I started following Matika Wilbur’s Project 562: Changing The Way We See Native America about 7-8 years ago. Wilbur (Swinish and Tulip), a photographer and storyteller, sold all her  belongings in 2012 and left Seattle, where she was living at the time, to begin her journey to “visit, engage, and photograph people from what were then the 562 federally recognized Native American Tribal Nations.”

One of the gifts of this decade-long project is the publication of  Matika’s beautiful, uplifting and expansive book, Project 562: Changing The Way We See Native America, published by Ten Speed Press in 2023.

About Matika

Photo Credit: Katherine Tyler. Used with permission from Penguin Random House

After earning her BFA from Brooks Institute of Photography, Matika began her career in Los Angeles doing fashion and commercial photography, but found that she was turned off by doing commercial work.

  • She decided that she wanted to focus on social justice issues and started on her first project We Are One People, photographing Coast Salish elders.
  • She then completed two more projects, We Emerge, featuring Native people in contemporary urban and  traditional settings, and Save the Indian and Kill the Man, an examination of forced cultural assimilation of Natives from 1880 to 1980.  
  • Matika has given more than 300 keynote speeches at institutions including Harvard, Yale, University of California-Berkeley, and the National Education Association as well as delivering several TED Talks.
  • She is a National Geographic Explorer and is a recipient of the Leica Photo Award.
  • You can also hear Matika on the All My Relations podcast that she cohosts with Dr. Adrienne Keene.
  • In May 2023, Project 562 made the New York Times Bestseller list. Project 562 is Matika’s fourth project and her first book publication.

There is much to learn from this book and to feel inspired by. I share with you here the words written on the inside front cover that embraces the spirit of this book: 

“A photographic and narrative celebration of contemporary Native American life and cultures, alongside an in-depth examination of issues that Native people face, by celebrated photographer and storyteller Marika Wilbur of the Swinish and Tulalip Trives.”

In 2012, Matika Wilbur sold everything in her Seattle apartment and set our on a Kickstarter-funded pursuit to visit, engage, and photography from what were then 562 federally recognized Native American Tribal Nations.

Over the next decade, she traveled six hundred thousand miles across fifty-states-from Seminole Country (now known as the Everglades) to Inuit territory (now known as the Bering Sea) to meet, interview, and photograph hundreds of Indigenous people.

The body of work Wilbur created serves to counteract the one-dimensional and archaic stereotypes of Native people in the mainstream media and offers justice to the richness, diversity, and  lived experience of Indian Country. 

The culmination of this decade-long art and storytelling endeavor, Project 562 is a peerless, sweeping, and moving love letter to Indigenous Americans, containing  hundreds of stunning portraits and compelling personal narratives of contemporary Native people-all photographed in clothing, poses, and locations of their choosing.

Their narratives touch on personal and cultural identity as well as issues of media representation, sovereignty, faith, family, the protection of sacred sites, subsistence living, traditional knowledge-keeping, land stewardship, language preservation, advocacy, education, the arts and more. 

A vital contribution from an incomparable artist, Project 562 inspires, educates, and truly changes the way we see Native America. 

Project 562 Cover Photo

I have created my own way of taking in Matika’s book-holding it gently in my hands in a quiet space, taking time with each person, and giving thanks to Matika for taking and sharing this journey with us.  

To learn more or to buy this book, please visit: project562.com

Reprinted with permission from Project 562: Changing The Way We See Native America by
Matika Wilbur copyright © 2023. Photographs by Matika Wilbur © 2023. Published by Ten
Speed Press. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Susan Heske posing with a guitar outdoors

About the Writer:
Susan Heske


Susan Heske moved to Boulder, CO, in October 2021. She previously worked as Senior Director of Communications for Student Services at The New School in New York City. She has been involved with social justice issues for many years.