Katelyn Stiles, 2020 MPS Project

G̱unahéen [Different Water]: A Portrait Series of Tlingit & Haida Women Living in California

This digital storytelling project layers drawing, images, and interviews with Tlingit and Haida women living in diaspora to tell their story of migration, kinship, and survivance during the COVID19 pandemic. 

Katelyn Stiles (Tlingit) is an artist, filmmaker, dancer, and PhD Student in Native American Studies at UC Davis. Her original project was to travel to Sitka, Alaska and begin a community archive of Tlingit song and dance with the Sheet’ka Kwaan and Naa Kahidi Dancers. When the pandemic started, she postponed her travels to Alaska and adapted her project to respond to her local Tlingit & Haida community to tell their story and show their resiliency.

Tlingit and Haida ancestral homelands are in Southeast Alaska, but they have also traveled south along the coastline to what is now known as California for millennia. Today, there is a community of over 900 registered members living in what is now known as California of the regional tribe: The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska with the village-branch called The San Francisco Tlingit & Haida Community Council.

G̱unahéen means “different water” in Lingít. We are Tlingit and Haida women living in different waters, but we are also connected by the same water. G̱unahéen privileges Indigenous futures by imagining our descendants as whole, changing, and connected to Haa Shuká [our ancestors]. G̱unahéen bridges us across lands, wearing masks to protect our community, and adapting in an always changing present.