By Marie Gettel-Gilmartin, Fertile Ground Communications
“A historic societal and philanthropic bias has long undervalued the contributions of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian art forms, artists, and voices.”
–Native Arts & Cultures Foundation
We are fortunate to have an abundance of gifted Native artists and performers from Oregon. Let’s honor some of these notable Native Northwesterners during Native American Heritage Month. Click on the links to find out how to support them.
- Lillian Pitt, Warm Springs, Wasco, Yakama: Lillian’s ancestors lived in and near the Columbia River Gorge for 10,000+ years. Her contemporary fine art delights art lovers and honors the history and legends of her people.
- James Lavadour, Umatilla: A primarily self-taught painter and printmaker, James creates large landscape painting panels. He cofounded the Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts to use art as a transformative tool.
- Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, Klamath: Ka’ila is a Klamath Modoc visual artist, writer, and activist. Her work is informed by work with Wasco fiber artist weaver Pat Courtney Gold and Coquille/Coos carver Shirod Younker.
- Jake A. DePoe, Siletz: Jake is an artist, writer, and community advocate for indigenous, queer, and neurodivergent issues. They bring light to the beautiful, artistic, creative, and unique culture of their peoples.
- Justin Quaempts, Cayuse, Walla Walla: Justin specializes in freehand spray paint/graffiti-style abstract art. When Justin suffered from athletic injuries and pain from surgeries, his father taught him how to paint.
- Wendy Red Star, Apsáalooke (Crow): The Portland Art Museum describes Wendy’s multimedia work as employing “gender-focused, political self-imagery…to draw attention to the marginalization of Native Americans.”
- Brenda Mallory, Cherokee: Brenda’s mixed media sculptural works comprise cloth, fibers, beeswax, and found objects. Her work addresses ideas of interference and disruption in systems of nature and human cultures.
- Greg A. Robinson, Chinook: “We Have Always Lived Here” is Greg’s public art installation at the Tilikum
Crossing bridge in Portland. His works honor his Columbia River ancestors.
- Marie Watt, Seneca: Marie’s interdisciplinary work draws from history, biography, Iroquois protofeminism, and Indigenous teachings. She explores the intersection of history, community, and storytelling.
- Greg Archuleta, Clackamas Chinook, Santiam Kalapuya, and Shasta: Greg focuses on carving in the Columbia River Native Art Chinookan and western Oregon forms and traditional and contemporary basketry.
- Shirod Younker, Coquille, Miluk, Umpqua: Shirod is a sculptor, carver, and arts instructor. His work is deeply intertwined with community engagement and education.
- Sara Siestreem, Hanis Coos, Lower Umpqua, Siuslaw: Sara’s primary medium is painting, but she also works in photography, printmaking, drawing, sculpture, video, and traditional Indigenous weaving.
- Natalie Ball, Black, Modoc, and Klamath Tribes: Natalie’s work addresses racial narratives critical to understanding our shared experiences and histories. Read about her Oregon Native Artist Fellowship here.
- Josue Rivas, Mexican, Otomi: Founder of INDíGENA, Indigenous Photograph, and Standing Strong Project, Josue is an Indigenous futurist, creative director, visual storyteller, and entrepreneur. Watch his TED talk here.
- Katherine Paul, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Swinomish: The Seattle Times refers to her sound as “intrinsically Northwest,” because of Katherine’s blending of Pacific Northwest rock and Coast Salish traditional music.
- Jan Michael (Looking Wolf) Reibach, Kalapuya/Grand Ronde: Jan Michael dedicates his life to performing, teaching, and sharing the beauty of the Native American flute. He also teaches flute at Oregon State University.
- Scott Kalama (Blue Flamez), Warm Springs: Hip hop artist Blue Flamez won the 2016 Native American Music Award for best music video and was nominated for five Native American Music Awards in 2022.
- Kalliah Jackson, Warm Springs: Kalliah was nominated for a Native American Music Award for her song, “I WillAlways Fight,” inspired by protests against the Dakota Access pipeline and celebrating the Indigenous community.
- Charles Littleleaf, Warm Springs: Charles grounds his flute playing within the essence of Mother Earth and from memories growing up on his reservation which he shares with audiences around the world.
- Fish Martinez, Siletz: Fish shares pow wow style dancing, drumming, and singing. He works with youth via the Hip Hop Congress and has performed with the Portland Chamber Orchestra and Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble.
- James Edmund Greeley, Warm Springs, Wasco, Hopi, and Nez Perce: James won a Native American Music Award in 2017 for his traditional flute album. He also won a Grammy for his work on Esperanza Spalding’s album.
Actors and Performers
- Brice Fisher, Siletz: Brice Fisher has appeared in the movie “Kidnap” with Halle Berry; “The Tribes of Palos Verdes” with Jennifer Garner; and on the TNT drama show “The Librarians,” among many other shows.
- Chris Eyre, Cheyenne, Arapaho: This screenwriter-director became famous with “Smoke Signals,” the first major movie written, directed, and starring Indians. He just launched a show with a Native police chief, Dark Winds.
- Marta Clifford, Grand Ronde, Chinook, Cree: Elder Marta collaborates with theater professor Theresa May to direct, write, and teach about Tribal perspectives and the way it engages the work of decolonization through theater.
- Lori Tapahonso, Navajo (Dine), Acoma Pueblo: Lori teaches Native American leadership college courses and produces a college-readiness program. She cofounded the illioo Native Theatre.
- LaRonn Kotchia, Warm Springs, Wasco, Paiute: LaRonn is a film maker, cinematographer, and storyteller. He was awarded Best Film & Best Cinematography for “Missing Indigenous” in the Portland 48hour film festival.
- Anthony Hudson (Carla Rossi), Grand Ronde, Siletz: Anthony is an artist and writer best known as Portland’s premier drag clown Carla Rossi. Anthony co-hosts the queer feminist horror podcast Gaylords of Darkness.
- Kunu Bearchum, Northern Cheyenne, Ho-Chunk: Kunu uses technology and critical thinking in the ancient craft of telling stories. “[Native Americans have] our oral history and storytelling. I want to make music that shows that.”
- Waylon Lenk, Karuk: Waylon is a theatre artist and educator whose family hails from Taxasufkára and Ka’tim’îin on the Klamath River. His work explores the intersections between Indigenous and western performance styles.
- Brutis Baez, Warm Springs, Wasco, Nez Perce: Brutis “Bigg B” continues to participate in ceremonies that keep him balanced. Music and video producing, announcing, and promotion is what Brutis loves.
- Isis Celilo Rogers, Hupa, Wasco, Warm Springs: Isis recently made her acting debut in Netflix‘s animated series “Spirit Rangers.” Isis proudly represents Indigenous people through her work.
- Joey Clift, Cowlitz: Joey is staff writer and consulting producer on the new Netflix show Spirit Rangers. “It’s created by a Native person and about Native characters voiced by Native actors. It celebrates Native joy. It’s just the kind of show I wish I’d had,” he said. A few weeks ago he spoke at the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland.
And a shout-out to our member organizations that support Native artists and performers:
- The Native Arts & Cultures Foundation advances equity and cultural knowledge, focusing on the power of arts and collaboration to strengthen Native communities and promote positive social change with American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native peoples in the United States.
- Siletz Arts & Heritage Society promotes programs that encourage the revitalization and practice of Tribal cultural and religious activities and the restoration of Tribal religious and cultural sites and locations.
- Wisdom of the Elders records, preserves, and shares oral history, cultural arts, language concepts, and traditional ecological knowledge of exemplary Native American elders, storytellers, and scientists.