Influential Native American photographer launches Project 562

Matika Wilbur presents 10-year documentation of the modern indigenous experience in hand-colored photos


Swinomish-Tulalip photographer Matika Wilbur’s Project 562 features modern Native America through photography and story-telling. (Photo courtesy of Matika Wilbur)

Swinomish-Tulalip photographer Matika Wilbur will present her selectively hand-colored black and white photography and 10 years of oral histories featuring upwards of 562 federally recognized tribes for the student body of American River College on Zoom at 7p.m. on Feb. 18.

According to Wilbur’s biographic material, Project 562 is a multi-year photography project for which Wilbur has travelled hundreds of thousands of miles to photograph and document the nation’s tribes and cultures, sharing their stories through her blog titled “After the Project.”

“The result is an unprecedented repository of images and oral histories that accurately portrays contemporary Native Americans,” Wilbur’s biography reads.

ARC photography professor Jodie Hooker describes Wilbur’s hand-colored photography as “emotional and beautiful.”

Since Hooker’s introduction to Native art in a Native American Art History class, she has had a passion for Indigenous artworks. When ARC art professor and Kaneko Gallery curator Patricia Wood introduced her to Wilbur’s work, Hooker says she was immediately attracted to it.

“I loved it,” Hooker said in an email. “I shared it with students in my Intermediate Photo class, who hand-color black and white work in a similar fashion to Matika. Pat and I worked together to contact Project 562 and then wrote an Innovation Grant to bring Matika Wilbur here as a keynote speaker.”

Hooker, who worked with Wood and English professor Jesus Valle, director of the Native American Resource Center at ARC, acquired the Innovation Grant and was set to feature Project 562 before COVID-19 led to the closure of the gallery, delaying the project’s showcase.

Hooker says she is excited to finally see more of the project and share the experience with students.

“I hope that the presentation of Project 562 brings contemporary Native American images and issues to new light for the non-Native community,” Hooker said. “My husband is a registered member of the Seneca Nation of Indians from the Allegany Reservation in Salamanca.”

The photographer’s exploration of modern Native culture is expansive. According to the project’s website, Wilbur has visited over 300 sovereign nations in 40 states, visiting tribes from California to Cape Cod and recording their lives through photography and documenting contemporary Indigenous history in cultural context.

“Native peoples are not gone, or history, or what is often represented in popular media. The art and culture of contemporary Native peoples is an on-going, present practice. Matika Wilbur’s presentation of Project 562 reflects that reality,” Hooker said. “I look forward to seeing Matika’s work and learning more about the project and the sovereign Indigenous people within the United States and around the world.”

The Zoom event is open to all students and is available here using the password Hm6NKU.