Shattering Stereotypes: This Is What Native Americans Really Look Like Today

Published November 22, 2015
Updated September 18, 2019

As we celebrate the supposed historical unity among Native American tribes and European settlers each Thanksgiving, we often forget that story’s dark side: exclusion, racism, even genocide. In Project 562 (named after the 562 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States), photographer Matika Wilbur — a Native American herself — seeks to dispel the stereotypes surrounding European oppression of Native Americans and to reclaim Native American identity through portraiture. Wilbur’s photos reveal the true resilience and diversity of today’s Native Americans:

Modern Native Americans Swimming
Caleb and Jared Dunlap, also known as the "twindians," hail from the Anishinaabe Tribe in Minnesota.

Modern Native Americans Hands
Stephen Small Salmon of the Salish Kootenai people in northeastern Montana. Salmon works to bring back fluency of tribal languages, which has fallen drastically over the years.

Modern Native Americans Pageant
JoRee White Clay LaFrance. LaFrance graduated as valedictorian from St. Labre Indian Catholic High School Academy in Montana.

Modern Native Americans Red Elk
Laura Red Elk, a "Navajo Walker" who is fighting fracking on Navajo Nation land.

Modern Native Americans Duncan
Talon and Sky Duncan, World Champion hoop dancers.

Modern Native Americans Jane Blackmen
Jane Blackmen, from the Pala Band of Mission Indians.

Modern Native Americans Generations
Jennie Parker and granddaughter Sharlyse Parker of the Northern Cheyenne in Lame Deer, Montana.

Modern Native Americans Josh Mori
Josh Mori of Kaua'i Hawaii. Mori has a Masters Degree in Native American Studies from Montana State University and is the founder of two non-profits: Pakahi Academy and Na Lawai's Pono.

Modern Native Americans Bethany
Bethany Yellowtail of the Crow tribe.

Modern Native Americans Hayes Lewis
Hayes Lewis, Zuni tribe.

Modern Native Americans Mary Evelyn
Mary Evelyn, of the Ohkay Owingeh and Isleta Pueblos.

Modern Native Americans Painting
Louis Gong of the NookSack Tribe, Canada. Gong is an artist and activist.

Modern Native Americans Izon
Kumu Olelo Kaeo Izon, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Modern Native Americans Jacket
Michael Frank of the Miccosukee. Frank is a tribe seer who works to protect and restore his ancestral territory. Native Americans lost almost 98% of their land during the time of the American conquest.

Modern Native Americans Wedding
Desi and Kevin Lonebear celebrate their Cheyenne wedding in Maui, Hawaii.

Modern Native Americans Straw Hat
Kayah George and her mother, Deborah Parker, former Vice-Chairman of the Tulalip Tribe in Washington state. Both women are advocates for tribal women's rights.

Modern Native Americans Mitchells
Robert and Fannie Mitchell, Dine tribe.

Modern Native Americans Tatanka Means
Tatanka Means, of the Oglala Lakota, Omaha, and Navajo Nations tribes.

Modern Native Americans Sage Romero
Sage Romero, Big Pine Paiute tribe. Approximately one third of Native Americans today, like Romero, live on reservations.

Modern Native Americans Trinity
Darkfeather, Bibiana, and Eckos Ancheta of the Tulalip Tribe.

Modern Native Americans Prayer
Starflower Montoya of the tribes Barona and Toas.

Modern Native Americans Solemn
Bahazhoni Tso of the Navajo Nation. While many enjoy a comfortable life, one quarter of Native American children still live in poverty.

Modern Native Americans Marva Scott
Marva Scott, Tolowa tribe.

Modern Native Americans Guylish
Guylish Bommelyn, Tolowa.

Modern Native Americans Cowboy
Steven Yellowtail of Crow Nation.

All images courtesy of Wilbur's Facebook page.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.