Indigenous Peoples' Day 2021

Planning for 2022 Indigenous People’s Day is underway. Stay tuned!

Indigenous Peoples' Day recognizes and honors the past, present and future of Native peoples throughout the Americas. It is a celebration of Native America in place of Columbus Day and acknowledges the true history of the Americas that always existed before 1492. There can be no discovery of a country when the original inhabitants had already settled on this land. People have chosen to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day for decades but as of 2020, 14 U.S. states and more than 130 cities officially recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day.

On October 11, 2021, Western Washington University, in collaboration with multiple community partners hosted a virtual Indigenous Peoples’ Day ceremony featuring performances by the Lummi Blackhawk Singers and a keynote presentation from Swinomish and Tulalip photographer and speaker, Matika Wilbur.

Matika holding a camera in front of her in a sepia tone on the photo

"Changing The Way We See Native America"

Matika Wilbur

Matika Wilbur is from the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes. She is the founder and photographer of Project 562, a documentary project dedicated to changing the way we see Native America. After earning her BFA from Brooks Institute of Photography, Matika began her career in fashion and commercial photography in Los Angeles. She found herself “turned off” by the commercial world, and instead decided to use photography as a tool for social justice.

Project 562 is Matika’s fourth major creative project elevating Native American identity and culture: her first project captured portraits of Coast Salish elders for “We Are One People” (2004, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington and The Royal British Columbia Museum of Fine Arts, Victoria, British Columbia); “We Emerge,” featured Native people in contemporary urban and traditional settings (2008, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle, Washington); and “Save the Indian and Kill the Man,” addressed the forced cultural assimilation of Natives from 1880 to 1980 (2012, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington). Matika has offered over 300 keynote speeches since 2012, at institutions like Harvard University, Yale University, UC Berkeley, Google, and The National Education Association, and also has delivered several TED Talks.

Matika Wilbur in Prague

She is currently a National Geographic Explorer and recipient of the distinguished Leica Photo Award. Dispatches from Project 562 can be found on Matika’s Instagram account (@project_562), and she co-hosts the popular Native issues podcast All My Relations with Dr. Adrienne Keene and Dr. Desi Small Rodriguez, which invites guests to explore the connections between land, creatural relatives, and one another. Learn more at,, and

A black and white drawing of a turtle representing islands

Looking through the lens of coast Salish turtle island.

This change allows the opportunity to bring more awareness to the unique, rich history of this land that is inextricably tied to the first peoples of this country and predates the voyage of Christopher Columbus. It also acknowledges American Indians and Alaska Natives as thriving, contemporary sovereign nations who hold their rightful place among the American family of governments.

- The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)

Supporting Partners

Northwest Indian College
Pull Together Swinomish Education
Whatcom Community College
City of Bellingham
Bellingham Public Schools
Bellingham Technical College
Western Washington University
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