“You don‘t look Native to me” shows excerpts from the lives of young Native Americans from around Pembroke, Robeson County, North Carolina, where 89% of the city’s population identifies as Native American. The town is the tribal seat of the Lumbee Indian Tribe of North Carolina, the largest state recognized Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River. Unlike many other Native American tribes, the people of Robeson County were never forced to move; however, they are federally unrecognised and therefore have no reservation nor any monetary benefits. They have formed a strong bond with their location, locally referred to as ‘the swamp’.
As an ‘outsider’ I am interested in forms of self-representation, transformed through history, questions of identity (with which they are confronted on a daily basis), and their reawakening pride in being Native. I am particularly interested in youth, as a period in which one begins the conscious and unconscious path to self-definition. The work consists of portraits, combined with landscapes and places, interiors, still lives, and the everyday.
My work engages a mix of concepts: a Native American tribe who do not necessarily ‘wear’ their otherness, but who are firm in their identity. Through photography, video and interviews, I am investigating what happens when social and institutional structures breakdown and people come to rely on themselves. I hope that this raises questions in the viewer regarding one’s own identity and sense of the ‘other’.