Brooklyn Shinabargar: American Indigeneity

As an indigenous woman, my photography focuses on Native American cultures and people. Native American people tend to be invisible in mainstream art. Indigenous culture is beautiful and deserves to be appreciated and protected, not just seen as relics of the past. Today Indigenous communities face many challenges all over North America. I hope my work can bring light to these issues, such as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic. My photos highlight my own Tanku Nisenan and Tel•Mel•Ti Washoe culture, along with other tribes who attend Big Times and Powwows in California.

Many of my images center on the acorn, the food staple of California Native people. Ut•i is the Nisenan word for acorn. I honor the Ut•i with art and photography by showing the process of preparing acorns, from gathering and drying to cracking, cleaning, and pounding, and then to leaching and cooking.

I am influenced by the strength, passion, and success I see in Native women, especially my grandmother, April Moore. She left for her spiritual journey in 2015. I think of her in everything I do and want to make her as proud as possible. But I’m not doing this only for her. I’m doing this for all Indigenous Americans who don’t see our people represented in this modern world that exists in our very homelands. I’m doing this for the future generations of Indigenous citizens, tribal leaders, and water protectors. I’m doing this for those who were lost before my time – the children being uncovered at Indian residential schools, those enslaved in the name of progress during the California Gold Rush, and those who went into hiding because it wasn’t safe to be Indigenous. I’m doing this for my people and me.