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Words by Erna Lilje

Artist-in-residence Elizabeth James Perry at the NMVW

(C) Elizabeth James-Perry

The NMVW is pleased to announce that Wampum jewelry designer Elizabeth James-Perry has accepted our invitation to take part in an artist residency for the European-funded project TAKING CARE. The project Caring Futures resonates strongly with Perry's goal to bring Native perspectives to the table in Cultural and Scientific Institutions. With a background in dual-environmental and Native arts and TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge), her interests encompass restoration, specifically how environmental and cultural work can restore the spirit; build resilience. Therefore, her theme is Restorative Practices.

This artist residency will make it possible for Elizabeth to view, learn from and be inspired by Dutch collections of North American and Greenland artwork/material culture and their stories. It will give her space to share new Northeastern Native artwork, breathing new life into a relationship that is complicated by colonial history and ongoing climate change. For the scope of this project, during her stay Elizabeth will visit arboretums, local open space and wildlife refuges or parks, as well as cultural institutions and galleries; she will also interact with environmental groups working on restoration of natural habitats in the Netherlands as well as makers. As a coastal Indigenous artist, a descendant of ocean-going people, and as a scientist, there are intersections about naming, trading, culture and movements of her own people that she would like to explore.


Elizabeth James Perry is an enrolled citizen of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head-Aquinnah, located by the richly colored clay cliffs of Noepe (Martha’s Vineyard).  Perry holds a degree in Marine Science from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Perry was employed for the last decade in the Aquinnah Tribal Historic Preservation department. Perry resides in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. She is an independent researcher and exhibit consultant with a Certificate from Washington State University in Digital Tribal Stewardship; she is the owner of Original Wampum Art.

In her creative process, Perry focuses on early Algonquian Native American material culture, exploring the rich purple hues of the quahog shell in designing original jewelry, sculpturing whale and bear effigies; and drilling beads to weave the luxurious drape of collars, cuff bracelets, crowns, leadership sun medallions, and wampum belts.  As part of her work, Perry has revived natural dye work and endangered fiber and quill textiles. A number of museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Peabody Essex Museum, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Haffenreffer Museum at Brown University, have commissioned her artwork. Perry’s made Out of the Ocean (2019) for exhibition in First Americans."