Speakers will explore Indigenous comic art over the coming year

Three Indigenous artists whose work deals extensively with environmental questions will take part in the Indigenous Comics Speaker Series at the UO over the coming academic year.

The work done by the trio deals extensively with how the environment affects Indigenous knowledges, cultural practices and life through comic form. The series begins with Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, an award-winning visual artist and author, at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, in the Knight Library Browsing Room.

In “JAJ: a Haida Manga,” Yahgulanaas covers the tumultuous history of first contact between Europeans and Indigenous peoples and the early colonization by Europeans of the northern West Coast. 

Yahgulanaas uses a blend of traditional and modern art, eschewing the traditional boxes of comic books for the flowing shapes of North Pacific iconography. The panels of each page, if removed and assembled into one whole image, form a large image reminiscent of a woven robe.

In the late 1990s, after exposure to Chinese brush techniques, Yahgulanaas began to merge Haida and Asian artistic influences into his self-taught practice and created the art form called “Haida Manga.” Haida Manga blends North Pacific Indigenous iconographies and frame lines modeled on Asian manga.

His other publications include national bestsellers “Flight of the Hummingbird” and “RED, a Haida Manga.”

In addition to his public talk, Yahgulanaas will visit two classes and engage with the Native American and Indigenous Studies Academic Residential Community at the Many Nations Longhouse.

The series will continue in winter term with Cole Pauls, a Tahltan comics artist, illustrator and printmaker from Haines Junction in Canada’s Yukon Territory. In spring term the series will host artist Arigon Starr, an enrolled member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma and one of the founders of the Indigenous Narratives Collective, a group of Native American comic book writers and artists.

This year’s speaker series will be accompanied by further programming in the 2024-25 academic year, including a groundbreaking Indigenous Comics Symposium in spring 2025. The series is presented by the UO’s Native American and Indigenous Studies Program, the Department of English, and the Comics and Cartoon Studies Program.

The Indigenous Comics Speaker Series is free and open to the public. Contact Kate Kelp-Stebbins or Kirby Brown for further information. 

—Top photo: A mural of comic panels by Indigenous artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas