Indigenous Peoples’ Day Spotlight: Hailey Tayathy

Hailey Tayathy (Photo: Alex Britt)
In celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we are hosting this series of profiles to recognize local Indigenous leaders, artists, activists, and organizations. The groups and individuals featured in this series have dedicated their work to supporting Native American communities and commemorating Indigenous peoples, cultures, and histories in the area and across the nation.

HAILEY TAYATHY

Hailey Tayathy is a member of the Quileute Nation, a visual artist, and Seattle’s premier Native American drag queen. Tayathy uses their queer Native experiences to inform their unique art. They aim to bring healing to Indigenous communities and to show everyone that Indigiqueers are still here and are stronger and more beautiful than colonized minds can imagine.

Learn more about Tayathy in our brief Q & A below:

What does Indigenous Peoples’ Day mean to you and how would you like the City to honor this day in the future?

Indigenous Peoples’ Day was a recognition of the pain and loss that came with colonization and the strength of Indigenous people. In the future, I hope the city finds more ways to Indigenize this city. In a city named after a Duwamish/Suquamish chief, we could honor the place names and language that existed here prior to colonization. The City could support authentic Indigenous art and recognize our problematic history with Native art. I’d also personally like to see a land acquisition fund that is led by the Tribes and local Native organizations.   

How have the incidents of the last seven months impacted you, your community, and/or your work?

As a performing artist it’s been hard. I think it’s been impressive to see how performing artists have adapted to online formats. However, it’s very different to not be performing in front of a crowd. There’s less feedback, which makes it less rewarding and it’s harder to build up that energy to perform. Similarly, there is a gap missing in my life from all the Native cultural events being canceled, and being an urban Native, I’ve had to find ways to stay connected to culture on my own.   

What are you doing to find joy or solace?

I’ve been trying to revamp my home by buying art from friends and buying a lot of plants. Something about taking care of another living thing makes me feel better about my situation. My place doesn’t allow pets, so I’m turning my home into an urban jungle instead.

This crisis has given us all the opportunity to reimagine our collective future. If you could reimagine the City of Seattle, what would it look like?

I see a city with 90+ longhouses that weren’t burned down. Some are cultural spaces, some providing health care, some provide affordable housing. The city is known for its fields of camas. People come from all over to see them bloom in May/June. Names that places have had since time immemorial would be used to this day and Lushootseed is a language you hear passing people on the street.

Name a local Indigenous individual or organization that Seattle should know more about.

Chief Seattle Club is an organization doing amazing work in helping our unhoused community in a way that is culturally appropriate for Natives and really looks at solutions to the housing crisis in a holistic way. They also have Native Works, which is a great way to support their services while also getting some beautiful Native art.