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“Native Artist” Explores Identity and Lost History By Alexis Sallee, INDIGEFI Host and Producer

I’m Alexis Sallee, host and producer of INDIGEFI, a weekly one-hour public radio show featuring an eclectic blend of modern Indigenous music. Aside from the weekly radio show, I’ve worked in audio for film and TV in the greater Los Angeles area for the last nine years.

In 2020, I was fortunate to work on a project that has given me the opportunity to focus on a diverse group of Native artists, and share their unique stories on the multimedia “Native Artist” series, a project of INDIGEFI.

Funding from The CIRI Foundation’s Journey to What Matters program helped us to bring two episodes of “Native Artists” to listeners that are centered on Alaska Native artists: Drew Michael (Yup’ik and Iñupiaq) a carver and mixed media artist, and Tristan Agnauraq Morgan (Iñupiaq) a painter.

I have always thought of myself as a listener, and as someone who listens to learn. I feel there is a connection between this quality and my Indigenous heritage, (Iñupiaq and Mexican) with its legacy of oral traditions and storytelling. I learned so much from interviewing the artists who participated in this project, and about their personal journeys practicing their art, and expressing Indigenous traditions to make them their own.

I realized at some point that I was working in a medium and a style that had so much history. And there was also a lot of lost history…I felt like there was this huge book that I needed to start reading, but then there wasn’t one. In my eyes I didn’t have the access, because I had no idea what was even out there.

Drew Michael
Featured in “Native Artist” Episode 3

I particularly enjoyed producing the episode of “Native Artist” focused on Drew Michael, who shared his struggles with identity as Alaska Native artist from Bethel who grew up with white adoptive parents in Eagle River. His search for answers led him to traditional Native art, and a journey of self-education, research, and guidance from mentors including Joseph Senungetuk, Kathleen Carlo, and Perry Eaton led him to life as a working artist.

Among the topics Drew discussed in this episode included his work with Alaska Native dance group Pamyua to experiment with masks that allow the parts to move as a dancer moves. Drew talked about how both he and Pamyua work in traditional realms, but expressed in a modern way, which has enabled an effective collaboration for danceable masks.

The Native Artist podcast takes a deep dive into the stories of Indigenous artists, spanning a wide range of artistic disciplines. From directors and writers to carvers and fashion designers, artists share their unique stories and perspectives on navigating these fields while reclaiming Native identity. Listen and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.