Matika Wilbur, award-winning photographer of Native American
descent, presented her lecture, "Changing the Way We See Native
America: Dismantling Native American Stereotypes" in Elkins Auditorium
on March 21. The event marked the fourth lecture of the W. David
Baird Distinguished Lecture Series of the 2016-2017 school year,
with the goal to promote diverse discussions on campus.
The lecture covered the lasting stereotypes of Native Americans
and how these misconceptions prevent them from moving forward from
their past. The discussion related to her exhibition, "Seed of Culture:
The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women," is on display
in the Waves Cafeteria, until April 6.
The exhibition, which was previously showcased at Harvard University,
is part of a larger project of Wilbur's called Project 562, a collection
of photographs of Native Americans from all 562 tribes. Wilbur road-tripped
across the country, personally visiting each tribe and meeting thousands
of Native Americans along the way, learning their stories to show
true depictions of contemporary Native Americans.
During the lecture, Wilbur said Project 562's purpose is to
ask people, "to seek a different narrative one that seeks
to include indigenous people."
The project came into fruition from Wilbur learning about sexual
assault and domestic violence cases that Native American women have
experienced. Wilbur, "decided to put together a show that honors
complexity of native women," she said. Wilbur said she wanted to
shift their depictions, "beyond the story of sadness and the story
of trauma and take on what they are today."
Sophomore Ansley Rathgeber said she was drawn to the exhibit
as she, "was interested in learning more about Native American culture
"There was a clear focus on native women, and you could tell
that each woman in the photographs had her own story. I wanted to
come and hear them," Rathgeber said.
Wilbur's work was noticed by Dana Dudley, assistant dean of
Special Academic Programs, who works on planning for the Distinguished
Lecture Series. Dudley was looking for "a speaker in commitment
to push for diversity and inclusivity on campus." She said, "We
wanted to include multiple ethnicities in that conversation and
reflect that message in the Lecture Series."
The lecture is the first to have an art exhibit paired with
it. The exhibit's placement struck the interest of many students
as it is displayed in the Waves Cafe, on the same wall where the
controversial wooden mural depicting Spanish settlers alongside
Native American women, was once present.
Tehya Braun, a sophomore Native American, said Wilbur's exhibition,
"is amazing, and incredibly important."
Braun said she saw the placement of the exhibition as an important
action that Pepperdine took in favor of inclusivity.
"I believe Pepperdine's move to cover something that made the
Native population at Pepperdine feel separated from the students
and values of the university, with Matika's work which means
to honor the indigenous and unite all races was an important
step towards the solidarity of all people in this community," she
During the lecture, Wilbur's message was one that focused on
telling authentic and contemporary stories in order to promote inclusivity
and avoid ignorance.
"We have a responsibility to learn about one another and engage
with one another as community members," she said.
Wilbur also critiqued the American eduction system for not including
the real history of Native Americans, as well as the history of
other minorities and indigenous people, outside of the elective
system. She faults the absence of these stories as the cause of
racial and ethnic discrimination.
"Inhuman treatment of native people comes from miseducation,
and until we start telling the truth we continue to see the same
results," she said.
Sophomore Kayla Hall agreed with Wilbur's statements about creating
a new narrative in the American educational system.
"I think that we were taught American history through European
eyes, and there are so many voices and stories that don't get told,"
Wilbur spoke of the current issues that are fueled by miseducation
on indigenous history and culture. She gave an example of her own
experiences when documenting the protests at Standing Rock, a Native
American reservation in North Dakota where protesters are speaking
out against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
She explained that Standing Rock is a sacred land to them because
it plays a part in their creation story, which is the reason why
they were against the placement of the pipeline.
While in office, President Barack Obama halted the construction
of the Dakota Access Pipeline, but President Donald Trump's administration
will carry on with it. Wilbur said the arrests and reactions linked
to these protests is a sign of how far we still are as a country
from "this movement for equality and justice."
Wilbur told the audience there is no excuse for these issues
to still occur in a time where we have instant access to information.
"There is no longer a reason for you not to know better
for myself, not to know better. We are now in a time where it becomes
all of our responsibility to seek the truth," she said.
Wilbur closed by showing her many portraits of contemporary
Native Americans, to demonstrate that there are many faces of indigenous
people. She called on the crowd to do their part in learning the
real stories of Native Americans, instead of painting them with
"As long as we are represented as people of the past, as long
as we are part of your historical imagination, we can never move
forward. There is no path to reparation unless we see past these
images. We have to all come together, Indian and non-Indian," she