Stories of Sealaska:
A project to share first-person Native Alaskan experiences through Sealaska Corporation. Responsible for portrait photography and subject interviews. (2023)
“I didn't have much of an education. I went as far as third grade. It was unbelievable what happened to me: My language was taken away from me. That part is pretty hectic. My parents wouldn’t let me go back after what happened. What’s that word, when you’re mistreated? Trauma. Yeah, trauma.
When I was young, [the missionary teachers] would come and hit me on the back of the head. They wanted me to talk English and it was bad. When I got punished [at the school for speaking Tlingit], I didn’t want my grandparents to see me so I hid away under a house for four days. My uncles eventually found me under there and grabbed and brought me out.
Now things are affecting me and I’m starting to lose my memory. I have to write down my phone numbers and I even forget my own daughter’s name. I have an indent [on the back of my head], and I asked the doctor, I said “Doctor, why is the back of my head in like that?” He asked if I fell and hit my head when I was a boy, and I said no but I remembered the teachers."
"I grew up with my grandparents and growing up in Hoonah (Xúna) I was almost ashamed. I mean, I did feel ashamed. I felt ashamed that I grew up with my grandparents because Western civilization says you need to live in nuclear families, right? And a lot of my friends and some of my cousins had moms and dads that they grew up with.
Growing up with my grandma - she was always so old fashioned, and I hardly got to spend the night out because my grandma was so strict with me. I always thought, everybody else has moms and dads and I have grandma and grandpa and I felt ashamed.
Later on is when I realized, you know, [that you shouldn’t feel] upset about where you live. Historically, we lived in extended households; we lived in clan houses. That's how we helped each other. That's how we did all the work together: "wooch.éen,” we work together. And so that's when I realized how lucky I was to grow up with my grandparents. And now I can share things like this, the things I was exposed to all my life. I can't imagine if I wasn't, I wouldn't be as exposed to my culture as I am."
“I had two great gals in my life, [one of which was] my grandmother. She taught a lot about our heritage to my brothers and I. She taught us some songs and dances, as well. Women are held up in high regard in Tlingit culture because that’s where the children learn about their heritage and that’s a pretty darn good reason.
It’s been 40 years of doing my art and of sharing it with people that are my tribal relatives. I like that probably most of the images that you see here were learned from my mother and my grandmother.”
Tlingit Artist + Master Carver
“I am Tlingit, Yéil (Raven), L'eeneidí (Dog Salmon) from Sheey At'ika. I’ve been helping people with repatriation of human remains, like from Carlile and other places. I help families - it’s a healing time that we live in and our ancestors are mourning to come home, so I’ve dedicated my life to find lineal descendants and to letting them know where their loved ones are located. I leave it up to them on what they want to do because it’s ultimately their authority - their inherent right.
We are healing together; this is a healing time that we live in, and we are healing each other and we are putting our regalia back on. We were never intended to live without our culture; never intended to walk around like a wounded warrior.
We’ve got our power back and we’re using it. We’ve got our voice back and we’re using it. And we’ve got our strength back and we’re using it.
I am Tlingit. 'Tlingit' means 'human being'. So I am a human being, just like you.”
"It's January, and I'm walking and looking for hemlock trees, just the right kind of hemlock trees. Sometimes I lay on the ground and watch the web of the hemlock tree. And I ask the tree: Are you born to feed the people? And I can feel it [the answer] right away. If the tree says yes and gives permission, I will remember that tree and come back. Sometimes trees shake a little bit, and they're not quite ready; other trees say that their time has passed; other trees just sway and move and swirl. And it's like that's what they were born for.
Each tree has a spirit and you're asking for the spirit of that tree and to take it from its family where it's rooted at. That is something that is done with much care and there are Tlingit protocols to that. So as we select the tree people, or as they select us, we're looking for a particular kind of hemlock tree. When we find that hemlock tree we come back through prayer, and we retrieve the tree. So right now is the time of preparation of our buoys, our rocks, our ropes, our gas, and especially our boats; we really need to make sure that our boats are in order. But it's also a time of spiritual strengthening and physical strengthening after the holiday season. We strengthen our body, we do our best to refine our spirit, and today we take a deep breath: because we're warrioring up."
Tlingit Elder + Herring Protector
}I came up during the time where the language was forbidden. My grandmother spoke Tlingit, she didn’t know much English. My mother was very angry about it, and I know she was angry about it because she forbid us to speak it. But it was never explained why.
My daughter asked me one day, “Are we ashamed of who we are?” I said, “No.” She said, “Well, you don’t talk about it,” and it got me to thinking. So that’s when I started working with the language.
I feel it's very important to me and my children and grandchildren because it's part of our culture. And it's part of who we are. And when you would wear a [traditional] blanket [with regalia], you would come in backwards because you would be showing them who you are. Years ago, all they had to do was hear your name and see what you wore, and they knew who you were. Nowadays, we don't know that and that's kind of sad.}
Tlingit Elder + Language Keeper
Hidden in Plain Sight:
“Hidden in Plain Sight" is a short documentary that shines a light on a rarely discussed aspect of the safari industry, uncovering the pervasive economic leakage and exploitation perpetuated by foreign-owned companies across Tanzania. I produced and directed this award-winning film and it is currently in the film festival circuit. (2023)
Portraits, Women in Tanzania
While working for the DARE Women's Foundation on a post-graduate fellowship from Harvard, I did a portrait series with the women benefitting from the NGO and helped them to share their stories with potential donors. (2022)
Monkey Tongue Magazine:
Monkey Tongue is an online, alternative music and arts magazine that I co-edit and write for. (2023)
The thing about Dead Poet Society is that for every addicting riff and chorus there’s equal attention and weight given to the lyrics and meaning to the songs they’ve released. There’s .loveyoulikethat., a song that pierces anyone who has experienced the excruciating devastation of love that, for whatever reason, just doesn’t work. Lead singer Jack Underkofler sings: Baby I swear I tried / There’s nothing more that I’d like / Than to be yours for life / But there’s something inside screamin’ this is not right.
#ThisPlaceMatters is a video series I produced, filmed, and edited for The City of Delray Beach to promote historic preservation across the city.