Our Stories: Shirod Younker Selected as NACF Fellow

The Foundation awards national and regional fellowships to American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian artists. Visit current grant opportunities and open calls to learn more about current opportunities.

National Artist

Since 2011, the NACF has supported artists whose innovative and multifaceted approaches to literature, dance, visual arts, film, storytelling, music, and traditional arts strengthen culture, foster creativity and economic opportunity, and impact issues of social progress, environmental sustainability, and cultural equity.

Mentor Artist

We honor mentor and apprentice artists by facilitating the intergenerational transfer of cultural knowledge and artistic skill in traditional and contemporary visual arts.

August 2017, Shirod was selected to be a Fellow. Younker is one of the keepers of his tribe’s cultural knowledge. His passion and commitment for understanding, learning, and regaining what his tribe lost from policies of government assimilation has been unrelenting. He has spent countless hours and unending dedication researching historical archives so he may teach, practice, and revive valuable artistic ancestral practice and knowledge.

For his 2017 NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship, Shirod Younker will mentor his apprentice, Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, in traditional and contemporary tool making, canoe paddle carving and canoe model making. This craft once thrived among virtually every coastal and river tribe throughout the Pacific Northwest; however, today, too many youth are unaware of the cultural and historical significance of this art practice. Therefore, Shirod works to imbue these traditional wisdoms into his teachings so that his apprentices and students may fully comprehend the interconnectedness between spiritual wisdom and Native art aesthetics in both traditional and contemporary canoe model and canoe paddle making.

As a citizen of a restored tribe, much of his tribe’s cultural foundation has been recuperated from his collection of historic text and from community elders’ oral teachings about traditional knowledge. Thus, Younker’s years of research—through old unpublished documents and journals as well as artifact collections—has been critical in piecing together the progress his tribe has made recovering original language and art. Through his endeavor, he has been emotionally moved by the insight he has gained and wants to instill the tribe’s ancestral spiritual beliefs into art practices again, which may inspire artisans, crafters, and the community to learn more of their language and songs.

“I teach because our connection to each other is the true lesson our ancestors want to show us with their art.” – Shirod Younker

More information: https://www.nativeartsandcultures.org/