In 2019, I was taught hand-poke tattooing by my mentor and dear friend, Stephanie Papik, an Inuk tattoo artist who lives in Victoria, BC. She opened my eyes to the importance of cultural tattooing done by and for Indigenous peoples. I carry this community centered lens in my tattoo practice, using my skills as a way to support other Indigenous folks to access traditional and cultural tattoos that they may not want to have done in a tattoo studio. For this reason, I operate mostly on trades and welcome smudging and prayer whenever I tattoo.
I am Diné (Navajo) and in my community, tattooing is still seen as taboo. We don’t have a known history of tattooing (although our northern relatives, the Dene, do). I wrestle with this contradiction of wanting to tattoo but not having the cultural history supporting me in this specific area. I now reflect on this as a generative space for something new to be born – a new way my culture, community, and Diné design can exist in the world. I have begun incorporating my own Diné visual traditions into my tattoo practice. Reaching back to those stories, designs, and patterns my ancestors created and used and adapting them to my body. I see these new tattoo designs as weavings on our bodies… a way to connect with our ancestors through our skin.
I see my tattoo practice as living a bit more in the future, and it is something I am continuing to explore, learn about, and dream on. I am grateful to be in circle with those doing such important work like tattoo revitalization. I hope that as my tattoo journey continues, I’ll be able to contribute to the vibrant, beautiful Indigenous futures we are all creating.