The Creator has left the sky too low. We are going to have to do something about it, and how can we do that when we do not have a common language? ...We can all learn one word, that is all we need. That word is yəhaw̓ - that means to proceed, to go forward, to do it.

Used with permission from the University of Washington Ethnomusicology Archives and Jill LaPointe. Lifting the Sky | This story comes from Chief William Shelton (Tulalip) (published in English, 1923). Vi told it as part of the Spring Revels, with the help of a cast of children and the attending audience. (Videorecording by Padma Guidi, Spring Revels, Scottish Rite Temple, Seattle, 5-2-93)

About yəhaw̓

yəhaw̓ is an open call exhibition celebrating the depth and diversity of Indigenous art made in the Pacific Northwest. All Indigenous creatives living in our region are invited to participate, and everyone who applies will have work included in the exhibition.

The title of the show, yəhaw̓, is drawn from the Coast Salish story of Native people from all tribes uniting around a common cause and lifting up the sky together. In the spirit of the story, this exhibition will be a collective portrait of Native America, including creatives of all ages and stages in their careers, from Urban and Reservation communities, working in contemporary and traditional materials, and in ways that may or may not be widely recognized as Native. And just as, historically, Indigenous makers seamlessly imbued utilitarian objects with spiritual and artistic meaning, we seek to challenge the false divide between craft and fine art, as well as high and low art, by equally valuing all objects as part of our cultural continuum.

The exhibition will also be accompanied by mentorship opportunities to support continued artistic development in the Indigenous community, and we hope that all exhibition participants will gain experience and exposure, and create sustaining relationships.

We are giving up curatorial control through the open call process to empower Native artisans to retake ownership of their representation. By creating an opportunity for the community to speak for itself through a wide range of individual and sometimes conflicting perspectives, we aim to unsettle assumptions and begin a critical new dialogue about what Native American art is and can be. We hope yəhaw̓ will reflect a nuanced, inclusive, and community-driven narrative that firmly establishes Native creatives as belonging in the here and now.

-Tracy Rector (Seminole/Choctaw), Asia Tail (Cherokee Nation), and Satpreet Kahlon

Code of Conduct Policy

yәhaw̓ is committed to creating programs free of harassment, discrimination, sexism, and threatening or disrespectful behavior. yәhaw̓ is intended to be a safe space for all people, especially Indigenous women, femmes, young people, and those most vulnerable in our communities. We reserve the right to deny access to our events and venues for those who have violated the sacred and remain unrepentant with no movement towards healing and reconciliation.

If you have exhibited behaviors that may be triggering for survivors or make others feel unsafe, we encourage you to begin a conversation with the curatorial team (Tracy Rector, Asia Tail, and Satpreet Kahlon), and for the sake of larger community values and empowerment of the artists in our show, to recuse yourself from yәhaw̓ programming. Similarly if you have had negative experiences with anyone affiliated with yәhaw̓ please contact us. Email, call or text 253-336-6477, or use the contact form on

Programs and Projects

The yəhaw̓ exhibition opening at Seattle's King Street Station in March 2019 will feature the work of over 200 Indigenous creatives. The show will be accompanied by a mentorship training cohort, satellite shows, and partner programs throughout the region.

Check the events tab on this website for upcoming public programs.


10 emerging artists were selected to participate in our training program to develop new work for the yəhaw̓ exhibition under the guidance of a mentor artist. Mentor artists - Ka'ila Farrell-Smith, Ryan Feddersen, and Roger Fernandes - will each work intensively with a small cohort of mentees in Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle respectively. The program will include group critiques and additional professional development activities. Mentors will also present on their artistic practice and answer audience questions during a public panel discussion event.

  • Portland - Ka’ila Farrell-Smith - Asa Wright, Kanani Miyamoto, Stephanie Fogel

  • Tacoma - Ryan Feddersen - Priscilla Dobler, Paige Pettibon, Lisa Fruichantie, Catherine Cross-Uehara

  • Seattle - Roger Fernandes - Crystal Christopherson, Randi Purser, Jennifer Wood

As an extension of the mentorship program, Artist Trust will provide 3 free professional development classes for yəhaw̓ creatives covering topics like: Artist Statements and Biographies, Resumes and Budgets, Applying for Grants, and Work Samples Dos and Don'ts. Allison Bishins Consulting will also teach a free class on Social Media Marketing. Cowlitz Tribal Health therapists will provide a class on healthy strategies for dealing with rejection through a cultural lens.

