10 Indigenous Peoples Shaping Culture

In recent years, indigenous peoples have become more visible in mainstream arts, entertainment, and culture in the US and Canada. In celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, here are 10 Native Americans blazing trails in arts and culture you should know about.

sterling harjo

Executive Producer Sterlin Harjo (Seminole, Muscogee) is the creative force behind the groundbreaking Native American series Reservation Dogs. Since its debut in 2021, the show has garnered numerous awards, including a Film Independent Spirit Award, a Peabody Award, an AFI Award, and more. He has used the show as a platform for other native writers, actors, rappers, and performers. Harjo is also a founding member of 1491s, a Native American comedy troupe that performs around the world.

bethany yellow tail

Bethany Yellowtail is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation and one of the best indigenous fashion designers. Since she launched her brand, B. Yellowtail, in 2015, she has risen onto the global fashion stage, with her work featured in Vogue and honored alongside industry powerhouses like Tom Ford. She currently partners with the Native Wellness Institute on the Rez Girls Mentorship fund, which provides workshops, retreats, and mentorship opportunities for missing and murdered indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit relatives.

angelina bouley

Sault Ste. Angeline Boulley, a member of the Marie Tribe of Chippewa, is the author of the New York Times bestselling Firekeepers Daughter, a groundbreaking thriller about a Native American teen who must root out corruption in her community. The novel has been hailed as “genre-bending” (Entertainment Weekly), “immersive and riveting” (Financial Times), and an “absolute powerhouse of a debut” (NPR). Boulley’s highly anticipated novel Warrior Girl Unearthed hits shelves in May 2023.

James Jones

Traditional hoop dancing artist James Jones (Tallcree First Nation) has amassed more than three million followers on the social media apps Tik Tok and Instagram for his videos showcasing hoop dancing, native culture and native issues. Jones is a full-time speaker, dancer, and tourer with the indigenous EDM group Halluci Nation.

Stephanie “Pyet” Despain

Stephanie “Pyet” Despain, award-winning private chef and member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation tribe, captured the nation’s attention when she took first place on Gordon Ramsay’s television show, Next Level Chef, on Fox. In 2021, Pyet was named the seventh best private chef in Los Angeles by Entrepreneur magazine.

tommy orange

Author Tommy Orange (Cheyenne and Arapaho) burst onto the literary scene in 2018 with his first novel, There, There. A Pulitzer Prize finalist and American Book Award winner, There, There has been acclaimed for highlighting the challenges of urban Native life. Wandering Stars, the highly anticipated sequel, could hit shelves in 2023.

matika wilbur

Photographer Matika Wilbur, a member of the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes, is the force behind the 562 Project, a crowdfunded and grant-funded photography initiative with a mission to capture the stories of more than 562 tribes in the United States. Since 2012, Wilbur has photographed more than 300 tribal nations in 40 states, resulting in an unprecedented collection of images and oral histories that capture contemporary indigenous life.

Quannah chasing the horse

20-year-old model Quannah Chasing Horse (Hän Gwich’in, Oglala Lakota) took the fashion world by storm when she appeared in Calvin Klein’s One Future Youth campaign in 2020. Since then, her meteoric rise as a model and indigenous advocate has it spurred magazine cover shoots, fashion campaigns, standing ovations at Indian Country economic events, and a documentary about his meteoric rise.

jamie okuma

Luiseño-Shoshone-Bannock fashion artist Jamie Okuma (La Jolla) is known for her elaborate beadwork and eye-catching designs. His work has been featured in Peacocks’ Rutherford Falls and has won several awards, including the Maxwell Hanrahan Foundation Award for Crafts and three titles of best display from the prestigious Sante Fe Indian Market. In addition, Okuma’s designs are featured in the collections permanent exhibits at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

hallucinating nation

Tim “2oolman” Hill (Six Nation of The Grand River) and Ehren “Bear Witness” Thomas (Cayuga First Nation) of June award-winning indigenous electronic music group A Tribe Called Red are out in 2021 under the new name Halluci Nation. Hill and Thomas played Electric DJ Powwow Night with their old bandmate on the Ottawa club scene for a decade. They toured the world as a tribe called Red, playing festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Under their new moniker, the duo continues to fuse the traditional powwow sound with innovative electronic beats and is committed to elevating the contemporary native experience through music.

More stories like this

New ABC Drama ‘Alaska Daily’ Highlights MMIW Crisis
This is what is happening in Indian Territory: from October 7 to 16
Suspect in Plains Indian Burglary Museum Pleads Guilty
Navajo artist partners with Nalgene Water Fund on water bottle design

Do you appreciate a native perspective on the news?

For more than the last decade, we’ve covered important indigenous stories that are often overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the toppling of settler statues during racial equity protests, to the current epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the delayed reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide, and indigenous boarding schools, we have been there to provide a native perspective and elevate native voices.

Our news is free for everyone to read, but it’s not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution, big or small, helps us continue to be a force for change in the Indian Territory and to continue telling the stories that are too often ignored, erased or overlooked. Most of the time, our donors make a one-time donation of $20 or more, while many choose to make a monthly recurring donation of $5 or $10. Anything you can do helps fund our indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover indigenous news.

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent indigenous journalism. Thanks.

About the Author

Native news staff online

Author: Native news staff onlineEmail: This e-mail address is protected against spambots. You need to enable JavaScript to view it.

Native News Online is one of the most widely read publications covering Native American territory and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and other Native peoples. Contact us at [email protected]


Leave a Comment