Photographer Matika Wilbur from the Tulalip and Swinomish tribes has a new exhibition at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham. “Seeds of Culture: Portraits and Stories of Native Women” is displayed through June 13. (Gale Fiege)

Photographer Matika Wilbur from the Tulalip and Swinomish tribes has a new exhibition at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham. “Seeds of Culture: Portraits and Stories of Native Women” is displayed through June 13. (Gale Fiege)

Hear Tulalip photographer discuss her decade-long project

Matika Wilbur captured the images and stories of Indigenous women from around the country. She’ll talk about it June 3 in Bellingham.

  • By Gale Fiege Special to The Herald
  • Saturday, May 22, 2021 10:21pm
  • LifeTulalip

A moving exhibit by nationally known Tulalip photographer Matika Wilbur at Whatcom Museum ends soon, but not before a special presentation by Wilbur caps it off.

Wilbur, also a member of the Swinomish Tribe, is set to speak at 7 p.m. June 3 at the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham. Using video, photographs and song, Wilbur plans to talk about her experiences capturing the images and stories of Indigenous women from across the country.

The exhibition at Whatcom Museum — “Seeds of Culture: Portraits and Stories of Native American Women” — features 28 striking portraits and interviews conducted during Wilbur’s decade-long pursuit, which she has titled Project 562, to make pictures of people from each of the 562-plus sovereign tribal nations in the United States.

The exhibit is displayed in the museum’s Lightcatcher building through June 13.

A traditional Coast Salish oral-history witnessing ceremony accompanied the opening of the exhibit in March, during which members of the Tulalip, Swinomish, Lummi and other tribes gathered to bless the exhibit and its potential to inform and inspire. Wilbur shared a similar exhibit at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University in 2016.

Women are important in Wilbur’s own life, and women have been important in the survival of Native people throughout the history of colonization by European immigrants to America, she said.

Wilbur told the story of how women from Southeast tribes, forced to relocate to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears, would swallow and then swallow again seeds that they were not allowed to pack with them.

Before colonization, Pacific Northwest peoples thrived in matriarchal social systems, Wilbur said. Her friend and fellow Tulalip Tribes member Deborah Parker said, “As a Native person, as a life-giver, as a woman, it’s my first call of action to protect Mother Earth, to make sure that the land is sustainable and that my children live in a place where they can thrive.”

Judy Gobin, a ceremony witness from Tulalip, said the exhibit “touched my heart, as I think about the importance of all the women in our lives.”

Wilbur, featured by The Herald several times since beginning Project 562, has exhibited her work previously at the Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Burke Museum, Royal British Columbia Museum and Nantes Museum in France.

She earned her bachelor’s degree at Brooks Institute of Photography in California, taught at Tulalip Heritage High School and has worked as a documentarian for nearly 10 years. She is a co-host of the podcast “All My Relations.”

Her collection of photographs and narratives from Project 562 is soon to be published by Ten Speed Press/Random House, and a retrospective exhibition is planned for the fall of 2022 at the Seattle Art Museum. Learn more at www.matikawilbur.com and www.project562.com.

If you go

Spots for Matika Wilbur presentation, 7 p.m. Thursday, June 3, at Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St., Bellingham are all booked, but an online presentation will be streamed live by going to bit.ly/3yta3mE. The event is free, but seating is limited.

Whatcom Museum, 250 Flora St., Bellingham, is open noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. More at www.whatcommuseum.org. Wilbur’s exhibit closes June 13.

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