Da-ka-xeen Mehner (Tlingit/N'ishga) uses the tools of family ancestry and personal
history to build his art. Born in Fairbanks, Alaska to a Tlingit/N'ishga Mother and
Hippy/American father his work stems from an examination of a multicultural heritage and
social expectations and definitions. Da-ka-xeen was raised in two environments, one as
an urban Native in Anchorage and the other as a rural Hippy in Fairbanks living without
electricity, running water or phones, and heating the house with a wood stove. In
particular his work has focused on the constructs of Native American identity, and an
attempt to define the Self outside of these constructs. He uses the materials and tools of
his family to express himself. From the steel and concrete of his Labor Union father, to the
crook knife and cedar of his Alaska Native ancestors, Da-ka-xeen Mehner's artwork
reflects his heritage. In an expanded view of "tradition," Da-ka-xeen also includes the
inherited tools and skills of photography that were passed down to him from his maternal
Da-ka-xeen received his A.A. from the Institute of American Indian Arts, and his B.F.A.
from the University of New Mexico. From 1994-2000 Mehner served as the founder and
director of Site 21/21, a contemporary art gallery in Albuquerque, NM, and was a founding
member/owner of the (Fort) 105 Art Studios in downtown Albuquerque in 1998.
Da-ka-xeen returned to Alaska in 2000 and earned his M.F.A in Native Arts from the
University of Alaska Fairbanks.
His work in photography and sculpture has been exhibited from New York to California;
Alaska to New Mexico. Collections include the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the
University of Alaska Museum of the North (Fairbanks, AK), and the Institute of American
Indian Arts Museum (Santa Fe, NM), and the Alaska State Museum (Juneau, AK). His
work has been featured in the art magazines Sculpture and American Indian Art, and in
numerous newspapers, art catalogs, and blogs. He is an Assistant Professor of Native
Arts at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the director of the UAF Native Arts Center.
How the artist views his work:
"My work comes from growing up as a cross‐cultural man in Alaska and my search for a definition
of what it is to be a Native American today. I culturally identify myself as Tlingit and American Hippy.
In my continuing examination of identity, I looked to my own C.I.B. card. The CIB card is a
Certificate of Indian Blood which is issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Anyone that wants to be
recognized by the U.S. as a Native American has to have a CIB to identify what percentage of “Indian”
they are. To be federally recognized, you must have at least 1⁄4 Indian Blood. I’m 7/16ths Alaska Native,
and the card goes on to break my Native identity into smaller categories, to 3/16th Indian (which should
read Tlingit) and 1⁄4 Tsimpshian (which should read Nisga’a).
The blood quantum registration program was a system devised by the federal government to
eventually relieve its responsibilities to the Native American population. The theory being that
eventually no one would be able to claim 1⁄4 Native blood. My wife and I have been blessed with a child,
Keet. He is just under the 1⁄4 blood quantum mark to make him Native American in the eyes of the
Federal Government. How can I be Native American and not my son? These are the questions that fuel