Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Danielle SeeWalker is a Húŋkpapȟa Lakȟóta citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota. She is a mother, artist, writer, curator, activist, and businesswoman, and is currently based in Denver, Colorado. Danielle serves as a member of the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Relatives Task Force of Colorado and helped pass Senate Bill 22-150 which established an office for MMIR in the State of Colorado. She has also been a Commissioner for the Denver American Indian Commission since 2018 and has served as co-chair for the past two years.
As a multidisciplinary fine artist and muralist, Danielle works across disciplines to explore the intersections of Native American stereotypes, microaggressions, and colonialist systems, both historically and in contemporary society. Drawing on au courant color palettes, expressionistic art strategies, and her Lakota traditions, Danielle spins her work into a contemporary vision to elevate historical perspectives as told from the side not often heard.
Alongside her work as a visual artist, Danielle is a freelance writer and recently published her first book, “Still Here: A Past to Present Insight of Native American People & Culture.” She is the co-founder of The Red Road Project which has recently evolved into a nonprofit organization with a division to provide cultural arts opportunities to Native American people residing in urban areas.
Danielle is a 2022 recipient of the Denver Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture for the Arts & Culture Innovation Award and recently won an Emmy for her work on a documentary produced by PBS.
See more of Danielle’s work on her website and Instagram page, @seewalker_ART.
“This piece was the first one in which I incorporated pixelated censors. It is also the only piece in this series that does not show a face. The inspiration for this piece comes from a broader concept of how Native people have been erased from media, data, history, etc. I intentionally made the creases of the woman’s dress to outline her figure as also a way to represent how most people see us today ― as sexualized fantasies, the ‘token’ Indian, a mascot, a costume, a historical thing of the past, versus a real person who still exists today. In the background of this painting are stamped letters that depict the word ‘deleted.'”―Danielle SeeWalker
What does the idea of “justice for Native communities” mean to you?
It’s difficult to imagine pure and altruistic justice for Native Americans. The definition of “justice” can be described as the “quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or more rightness.” That said, what has been done to Native Americans, communities, and our culture is so deeply harmful that I don’t know of any equitable justice that could happen to make things equitably correct. However, there has been small progress made over the generations to restore our communities’ place in society. There is still much work to be done, but it’s a start.
What do you think needs to happen in the world to achieve justice for Native communities?
I believe it’s all about controlling what you can control as an individual. I don’t know if it’s going to create change, but it is the only thing I can control. I think Native people have a responsibility to acknowledge, honor, and recognize our extended communities of the past, in the present, and what we hope for in the future. We are still here, we are the survivors ― the strongest of our ancestors who survived colonization, assimilation, and several attempts at genocide. According to the Census, Natives are less than 2% of the entire population, but we are still here. And we have a responsibility to speak up and use our voices.
How do you express justice through your artwork?
I don’t necessarily express justice through my art, but I do bring a Native American voice and perspective to the surface of my art. Whether it’s a public mural on a building or on a canvas in my studio, my work always has a purpose and a story. For so long, our voices were suppressed, censored, and silenced and it’s time we redirected that narrative though our own stories and perspectives. I like to tell stories through my art and highlight issues and topics that we, as a people, have faced. My até (dad) once told me, “Danielle, if you don’t speak up, no one will do it for you.” I have pocketed that advice and used my voice when I can. There really is no easy answer to our society, and global predicaments and issues when it comes to Indigenous people. But I feel like art is the best way that I can express my perspective and help redirect the narrative.
Is there anything else you would like to share about Native justice and your artwork?
Ten years ago, I embarked on a personal passion project with my longtime friend called “The Red Road Project.” Its focus is to document, through words, photographs, and video, what it means to be Native American in the 21st century by capturing inspiring and positive stories of people and communities within Indian Country. Native people are so grateful that they’re able to have the opportunity to tell their own story. I am doing an extension of this project, focusing on the Indian relocation programs of the 50s and 60s. The exhibition will come out next year in Denver because it was the headquarters for that program. I am also excited about collaborating on a mural this fall with my 15-year-old son, Brody, in Fort Collins, Colorado. He has always helped with my mural and street art projects. But this will be our first mural that we are creating together.