yəhaw̓ is also mentoring emerging curators as they develop the following programs:

  • Seattle Public Library - Denise Emerson

  • Fashion Show - Lisa Fruichantie

  • Teen Art Show - Teens in Tacoma / Aiyanna Stitt

  • Zine and Related Exhibition - Sara Marie Ortiz

  • unidos levantamos el cielo - Jess Ramirez

Satellite Exhibitions

yəhaw̓ artists will be featured in solo and group exhibitions at the following venues:

  • Chief Seattle Club

  • Vera Project

  • Feast Arts Center

  • Alma Mater Tacoma

  • Vermillion Gallery

  • Seattle Art Museum Community Gallery

  • Suquamish Museum

  • Seattle University's Hedreen Gallery

  • South Puget Sound College Gallery

  • Bellevue College Gallery

Art Markets

yəhaw̓ Indigenous artists will show and sell their work at various markets over the course of the year in a range of media, including basketry, carving, beadwork, textiles, and more:

  • Tacoma Studio Tour

  • Artist Trust’s Amazon Pop Up Market

  • Lettuce 253

  • Short Run Seattle

  • Na’ah Illahee Fund’s Blue Jay Brings Back the Moon

  • Fashion Show Market

  • Riveter Market

  • Friends of the Waterfront

Artist Residencies

The Seattle Public Library and yəhaw̓ hosted a series of Indigenous artists in residence in fall 2018 - Native Kut (Pah-tu Pitt and Sean Gallagher), Fox Spears, and Roldy Aguero Ablao. The residents each activated the right side of the 8th floor gallery in the library’s main branch for 3 weeks between October and November, including artwork displays, live-art making, and community engagement activities, all relating to themes of water and environmental justice. All of the artists participated in a public panel discussion following the residency period to share their experiences working in the library.

Indigenous artist Denise Emerson also served as the curator in residence at the library. The curator in residence worked closely with the yəhaw̓ team to organize and install an exhibition of Coast Salish art on the left side of the 8th floor gallery of the central branch displayed October through December. 

In collaboration with the City of Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture, yəhaw̓ artists will be selected as the first artists in residence for King Street Station, and will activate the glass-walled studio space in the gallery for the duration of the exhibition.

SAM is partnering with yəhaw̓ to host an Indigenous artist for their 2019 Olympic Sculpture Park Residency that will culminate in participatory art encounters January 25th and February 22nd.

Centrum will provide free lodging and studio space for 17 selected yəhaw̓ artists in one-week mini-residencies at their Port Townsend facilities in winter of 2018:

  • Lisa Anderson

  • Alex Britt

  • Rebecca Cesspooch

  • Taylor Dean

  • Marisa Ervin

  • Raven Two Feathers

  • Lehua Fernandez

  • Crystal Florez

  • Ixtli White Hawk

  • Kalee Nelson

  • Aaron Parker

  • Tyera Pete

  • Stephanie Reidl

  • Liz Rideau

  • Eric Sanchez

  • Che Seyhun

  • Roquin Siongco

Studio Space

yəhaw̓ is hosting monthly co-working sessions at Alma Mater in Tacoma on third Thursdays 6-10pm through February 2019. All Indigenous artists are welcome to come use the studio space for free on their own, or they can participate in group art activities led by the following guest artists

  • Clarice Tail

  • Asia Tail

  • Lisa Fruichantie

  • Cynthia Masterson

  • Fox Spears

  • Kayla Goyette

  • Ellyn Motas

We are partnering with Pratt Fine Arts in Seattle to give yəhaw̓ artists free access to their metalworking, printmaking, sculpture, wood, and all other studios with the exception of glass, through the end of the 2018. 


Indigenous artists have been invited by the yəhaw̓ curatorial team to create commissioned artworks responding to the Lifting the Sky story for the exhibition space and on the plaza of King Street Station, accompanied by commissioned performative works that will debut at the opening celebration.

  • Chai Adera

  • Natalie Ball

  • Demian DinéYazhi´

  • Malynn Foster

  • Alison Marks

  • Timothy White Eagle

  • Sara Siestreem

  • Adam Sings in the Timber

  • Kimberly Deriana (Plaza)

  • Christine Babic (Performance)

  • Tsēmā Igharas (Performance)

Outside of these special commissions, all yəhaw̓ artists will be paid a modest honorarium to acknowledge their time and their contribution to the show.

