10 Indigenous Peoples Who Shape Culture

In recent years, Indigenous peoples have become more visible in mainstream arts, entertainment, and culture in the United States and Canada. To celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, here are 10 Native Americans leading the way in arts and culture you should get to know.

Sterlin Harjo

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

Bethany Yellowtail

Bethany Yellowtail is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation and one of the top Native fashion designers. Since launching her brand, B. Yellowtail, in 2015, she has risen to the global fashion scene, with her work featured in Vogue and honored alongside industry giants 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 women, girls, and Two-Spirit parents of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples.

Angeline Boulley

Sault Ste. Angeline Boulley, a member of the Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is the author of the New York Times bestseller Firekeepers Daughter, a pioneering thriller about a teenage Native girl who must root out corruption in her community. The novel has been hailed as “genre-bending” (Entertainment Weekly), “immersive and thrilling” (Financial Times), and an “absolute powerhouse of a debut” (NPR). Boulley’s highly anticipated novel Warrior Girl Unearthed will be released in May 2023.

james jones

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

Stephanie “Pyet” Despain

Stephanie “Pyet” Despain, award-winning private chef and member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribe, came to national attention when she won first place on Gordon Ramsay’s Next Level Chef TV show 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) exploded onto the literary scene in 2018 with his debut novel, There, There. A Pulitzer Prize finalist and American Book Award winner, There, There has been hailed for highlighting the challenges of urban Indigenous life. Wandering Stars, the highly anticipated sequel, could hit bookstores in 2023.

Matika Wilbur

Photographer Matika Wilbur, a member of the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes, is the force behind Project 562, a subsidized, crowd-funded photography initiative whose mission is to capture the stories of over 562 tribes across the United States. Since 2012, Wilbur has photographed over 300 tribal nations in 40 states, resulting in an unparalleled collection of images and oral histories capturing contemporary Indigenous life.

Quannah Hunting Horse

20-year-old model Quannah Chasing Horse (Hän Gwich’in, Oglala Lakota) hit 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 spurred magazine cover shoots, fashion campaigns, standing ovations at Indian Country economic events and a documentary film about her meteoric rise.

Jamie Okuma

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

Hallucci 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 were released in 2021 under the new name Halluci Nation. Hill and Thomas played Electric DJ Powwow Night with their former bandmate on the Ottawa club scene for a decade. They have toured the world as Tribe Called Red, playing festivals such as Coachella, Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Under their new name, the duo continue to fuse the traditional sound of powwows with innovative electronic beats and are committed to elevating the contemporary Indigenous experience through music.

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