intricate craft that retains its traditional designs, meanings, and uses.
In this episode, Laine shares how their art practice is a natural way to express personal and cultural identity, and makes space to acknowledge the harms of colonization. Also, a peek at their ambition to increase access to the mountain goat wool used in original weaving practices. Their stories are imbued with gratitude for the communities of teachers from whom they’ve learned.
Dorthy is a professional performer and business owner of a dance company based on Dena’ina lands in Deghay’kaq, known today as Anchorage, AK. Dorthy’s talent reflects a lifetime of discipline and love for dance. She performs as Violet Lee Vamp. Along with her business partner, performer Lady Duchess, she co-founded the Sweet Cheeks Cabaret dance company in 2013. Their work straddles the discipline of live performance, the close-knit community of small businesses, and the energy that comes with cabaret—a niche in live theater that combines entertainment with an artform that is gender, body, and sex positive, and where safety and consent come first.
Violet Lee Vamp and Lady Duchess have helped make Sweet Cheeks a fan-favorite in the Anchorage nightlife scene, frequently earning the company, and its cast of dedicated performers, awards in audience-voted theater and burlesque.
At the core of it all, as an Indigenous performer and entrepreneur in the small business community, Dorthy’s work marks a steady, subtle sense of ownership for Indigenous women in entertainment.
Performer, composer, activist, musicologist — these roles are all infused into his art and way of life. His music, too, transcends boundaries: unapologetically playful in its incorporation of classical influences, full of reverence for the traditional songs of his home, and teeming with the urgency of modern-day struggles of resistance. A member of Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, Jeremy first did music studies in Halifax before taking a chance to work in the archives at the Canadian Museum of History, painstakingly transcribing Wolastoq songs from 1907 wax cylinders. “Many of the songs I’d never heard before, because our musical tradition on the East Coast was suppressed by the Canadian Government’s Indian Act.” Jeremy heard ancestral voices singing forgotten songs and stories that had been taken from the Wolastoqiyik generations ago.
As he listened to each recording, he felt his own musical impulses stirring from deep within. Long days at the archives turned into long nights at the piano, feeling out melodies and phrases, deep in dialogue with the voices of his ancestors. These “collaborative”compositions, collected together on his debut LP Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, are like nothing you’ve ever heard. Delicate, sublime vocal melodies ring out atop piano lines that cascade through a vibrant range of emotions. The anguish and joy of the past erupt fervently into the present through Jeremy’s bold approach to composition and raw, affective performances enhanced by his outstanding tenor techniques.
“I’m doing this work because there’s only about a hundred Wolastoqey speakers left,” he says. “It’s crucial for us to make sure that we’re using our language and passing it on to the next generation. If you lose the language, you’re not just losing words; you’re losing an entire way of seeing and experiencing the world from a distinctly indigenous perspective.”
A soloist and vibrant collaborator, Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache) works across recorded albums, live performances, and filmic and artistic soundtracks, and has collaborated with artists such as Tony Conrad, Jock Soto, Raven Chacon, Nanobah Becker, Okkyung Lee, Martin Bisi, Caroline Monnet, Michelle Latimer, Martha Colburn, Tanya Lukin LInklater and Loren Connors. An inquisitive and exquisite violinist, Ortman is versed in Apache violin, piano, electric guitar, keyboards, and pedal steel guitar, often sings through a megaphone, and is a producer of capacious field recordings.
She has performed at The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Toronto BIennial in Ontario, the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, among countless established and DIY venues in the US, Canada, and Europe. In 2008 Ortman founded the Coast Orchestra, an all-Native American orchestral ensemble that performed a live soundtrack to Edward Curtis’s film In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914), the first silent feature film to star an all-Native American cast. Ortman is the recipient of the 2020 Jerome@Camargo Residency, 2017 Jerome Foundation Fellowship, the 2016 Art Matters Grant, the 2016 Native Arts and Culture Foundation Fellowship, the 2015 IAIA’s Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Social Engagement Residency and the 2014-15 Rauschenberg Residency. She was also a participating artist in the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Ortman lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Christopher Auchter grew up roaming the beaches and forests of the Haida Gwaii archipelago off Canada’s West Coast, and his art is rooted in the land and stories of the Haida people. Auchter’s art practice is fuelled by his close connection to the natural environment, his adventures in forestry and commercial fishing, and by the colourful people with whom he has lived and worked. From early on, he recorded his feelings and impressions as images, and today his filmmaking serves the same function.
Auchter studied media arts at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design (Vancouver, British Columbia) and graduated with honours in computer animation from Sheridan College in Ontario. His goal is to create films that are as engaging and entertaining as the many people and environments that have inspired him, to help facilitate genuine contact between the Haida people and the global community.
