On January 25, 2021, Michaela Goade became the first Native American to receive the prestigious Caldecott Medal awarded for artistry in a children’s picture book “We Are Water Protectors”.
In the last few years, Michaela has found her niche as an illustrator in Indigenous KidLit art. She brings the vivid colors of the Alaskan coast to life and the ancient Tlingit stories of cultural importance. Her work varies widely from landscape vignettes and personal projects to fully illustrated children’s books. Her work feels cohesive in mood, color palette, and the spirit of wonder which runs as a constant theme throughout her artistic work.
In a recent interview, Michaela noted that for her creating art “is an act of reciprocity, a way to express gratitude for Mother Earth – a reaction, a conversation, one way in which to defend her.”
Michaela first began illustrating picture books for her tribe as they started creating books by Native people for Native people. It was natural for her since she was always drawn to storytelling in various forms and the picture books spoke her language like nothing before in her life. It was a way to reconnect with her culture, to find her artistic voice and to give back to the Native community in a unique way. It is a way for her to help create respectful and accurate representations of Indigenous peoples in children’s publishing.
Michaela has found that visual storytelling is especially powerful when it speaks to the wonder of childhood, a time when everything is magical, sometimes unknown and scary, but a time worth remembering, something which moves us and gives us pause.