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Press Release

Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo Partners Will Bring Matika Wilbur’s ‘Project 562’ to the Palm Theatre on May 5

Contact: Megan Rivoire

805-756-2250; [email protected]

Wilbur, who set out to photograph every federally recognized tribe in the U.S., will speak on her decade-long effort to change the way Native America is seen

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly invites the campus and San Luis Obispo communities to broaden their understanding and challenge their preconceived stereotypes of Native America during a photographic and narrative keynote with celebrated photographer and storyteller Matika Wilbur.

Wilbur, of the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes of coastal Washington, will address contemporary Native American life and cultures in a speech at 4:30 p.m. Friday, May 5, at the Palm Theatre. The event is made possible through a partnership between Cal Poly’s Office of University Diversity and Inclusion and Native American and Indigenous Cultural Center and the city of San Luis Obispo Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Matika Wilbur holds a copy of the “Project 562” book
Photographer and social documentarian Matika Wilbur holds a copy of “Project 562,” a photographic and narrative celebration of contemporary Native American life and cultures alongside an in-depth examination of issues that Native people face. 

Photo courtesy of Matika Wilbur

“Held during National Week of Action for Missing Murdered and Indigenous People, this event is an inspiring and educational opportunity for the Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo communities to center and challenge the way they see Native America,” said Cheryl Flores, Cal Poly’s Native and Indigenous Cultural Center coordinator.

Project 562 is the only effort since the 1930s to photograph people from all Native American Tribal Nations — and the only such endeavor by a Native artist. In 2012, Matika Wilbur sold everything in her Seattle apartment and set out on a Kickstarter-funded pursuit to visit, engage and photograph people from what were then the 562 federally recognized Native American Tribal Nations. Over the next decade, she traveled 600,000 miles across 50 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 mainstream media and offers justice to the richness, diversity and lived experiences of Indian Country.

Project 562, the culmination of this decade-long art and storytelling endeavor, is a peerless, sweeping and moving love letter to Indigenous Americans, containing hundreds of stunning portraits and compelling personal narratives of contemporary Native American people from federally and non-federally recognized tribes — 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.

The event is free and open to the public. The Palm Theatre is at 817 Palm St. in San Luis Obispo. An RSVP is requested. Every person who RSVPs will be entered into a drawing to win a signed copy of her book (must be present to win).