“I always felt I wasn't indigenous enough.”

 “I was darker than them while they were fair-skinned.”

“They said I couldn’t be ‘just Black’...that I must be mixed with something.”

“In some spaces, I felt Black and in others I felt Wampanoag.”

“I knew I was Indigenous and other people never believed me.”


Society frequently employs our physical characteristics as indicators of our racial and cultural affiliations. While I acknowledge my identity as both Black and Chappaquiddick Wampanoag, my darker complexion leads individuals to categorize me solely as Black. Afro-Indigenous individuals often contend with the misconception that they cannot be native due to perceived misconceptions from stereotypical native appearances. In response, I pose the question:

Well, What does Native Look Like?

Many Wampanoag people identify as both Black and Wampanoag, and the objective of this growing project is to document the distinctive identities, perspectives, and traditions prevalent within our tribe. Utilizing portraiture in photography and painting, I aim to encapsulate the diverse shades and narratives within our community, emphasizing the coexistence of Black and Native identities. Contemporary societal narratives often depict indigenous communities in a monolithic manner, disregarding the multifaceted diversity inherent in many native populations. Through portraiture, I seek to challenge prevailing perceptions of native identity by preserving our history, dismantling stereotypes, and fostering a sense of communal belonging.

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by Arts Mid-Hudson.

Participants: Bryanna Hull (Evening Star), Meredith McGoings (Shining Star), Mary Holman (Warming Heart), Tashawna Holman-Kearney (Whirlwind).

What Does Native Look Like? Oil, Acrylic, Glass Beads on Canvas, 2023


“I created an art show where I showcased my art highlighting being indigenous and African”
- Evening Star

“Dancing with the Wampanoag sister tribes in Mashpee. I could feel the spirit of my ancestors through my dance”
-Warming Heart

“As a teacher in the public school system, I always shared about both of my cultures. One year we studied Native Americans for the whole year, taking trips to the Narragansett Tomaquag Museum., where Princess Redwing taught about Native ways.”
- Shining Star (M.)

“I was asked to speak at my son's school and speak about us being Wampanoag, along with our history and culture. Seeing the sense of pride on his face during that time made me feel proud and grateful that I’m able to share this part of our lives with my Children and others.”
- Whirlwind

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