Kelsey Mata
ART & DESIGN,  Books,  Female Entrepreneurs

Reviving Indigenous Culture: The Powerful Artistic Journey of Kelsey Mata (Jaax̱snée) in Cultural Preservation

Southeast Alaska is a region known for its lush temperate rainforests, thriving fishing industry, and rich Alaska Native culture. It’s in this breathtaking landscape that Kelsey Mata (Jaax̱snée) was born and raised, and where she has found inspiration for her work as an artist, children’s book illustrator, and writer. With a deep connection to her Tlingit culture, Kelsey has dedicated her creative talents to cultural preservation, educational materials, and representation of Indigenous peoples in media.

Kelsey Mata
Kelsey holding Celebration, a children’s book she illustrated alongside author and traditional Tlingit weaver, Lily Hope (2022).

Kelsey’s journey as an artist began with her upbringing in Southeast Alaska, where she learned about her Tlingit culture through programs such as the Johnson O’Malley Program and the Sitka Native Education Program. These programs provided her with a strong foundation in her cultural heritage and instilled in her a passion for preserving and celebrating Indigenous traditions. As she grew older, Kelsey realized the power of art as a means of storytelling and advocacy, and she began to use her artistic talents to amplify Indigenous voices and advocate for Native communities.

One of Kelsey’s notable accomplishments is her children’s book published through Sealaska’s Baby Raven Reads, an award-winning program recognized by the Library of Congress for its promotion of early literacy, language development, and school readiness for Alaska Native families. Her book, which she illustrated and co-wrote, showcases the beauty of Tlingit culture and provides a window into the lives of Indigenous peoples in Alaska. Through her illustrations and words, Kelsey aims to foster a sense of pride and connection to Native heritage among young readers, while also educating non-Native readers about the richness of Indigenous cultures.

Kelsey Mata
Kelsey and her mother, Lorita, putting up fish for the winter in Klawock, Alaska as part of subsistence living (2004).

In addition to her work in children’s literature, Kelsey serves as the Creative Editor of Restoration Magazine. This triannually-published magazine is dedicated to informing tribal leaders, advocates, and communities about emerging issues impacting the safety of American Indian and Alaska Native women. With a focus on Native sovereignty and safety, Restoration Magazine tackles important topics such as domestic violence, human trafficking, and the ongoing crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Kelsey’s contributions to the magazine include powerful articles, illustrations, and artwork that shed light on these critical issues and advocate for the safety and well-being of Native women.

Most recently, Kelsey has collaborated with her brother, fellow artist Nick Alan, on an art piece centered on the MMIW crisis, which will be featured as part of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center’s Week of Action campaign. This initiative aims to raise public awareness about the disproportionate rates of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Native communities across the nation. Through their art, Kelsey and Nick Alan tell the stories of the countless Native women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered, bringing attention to this urgent issue and advocating for justice and safety for Indigenous women.

Kelsey’s work as an artist, illustrator, and writer is a powerful expression of her commitment to cultural preservation, education, and advocacy for Indigenous peoples. Through her children’s books, contributions to Restoration Magazine, and collaborations on important campaigns, she uses her creative talents to amplify Indigenous voices, raise awareness about critical issues facing Native communities, and advocate for positive change. Kelsey’s work serves as an inspiration to others and highlights the importance of empowering Indigenous voices in media and beyond. As she continues her artistic journey, Kelsey Mata (Jaax̱snée) is making a lasting impact on her community and beyond, leaving a legacy of cultural pride, advocacy, and empowerment.

Check out Kelsey online