Special Projects

The yəhaw̓ team is working on a series of additional special projects, including an all-Indigenous fashion show, a curated poetry zine and reading events, the activation of King Street Station's plaza in conjunction with the Seattle Art Fair, and an installation as part of the University of Puget Sound's Race and Pedagogy Conference.

King Street Station

This show will be held in the newly renovated King Street Station in downtown Seattle. It is only appropriate that the inaugural exhibition in the newly minted community arts space honor and acknowledge the Indigenous communities on whose stolen land the building sits. For more information visit:



Tracy Rector

Tracy Rector is a mixed race (Choctaw/Seminole) filmmaker, curator, community organizer, co-founder of Longhouse Media and a 2016 Stranger Genius. She has made more than 400 short films, and is currently in production of her fifth feature documentary. As co-producer of the award-winning film Teachings of the Tree People, producer of March Point, co-director of Clearwater, and director of Ch'aak' S'aagi; Rector has developed an awareness and sensitivity to the power of media and film as a modern storytelling tool. After years of galvanizing community and working in a directorial role, Rector has begun to transfer her method of storytelling to gallery exhibitions including RE:DEFINITION at the Paramount Theatre Gallery, YOU ARE ON INDIGENOUS LAND at Core Gallery, Women On the Brink at Vermillion Gallery, and BLOODLINES at Bridge Productions. 


Asia Tail

Asia Tail is from Tacoma, Washington where she is currently based. Asia attended the Cooper Union School of Art in New York on a four-year full-tuition scholarship and graduated with a BFA and the Brandon Burns Stewart Memorial Prize for Excellence in Painting in 2014. Her work has recently been featured in NW Art Now @ TAM (formerly the Northwest Biennial), in Quota at SOIL Gallery in Seattle, and in the two-person show Moon Moan at 950 Gallery in Tacoma. As an extension of her art making practice, Asia also curates special projects and exhibitions, with an emphasis on empowering Indigenous artists. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. 


Satpreet Kahlon

Satpreet Kahlon is a multidisciplinary artist who is based in Seattle, WA + Providence, RI. Born in Punjab, India and raised in the Midwest, she is interested in creating visual language and immersive encounters that express and explore intersectional experiences as well as the structural systems of inequity that dictate their boundaries. In addition to her studio practice, which has been featured in Artforum, she curates with a philosophy of embedded equity at The Alice Gallery in Seattle, is the founder of Deep Space Gallery, and, between 2015 and 2017, she designed and taught social engagement programming in partnership with the Seattle Art Museum. She is currently studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she received a full fellowship to pursue her MFA in Sculpture.

Guest Curators


Jess Ramirez

Jessica Ramirez is the Community Curator for the Indigenous Latinx Exhibit at Vermillion Gallery. Jess is a queer fourth-generation Mexican American. She was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas and has lived in Seattle for 15 years. She is a media creator, events producer, and community advocate. Jess has over ten years of experience working with community organizations led by people of color from all over the state of Washington in varying social justice issue areas such as farmworker justice, environmental justice, and immigrant rights. She attended the University of Washington Seattle where she received a bachelors degree in American Ethnic Studies with a concentration in Chicano Studies and minor in Labor Studies and Law Societies and Justice. This is her first time recruiting artists and programming community events for an art exhibit.

Photo Credit: Timothy Aguero

Photo Credit: Timothy Aguero

Denise Emerson

Denise Emerson was born in Shelton, Washington, the eldest daughter of Bertha Allen who was an enrolled Twana (Skokomish) Tribal Member and Danny Emerson, Sr. who was an enrolled Diné (Navajo) Tribal Member from Sanostee, New Mexico. Her parents were both creative, and Denise grew up wanting to be like them. Denise’s sketchbook went with her everywhere as a child, including when she visited her aunt on the Skokomish Reservation. During her teenage years, she began painting with acrylics, beading, and sewing to expand her artistic talents, and she later studied graphic design at UW to bring design training to her work.


Sara Marie Ortiz

Sara Marie Ortiz is an Acoma Pueblo educator, scholar, poet, performance artist, and Native community advocate/activist. She earned her BFA in Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts and her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Antioch University (Los Angeles). Ms. Ortiz has been publishing and presenting her creative work since the age of eighteen and her writing has been published in publications such as Ploughshares, the Kenyon Review, New Poets of the American West, the anthology Sing: Indigenous Poetry of the Americas, Indian Country Today and The American Indian Graduate among many others. She is the author of the mixed-genre collection Red Milk and currently serves as the Native Education Program Manager for Highline Public Schools in Burien, Washington.