Bobby Lynn Qalutaksraq Brower

Inupiaq; enrolled member of the Native Village of Barrow Tribe in Utqiagvik, Alaska

About the Artist

Bobby Brower comes from a long line of artists. Her uncle was a carver and jewelry maker; and her mother and both grandmothers were expert seamstresses, specializing in fur parkas. She learned to skin sew (using animal hides) when she was 13. In 2010, she launched a small clothing design business now called Arctic Luxe. Then in 2016, Bobby entered her handmade, Indigenous designs into a fashion show with the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and her fashion design career took off. This Alaska Native’s work has been exhibited all over her home state, Washington, New Mexico, New York, and Canada. Most notably, her fashions are part of the permanent collection of the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is also working on a touring exhibit with the Bunnell Arts Street Center in Homer, Alaska.

About the Art


“I created this dress titled ‘Siima’ — the Inupiaq word meaning ‘to be strong’ — in honor of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirits to bring more awareness to an issue affecting all Indigenous communities, and me. In 2002, my 15-year-old sister was murdered. This dress represents her and all our stolen sisters, girls, and two-spirits taken from us. The spotted sealskin symbolizes uniqueness, as no sealskin hide is the same, just like every human being is unique. Red signifies life, just as this seal gifted its life for this piece. We stand strong in solidarity to battle this issue and protect the sacred. We are still here.” —Bobby Lynn Qalutaksraq Brower

Brower Gallery image

Profile Q&A

What does the idea of “justice for Native communities” mean to you?

If Indigenous people had justice for their communities, it would make a real difference. Many people I know have been affected by the justice system and it makes me sad. Some court systems seem to be against us. Over and over, I’ve seen Natives murdered or gone missing and there is no justice. Also, Natives are wrongfully accused just because they are Native and go to jail for something they didn’t do. The justice system is a mess and it’s scary to be caught up in it.

What do you think needs to happen in the world to achieve justice for Native communities?

First, I believe we need to bring awareness to the issues we face. We need documentation for proof so people will believe us. Then there needs to be changes made to the system. We need to come together and figure out how to help our communities. Our generation is lost and has been broken since colonialism. Our roles have changed in our communities. If we had more programs in place to help our young people find their way again, maybe that would bring change. It’s tough being Native, and we must find the balance of living in two worlds.

How do you express justice through your artwork?

I use sewing as a medium to spread awareness of the issues we face. Many of us are scared to speak up and we use art to say what needs to be said. I currently work on projects that bring awareness to MMIWG2S (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit). I lead a group of women to sew Atikluk (traditional shirts) to honor someone they knew who went missing or was murdered. These shirts are part of a traveling exhibit called “Protection and Adaptation.” I also make garments that represent the issue and sometimes exhibit them in fashion shows.

Is there anything else you would like to share about Native justice and your artwork?

The reason I am involved in Native justice is to bring awareness to many issues in our communities, specifically to MMIWG2s. I have been directly affected by these endless tragedies. My younger sister, Nancy, was murdered when she was 15 years old. My family did get justice, but I can’t imagine how other families feel when there is no justice for them. To have no closure is painful. Making artwork helps me heal those wounds. The wounds never fully go away, but spreading awareness of MMIWG2s helps me heal a little bit.