The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Print Edition
Letter to the editor submissions
Have a strong opinion about something happening on campus or in Fort Collins? Want to respond to an article written on The Collegian? Write a Letter to the Editor by following the guidelines here.
Follow Us on Twitter
Flower Power Botanicals in Fort Collins Celebrates ‘420’ all April with these amazing Deals & Promotions:
April 15, 2024

In Colorado, April is always the month to celebrate, especially if you are a medical and recreational marijuana dispensary in Fort Collins. On...

Indigenous artist Joe Pekara shares his journey

Joseph+Sagonige+Yanasi+Pekaras+good+friend+speaks+out+about+the+missing+and+murdered+Indigenous+People+Crisis+that+is+and+has+been+occurring+for+many+years+Feb+15.
Collegian | Lauren Mascardo
Joseph ‘Sagonige Yanasi’ Pekara’s good friend speaks out about the missing and murdered Indigenous People Crisis that is and has been occurring for many years Feb 15.

Since starting his photography journey in 2017, Indigenous Fort Collins artist Joe Pekara has captured striking photographs of nature, concerts and Native American culture.

Pekara, also known under his artistic moniker Pharaoh 171, hosted an artist talk Feb. 15 to discuss his exhibit at the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art.

Ad

He is currently working for rapper 50 Cent. 

“When my uncle passed away in 2016, my grandmother gifted me his camera; … when he passed I got really into (photography),” Pekara said. “It was like a coping thing because he was like my best friend.” 

“Her and I receiving the CRA award for the Grammys was really special. I think it was the (least noticed) success for Indigenous people, so to have it displayed means a lot. Not to be self centered, but I don’t think the project we did got the attention it should have received.” -Joe Pekara, Indigenous Fort Collins artist 

He started with photographs taken locally in Fort Collins. 

“I would go out and just be in nature,” Pekara said. 

Pekara started doing photography as a career through a friend who opened for the band Hieroglyphics at the Aggie Theatre in Old Town. He sent Hieroglyphics the photos he took.

“I wasn’t trying to get any work out of it,” Pekara said. “It was just, you know, ‘I took it, here it is,’ and a few weeks later they offered me a job,” 

Many artists see their art much differently than a viewer might.

“Looking at a photo, to me, is probably more intimate than if you looked at the same one,” Pekara said. “I know where I took that photo, I know the spot where I was mentally at that time. So to see those moments come to a brighter moment, that’s awesome.” 

Pekara’s exhibit is currently on display at the Colorado State University Center for the Arts. Some photos are printed on photo paper, but others are done on natural materials like wood and leather, which was enabled by a Fort Collins printing business called Wood & Slate.

Ad

The exhibit is a collaboration with Red Berry Woman, an Indigenous fashion designer based in North Dakota whose legal name is Norma Baker-Flying Horse. Pekara and Red Berry Woman won the Cultural Recognition Award at the 64th annual Grammy Awards in April 2022, leaving Pekara with a total of four Grammy awards. The exhibit also includes other aspects of Pekara’s work, including concert photographs and some of his first nature shots. 

“I photograph most of her events,” Pekara said. “Her and I receiving the CRA award for the Grammys was really special. I think it was the (least noticed) success for Indigenous people, so to have it displayed means a lot. Not to be self centered, but I don’t think the project we did got the attention it should have received.” 

But acclaim isn’t what matters most to Pekara. 

“There’s success beyond the big spotlight,” Pekara said. 

During the artist talk, Pekara was joined onstage by important people in his life who all had an opportunity to say a few words, including Red Berry Woman. She spoke about family history and how representation for Indigenous people is changing.

“Joe has done such a beautiful job capturing our culture, capturing this kind of fashion,” Red Berry Woman said. “I hope you all feel the impact that he has done for me and my family.”

“We’re not making this Native fashion just for the accolades, it’s a message,” Red Berry Woman said. “It’s a message that we are still here, we will always be here and we have survived quite a bit.”

She touched on the various misconceptions about Indigenous peoples throughout different forms of media. 

“It’s a very small world when you’re Native — it really is — and I really think because of that, we have a very special opportunity to change the narrative,” Red Berry Woman said. 

Art includes a variety of mediums that can be used to find aspects of oneself that might not otherwise be discovered.

“We are finding our balance between what we were and what we are becoming,” Red Berry Woman said. “We’re doing that through fashion. We’re doing that through this industry.” 

There were many words of wisdom spoken throughout the event. 

“Learn about where you come from,” Red Berry Woman said. “You never know: You might find some strength or some inspiration to begin something new. You never know where it will take you.” 

Pekara offered some parting words before the talk gave way to a reception where guests could enjoy the photos on display.

“There is no success without risk and failure, and you can’t succeed unless you learn from your failures,” Pekara said.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect Red Berry Woman’s location being based in North Dakota, not South Dakota. 

Reach Aubree Miller at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

When commenting on The Collegian’s website, please be respectful of others and their viewpoints. The Collegian reviews all comments and reserves the right to reject comments from the website. Comments including any of the following will not be accepted. 1. No language attacking a protected group, including slurs or other profane language directed at a person’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, social class, age, physical or mental disability, ethnicity or nationality. 2. No factually inaccurate information, including misleading statements or incorrect data. 3. No abusive language or harassment of Collegian writers, editors or other commenters. 4. No threatening language that includes but is not limited to language inciting violence against an individual or group of people. 5. No links.
All The Rocky Mountain Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *