Viewfinder: Mary Annette Pember

[imgbelt img=Pember001.jpg]Tired of seeing Native Americans portrayed as the “three D’s” – dead, drunk or dancing – Mary Annette Pember uses her camera and pen to tell complex stories about Native people.


artilcles for the Daily Yonder.)

Pember’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, was not particularly diverse, and her family was one of the very few native families.  The daughter of a Norwegian/Welsch father and a Bad River Ojibwe mother, she learned about racial differences early on. 

Growing up, Pember says she was often described as “exotic,” a phrase that bothered her. 

“I would think ‘Wait a minute, how come I’m exotic and you get to be normal?’” Pember says. “So I’m sort of on a mission to make us normal, to just make us other people.  And if you just see us as people, you’re less likely to pigeon hole us.”

Pember never went to high school but got a GED and studied at a two-year community college in Janesville, where an instructor convinced her to try her hand at photography.  Already an avid writer, Pember found photography to be a powerful tool in supporting her storytelling.  She later transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism and art photography before working as a writer and photographer at several newspapers.

The Daily Yonder, The Tribal College Journal, The Progressive Magazine and other print and online venues including the Washington Post , The New York Times and National Public Radio. In her writing and photography she has covered subjects including the high rates of sexual assault among Native women, gangs in Indian Country, health and environmental challenges in Native communities, federal policy issues as well as cultural and spiritual topics.

She is an enrolled member of the Red Cliff Band of Wisconsin Ojibwe tribe and is past president of the Native American Journalists Association. She currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her family.