Peter Williams (Yup’ik) is a culture bearer, artist, designer, filmmaker, and educator based in Sitka, Alaska. His hand-sewn works repurpose skin from self-harvested traditional foods, bridging worlds of Indigenous art, fashion, and subsistence.
Williams completed artist residencies at Santa Fe Art Institute and Institute of American Indian Arts, and has guest lectured and/or taught skin sewing at Yale University, Stanford University, UCLA, Portland Art Museum, and Alaska State Museum, among others. His art has been shown at museums and galleries across North America.
Yup’ik culture embodies reciprocity between human, plant, animal and spiritual worlds. I assume responsibility for this by practicing an endangered art form disrupted by colonization: sewing the skins of marine mammals and fish. My work challenges anti-Native policy, the lingering colonial mindset of divine right to rule America’s original inhabitants, and the role that mindset has in climate change and ecological collapse threatening Indigenous peoples and the natural world we depend on. My pieces intentionally discomfit viewers who subscribe to mainstream, non-Indigenous views of conservation, believing that we must “preserve” nature by minimizing human interaction with it. This is in contrast to Indigenous perspectives: We must build reciprocal, intimate relationships with plants and animals, as we nourish ourselves and adorn our bodies with them every day.