His previous projects include Daniel Janke’s How People Got Fire, Electronic Arts’ NHL Games and Nintendo’s Punch Out! He has illustrated three children’s books, including Jordan Wheeler’s Just a Walk, a comic by Richard Van Camp called Kiss Me Deadly, and a graphic novel by W.L. Liberman entitled The Ruptured Sky: The War of 1812.
Photographer Kiliii Yuyan illuminates the hidden stories of polar regions, wilderness and Indigenous communities. Informed by ancestry that is both Nanai/Hèzhé (Siberian Native) and Chinese-American, he explores the human relationship to the natural world from different cultural perspectives. Kiliii is an award-winning contributor to National Geographic Magazine and other major publications.
Both wilderness survival skills and empathy have been critical for Kiliii’s projects in extreme environments and cultures outside his own. On assignment, he has fled collapsing sea ice, weathered botulism from fermented whale blood, and found kinship at the edges of the world. In addition, Kiliii builds traditional kayaks and contributes to the revitalization of northern Indigenous culture.
Ginew is the only Native American-owned denim line. Using meticulously sourced materials, they incorporate elements of their Ojibwe, Oneida, & Mohican heritage to express a contemporary Native American voice through their premium apparel and accessories. Ginew is Native-Americana, fusing Native American and enduring styles.
The brand is owned and operated by husband and wife, Erik and Amanda. They are from Wisconsin and live in Portland, Oregon. Their family story is a contemporary Native American narrative, with each item they make drawing direct inspiration from their cultures and relatives.
Ginew jointly crafted the first series of belts from their wedding buffalo, which was hunted, prepared, tanned, and hand-dyed by them with their families. Ginew’s leather goods are made with pre-industrial methods, heirloom leather-working tools, and patterns handed down from generation to generation, since the 1880’s. Their leather belts are meticulously crafted using either Horween® or Herman Oak® leathers and finished with some of the finest forged brass buckles.
“Minobimaadiziiwin” – “Yohahi-yo sathahita?n” are philosophies in their tribes which embodies the concept to live in a good way. Simply put, LIVE WELL. Erik and Amanda choose to live intentionally with the adventurous spirit of their relatives and invite you to join the adventure.
Drew Michael (Yup’ik and Inupiaq) was born in Bethel, Alaska. He and his twin brother grew up in Eagle River, Alaska. Drew started learning carving at age 13, learning from archeologist Bob Shaw, printmaker Joe Senungetuk, and contemporary Athabascan mask-maker, Kathleen Carlo. As Drew practiced his craft and developed his own style, he also studied the craftsmanship of works by master carvers and spent many hours comparing others works with his own designs and process, searching for his own niche. He applied research to his carvings, using trial & error to grow his work into what it is today.
Drew focuses on how masks were originally used by Yup’ik people, for healing and telling stories of things unseen. Drew’s work incorporates healing practices of the Yup’ik people and religious icons of European Christianity. The artist hopes to encourage people to find healing in ways that bring about balance in much the same way he has used these practices to find balance in his own life.
Tristan Agnauraq Morgan is a contemporary Iñupiaq artist based out of Anchorage, Alaska who works primarily in watercolor and oil paints. As a mixed Iñupiaq Alaska Native woman, Agnauraq pulls from their unique outlook on life to create culturally contemporary pieces that rely heavily on Iñupiaq values. She strives to discuss important dialogue around Indigenous issues as well as to celebrate reclaiming and reconnecting in western spaces.
Tomás Karmelo Amaya is A:shiwi, Rarámuri, and Yoeme. He is a photographer, filmmaker, and writer born and raised in Phoenix, AZ and is currently the creative director for Indian Country Today.
As a Native person, the traditional teachings and values of his people have heavily influenced how he internalizes and interacts with the world. His work has been known to empower communities by way of high-quality, striking images that show dignity, respect, and cultural sensitivity for the subject.
His work has been published with The New York Times, Buzzfeed, Apple, The Sundance Institute, Northwestern University, The Guardian, Arizona State University, The Fader, Pacific Standard Magazine, BBC News, among several others.
Are you an indigenous musician or band? We want to hear your stuff!
Alexis Sallee is Iñupiaq and Mexican and grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. Her love of filmmaking and sound found its start in radio. After attending Full Sail University where she earned a Bachelors of Science in Recording Arts, she took her skills to L.A. There she worked in audio post-production on various film and television projects including Oculus, Poltergeist, Birth of the Dragon, NBC’s Allegiance, and Showtime documentary Play It Forward. She served as Co-Director and Producer of the 2018 documentary “Definition of Resilience”, which highlights the dynamic stories of Indigenous hip-hop MCs. In 2019, she wrote and directed her debut short film "Who We Are" a personal project dedicated to her Iñupiaq ancestors. Alexis continues to work on cultural visual projects that honors Indigenous stories and people. She has been host and producer of INDIGEFI, formerly Earthsongs, since 2013.