Viki Eagle began taking photographs of her Native American friends when she was an undergraduate at the University of Denver. “Being one of the very few Native people on campus, I wanted to tell our story from our perspective,” she says. A member of the Sičháŋǧu Lakȟóta tribe, Eagle (who is also half-Japanese) has dealt with racism firsthand. “When I was growing up in the early ’90s, people really believed that Native Americans didn’t exist,” she says, “or if we did exist, we were still living in teepees or wearing buckskin. Our history erases us.” After completing her series of images of her friends, Real Life Indian, Eagle decided to go even further toward dispelling Native stereotypes by photographing heavy metal bands on reservations. This series, Re(Mapping) a Rez Metal Sonic ReZistance, is now her year-long focus as the Denver Art Museum’s 2023 Native Arts Artist-in-Residence.
Eagle’s interest in heavy metal stems from its ability to push back—“in the most extreme way”—against whitewashed ideas of what Native music is. Her photographs span several genres—documentary, portrait, landscape, and still-life. Eagle would like for her images of musicians and their audiences to demonstrate heavy metal’s popularity on reservations, and in the process, open viewers’ minds to the diversity of contemporary Native life. “I hope that people take away the creativity,” she says. “As contemporary Native people, expressing ourselves, our message and our story is still within that music.”
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