Amy June is a mixed race Native American (Eastern Shawnee) queer woman photographer and carpenter. She was born and raised just outside of Washington, D.C., where she would eventually move to complete her undergraduate studies in fine art photography at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. She moved to Richmond, Virginia for a brief stint where she helped develop a photography program at Studio Two Three, a nonprofit community printmaking and photography studio. She has since landed in Philadelphia, where she is practicing fine woodworking, printmaking and photography. She hopes to be in Philadelphia for some time to come to continue to grow roots in her local community, while continuing to explore the ways that imagery and documentation shape local culture and the public’s consumption thereof. Today we take a look at her series titled, Apple.
I am a woman of mixed race. I was raised what we call “urbanized,” in a city far from my ceremonial grounds, without a true connection to my tribe’s homelands or traditions. When I was 18 I began researching the culture inherited from my mother’s side of the family: that of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. My aunt described me as an apple — red on the outside, white on the inside. It was distressing to feel that I had been so far from my own, rich history for so long. I began researching, traveling, interviewing and photographing. I set out to discover what it means to others to be contemporary Native Americans. The Lakota word for mixed-blood, iyeska, gave me a better understanding of what it means to be part-Native; it is a gift to walk between the red and white worlds, and a responsibility to communicate between the two.
As modern Native Americans we are a true minority. We are, many of us, working within the same society that crippled the foundation of our history. We are working jobs at non-Native owned businesses; we are raising our children in white public schools. We are fighting to preserve our ceremonies, powwows and languages. We are financially constrained to our reservation lands or we feel that we’ve lost our culture entirely. We are marketing our heritage and simultaneously pushing against becoming stylized woodcarvings in the corners of cigar stores. We are people of color at once corralled and wandering, searching for a medium, alternating feelings of alienation and overwhelming pride as we recognize ourselves as set apart.
Apple is an exploration into my own history, and that of an ever-marginalized culture that is fighting to keep itself alive.
To view more of Amy’s work please visit her website.