Sadie Red Wing
Spirit Lake Nation (Tribe)
Sadie Red Wing is a Lakota graphic designer and advocate from the Spirit Lake Nation of Fort Totten, North Dakota. She received her Masters of Graphic Design from North Carolina State University, and works as the Creating a Passion for Learning Native Student Coordinator at the University of Redlands. Red Wing urges Native American graphic designers to express visual sovereignty in their design work, as well as, encourages academia to include an indigenous perspective in design curriculum.
Describing Native American Graphic Design is very challenging—especially to an audience who does not understand the harm of cultural appropriation. As a Lakota graphic designer, I am no expert, guru, or god in Native American Graphic Design. When I introduce my field of work, I always reference indigenous designers as decolonizing advocates. We work with audiences who struggle with oppression, identity issues, and Pan-Indianism. Our main responsibility is to share a voice of the underrepresented. A culture—fighting extinction—depends on the power of tribal designers to give them an identity in the world. This generation of indigenous communicators is leading the revolution of sovereignty by showing eyes the reality of tribal visual languages without stereotypes.
Why do Native American tribes still rely on stereotypes to visually identify themselves?
Tribes went through a shitty history with the United States—A history that people do not acknowledge. Because the treatment of Native Americans is such a suppressed topic, sensitivity is numb to issues of stereotypes and cultural appropriation for Non-Native people. As for tribal people, the issue of misrepresentation is an educational issue. The years of boarding school assimilation erased our minds of who we were as people. Once media advanced, the only thing we saw relating to our culture was what they portrayed in Hollywood: stereotypes! Coming out of over 100 years of not seeing your culture has led us to identify with the “Hollywood Indian”. This reliance on media’s false portrayal continues to stream in Native American Graphic Design.