Looking Back at 2019

2019 was a fruitful year for Kua`aina Associates. We produced Ancestral Ink: A Symposium Honoring Indigenous Tattoo Traditions during the week of the 98th Annual Santa Fe Indian Market and hosted  Ancestral Ink San Francisco Community Forum: Indigenous Women and Tattoo Practices at the Main Library.  Kua`aina’s director, Carolyn Kuali`i was the guest curator for the exhibit, The Continuous Thread: Celebrating Our Interwoven Histories, Identities and Contributions, which was the official kink off for the San Francisco Arts Commission’s American Indian Initiative. The exhibit coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the Occupation of Alcatraz, the one-year anniversary of the City’s first Indigenous People’s Day and the anniversary of the removal of the Early Days sculpture. Kua`aina’s Board of Directors are grateful to the funders and individual contributors that supported our work and helped celebrate the excellence of Indigenous cultures and art. 

The following is a preview of these three programs. Enjoy!!

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A special acknowledgement and gratitude to the Tewa people for welcoming Ancestral Ink onto their beautiful ancestral land.

August 2019: Ancestral Ink: A Symposium Honoring Indigenous Tattoo Traditions brought together Indigenous tattoo practitioners and cultural bearers from the Pacific and North America who are the forerunners in the revival of traditional cultural practices, providing an informative, engaging and inspiring forum that celebrates the resurgence and resilience of Indigenous peoples and traditional tattooing practices. 

Ancestral Ink was produced collaboratively by Kua’aina Associates and Broken Boxes Podcast , and was hosted on the campus of the Santa Fe Art Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Symposium Presenters / Tattoo Practitioners

Sulu`ape Keone Nunes (Native Hawaiian), Master Tattoo Practitioner
Te Rangitu Netana (Nagpuhi, Ngati Wai & Te Arawa tribes of Aotearoa)
Marjorie Tahbone (Inupiaq from Nome, Alaska)
Dion Kaszas (Nlaka`pamux), co-founders of the EarthLine Tattoo School on the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus situated on the territory of the Syilz Okanagan Nation. 

The symposium also featured a panel of California Indian cultural bearers who have been part of the renewal and reawakening of their tattoo traditions including Loren Bommelyn (Tolowa Dee-ni’), Lena Bommelyn (Karuk), L Frank Manriquez (Tongva-Acjachemen), Sage La Peña (NomtipomWintu) and Tiffany Adams (Chemehuevi, Konkow Maidu).  

Symposium Programming 

• Critical discourse around Indigenous tattooing practices
• Video shorts from the documentary series “Skindigenous” that explore indigenous tattooing traditions around the world
• An open-studio experience to provide attendees an opportunity to interact with the practitioners and panelists, and witness traditional tattoo demonstrations 


  • The different regional tattooing traditions, methods and designs 
  • Cultural protocols associated with tattooing
  • Personal responsibility in receiving a tattoo
  • Issues around cultural appropriation 
  • Importance of safe tattooing practices – health and safety 

Ancestral Ink has been made possible by the generous support of the The Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, Honor the Earth, The Cultural Conservancy, American Indian Cultural Center of San Francisco, Meow Wolf and AHA Festival of Progressive Arts

Check it out: Ancestral Ink Printed Program


Help us as we continue to support the Excellence of Indigenous Cultures and the Arts.  Your donation is tax deductible.   Donate LinkKua'ainaOptima.jpg

Kua`aina Associates, Inc. is an indigenous arts and cultures non-profit dedicated to upholding the integrity of indigenous peoples and their desire to preserve the wisdom of their ancestors through traditional and contemporary arts as a contribution for the betterment of their people and the global community. kuaainaassociates.com    kuaainaassociates@gmail.com


November 9, 2019 – Ancestral Ink San Francisco Community Forum

Indigenous Women and Tattoo Practices


In collaboration with the American Indian Cultural Center and the Friends of the San Francisco Library, Kua`aina hosted Indigenous Women and Tattoo Practices at the San Francisco Main Library on November 9, 2019. The forum was support by grant funds from the San Francisco Arts Commission.  The forum allowed Kua`aina to bring a greater awareness to the cultural importance and practice of traditional tattooing among indigenous women. Among the presenters was a panel of Native California Indian women who has been part of the renewal and reawakening of their community’s tattoo traditions –  L Frank Manriquez, Sage LaPena, Tiffany Adams and Heidi Harper Lucero. Filipina artist and San Francisco Bay Area muralist, Cece Carpio was also a panelist.  Ms Carpio had the privilege of visiting Northern Philippines, which continues to have a strong tradition of women tattoo practitioners. Cece received her tattoos by the Wang Od Oggay’s niece – Whang Od is considered the last and oldest practitioner of Kalinga tattooing in the region.

The San Francisco Community Forum provided a safe space where Natives were able to ask personal questions and receive valuable feedback. For example, during a Q&A, a young California Indian woman mentioned how she would like to get her chin tattoo but not sure it would go over well in her workplace. The decision to wear a chin tattoo is very personal and it was powerful for this young woman to hear the stories of the women on the panel who spoke of their experience in relationship to her question.

These kinds of interactions and experiences is the result of programming Kua`aina support and host. Our commitment to our mission has proven that we are providing a service that is greatly needed. We will continue to document the impact and how communities are benefiting through media documentation, interviews, surveys and engagement.


October 4 – December 14, 2019 at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery

The Continuous Thread: Celebrating Our Interwoven Histories, Identities and Contributions

The Continuous Thread was exhibited on the unceded land of the Ramaytush Ohlone, neighbored by the Muwekma Ohlone, Costanoan-Esselen, Rumsen, Mutsun and the Confederated Villages of the Lisjan Ohlone Peoples. We acknowledge their elders, both past and present, as well as future generations. We thank the Ohlone Peoples for their support of “The Continuous Thread” exhibit.  This acknowledgement demonstrates a commitment to the process of working to dismantle the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism and the disregard of the original peoples of this place we call San Francisco.

Featuring the photographic works of: Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie  – Taskigi and Diné, Britt Bradley – Algonquin, Hispanic and Irish American descent and Jean Melesaine – Samoan

Curated by Carolyn Melenani Kuali`i  – Native Hawaiian and Mescalero

This photographic exhibit was part of the San Francisco Art Commission’s Early Days photo project, that took place on April 5 and 6, 2019.  Over 150 members of the San Francisco Bay Area indigenous community came together to be photographed on the empty plinth where once stood the offensive Early Days statue, a component of the Pioneer Monument.

The Continuous Thread celebrated the indigeneity of the San Francisco Bay Area Native community. The photographs brought light to the rich tribal and cultural diversity,  contributions of the members of the SF Bay Area community, and their “Native Truth” that is rooted in countering discrimination, invisibility and false narratives.  During the photo shoot, the community stood together to honor the courageous ones who came before them, and to acknowledge the historical narrative and circumstances that led them to be part of the American Indian Urban Experience.




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