Chicago photographer Sharon Hoogstraten working on book on Potawatomi nation in regalia

Monday, November 15, 2021
Chicago photographer showcases Potawatomi in regalia in new book
"Dancing for our Tribe: Potawatomi Tradition in the New Millennium" by Chicago photographer Sharon Hoogstraten showcases Native Americans in regalia.

Sharon Hoogstraten loves to see the world through the lens of her camera.

Her latest project is very personal. For more than 10 years she's been capturing stories through photography that will be included in the book "Dancing for Our Tribe: Potawatomi Tradition in the New Millennium."

The focus of her book is showcasing people in regalia from all nine Potawatomi nations in the U.S. and Canada.

Regalia is typically worn on special occasions like powwows.

"It's amazing artistry, and also people see regalia and they think it's all about the past and it is based in the past," Hoogstraten said. "But it's a contemporary art form, and people build their own contemporary stories into regalia."

Hoogstraten said she is a member of the Potawatomi tribe. She believes it's important to let the world know they're still here.

"The people that posed for my portraits, they understand that this is really not about me. It's not even about them. Everything we're doing, they're laying down for the future. And there is a tradition of thinking about your actions in terms of how it will affect future seven generations. So they all want to contribute to this," she said.

Kelli Mosteller, who is featured in the book, said the regalia someone chooses to wear is a form of self-expression. She said people spend a lot of time thinking about the colors and the design.

"It's a very slow process but it really is about finding what you want to say about who you are and who you are in your community and who you want to be in your community."

In addition to portraits, the book also features people sharing their stories in their own handwriting. Hoogstraten said one man was worried about what he wrote.

"He said, 'I don't know, do you think I said too much?' And I said, it doesn't matter. What you think right now, is this what you wanted to send forward? 100 years from now? And he said, 'Yeah, it is,'" she said.

Hoogstraten said she hopes the book will be passed down from generation to generation.

"I'll be gone and these words and prints will still be here," she said.

"Dancing for Our Tribe" is expected to be released in the spring of 2022.