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Renowned Visual Storyteller Matika Wilbur Unveils A New Multi-Media Installation, The Salmon People, At Climate Pledge Arena

By Business Wire

Business Wire
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The first Seattle Kraken artist residency sponsored by Smartsheet brings Matika Wilbur’s expert artistry and vision into an immersive Coast Salish art experience

BELLEVUE, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Climate Pledge Arena, the Seattle Kraken and Smartsheet are proud to present “The First Residence,” a new residency program for Native American artists at Climate Pledge Arena. The residency’s first exhibition, “The Salmon People,” was curated by Matika Wilbur in collaboration with renowned Puyallup artist Shaun Peterson. The ground-breaking installation blends Coast Salish illustration into an immersive world that playfully beckons the audience to think of themselves as relatives to the Salmon People. Climate Pledge Arena event ticket holders can experience the installation on the second floor of the venue in the northeast corner from February 16 to March 13, 2023.

Matika Wilbur is an internationally acclaimed photographer from the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes. She created Project 562–a multi-year national photography project dedicated to photographing over 562 Tribes, resulting in an unprecedented repository of imagery and oral histories that accurately portrays contemporary Native Americans. Her Project 562: Changing The Way We See Native America book will be out this spring. She is also the co-host of the popular Native issues podcast, All My Relations.

Shaun Peterson, or Qwalsius, is a pivotal figure in the revitalization of Coast Salish art traditions. He is a member of the Puyallup Tribe, and he says his work has been shaped by, “a combination of his late maternal grandmother, Jane Wright, supporting his work and connecting him with his ancestry at an early age.” Peterson has worked in wood, glass, metal, and digital media, embracing historical and contemporary influences. His newest work includes figures entitled “Family” for the new Seattle Waterfront, coming summer of 2023, and a sculpture for Kobe, Japan. This collaboration with Matika Wilbur is part of an ambitious journey of the Salmon People.

The Salmon People

For “The Salmon People,” Wilbur, Peterson, and team developed an interactive installation in the tradition of Northwest Coast Salish art practice, merging illustrations, video, regalia, projection mapping, and motion tracking to create a contemporary, playful underwater world in which salmon appear to follow people as they walk by. When activated, the salmon transform into a beautiful Coast Salish Salmon Dance.

“When called upon to do an installation about our current climate crisis, it is my fundamental sacred responsibility to remember our agreement with our salmon relatives–to protect, restore and give them voice,” said Wilbur. “Salmon are the epitome of traditional and contemporary Coast Salish life, but the salmon are under threat and they need healthy places to live–this means rivers with cool, clean water and a variety of habitats that allow them to thrive. It means intact estuaries where salmon can grow. It means that we have to prioritize salmon’s habitat, but how? Washington State is expected to grow to 9 million people by 2040. Population growth means that more habitat will be lost for salmon. And until we begin seeing salmon as relatives and giving them equal and important consideration, we will not see the salmon flourish. In fact, we will continue to see a decline in worldwide salmon populations. For Native people in the Pacific Northwest, it leaves us asking ourselves: who will we be, if we are not The Salmon People?”

Reimagining Sports Sponsorships

Smartsheet is reimagining its sports sponsorships as an opportunity to elevate people and organizations in its communities who are driving meaningful change. In 2022, Smartsheet launched the first-of-its-kind Sponsor X initiative, which extends the benefits of its partnership with McLaren Racing to put STEM nonprofit organizations front and center in the world of Formula 1. With The First Residence, Smartsheet applies this approach to build on the work the Seattle Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena are doing to partner with local Native people, Tribes and communities.

“We view our sponsorships as an opportunity to live our mission of empowering anyone to drive meaningful change,” said Andrew Bennett, Chief Marketing Officer at Smartsheet. “We believe in supporting people who are already making a real difference in our communities by giving them the visibility, access and support to make an even bigger impact. Our Sponsor X initiative has focused on supporting STEM education, and with The First Residence we’re adding art to the equation, expanding STEM to STEAM. Art is crucial to innovation, and is also a powerful way to create cultural understanding and connection. We could not be more proud to give Matika Wilbur the space to imagine Coast Salish representation at Climate Pledge Arena. Her installation prompts us all to consider how we are impacting salmon habitats and what that means for the Coast Salish people of the Pacific Northwest.”

Climate Pledge Arena and the Seattle Kraken in Partnership with Coast Salish Tribes

In 2021, Climate Pledge Arena and the Seattle Kraken collaborated with Coast Salish Tribal leaders to develop a Land and People’s Acknowledgement. The true purpose was to help progress “acknowledgement” from a place of observation and aspiration into one of relationship and action. In support of this, the Seattle Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena have recurring engagements with Native creators for Kraken HIFE (hockey is for everyone) nights, in-arena performances by Native musicians, and other efforts to elevate Native voices. The First Residence builds on this foundation with an artist residency program designed to elevate Native artwork and storytelling, helping prompt conversation and personal reflection.

“We have been working with leaders from Washington’s Tribal nations from the very beginning to determine how we can best support and engage with their communities," said Mari Horita, Senior Vice President, Social Impact & Government Relations and Executive Director of One Roof Foundation at the Seattle Kraken. “We are committed to putting our land and peoples acknowledgement statement into action, and we’re grateful to partner with Smartsheet on this journey. The First Residence embodies this commitment and is a powerful new way to uplift Native artists. Matika’s work is beautiful and thought-provoking, and we’re honored to showcase it at Climate Pledge Arena.”

“Being a good host and exhibiting generosity is a cultural value of the Muckleshoot Tribe and Coast Salish Nations,” said Donny Stevenson, Vice-Chairman of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. “This is a direct teaching of the Salmon People, who epitomize devotion and connectivity to the lands and waters that have shaped our culture for thousands of years. “The Salmon People” activation adequately honors our teachings and is the first of many powerful exhibitions to represent our people and relatives at Climate Pledge Arena for years to come.”

Learn more about The First Residence and Matika Wilbur here. Pre-order Wilbur’s book Project 562: Changing the Way We See Native America here.

About Matika Wilbur

Matika Wilbur is from the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes. She is the founder and photographer of Project 562, a documentary project dedicated to changing the way we see Native America. After earning her BFA from Brooks Institute of Photography, Matika began her career in fashion and commercial photography in Los Angeles. She found herself turned off by the commercial world and thereafter decided to use photography as a tool for social justice. Since 2015, Matika has offered more than three hundred keynote speeches at institutions such as Harvard University, Yale University, University of California–Berkeley, Google, and the National Education Association, and she also has delivered several TED Talks. She is a National Geographic Explorer and recipient of the distinguished Leica Photo Award. She co-hosts the popular Native issues podcast All My Relations with Dr. Adrienne Keene, which invites guests to explore the connections between land, creatural relatives, and one another. Learn more about Matika at

About Smartsheet

Smartsheet (NYSE: SMAR) is the enterprise platform for modern work management. By aligning people and technology so organizations can move faster and drive innovation, Smartsheet enables its millions of users to achieve more. Visit to learn more.


Chrissy Vaughn

First published on Thu, Feb 16, 2023

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