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Aspiring Co. is here to remind you to chase your dreams relentlessly and to inspire you when you feel like giving up. We are telling the stories of women who are fighting everyday to pursue a life of meaning.



I had the pleasure of sitting in on Sadie's talk at Hopscotch Design Fest. I enjoyed listening to her share about her work and the importance of Native American graphic designers expressing visual sovereignty in their design. As a woman of color, I most appreciated Sadie's openness and candidness. Her talk, titled "FUCK THE STEREOTYPE," was a welcomed change of pace. Sadie shared about seeing a need in the design community and filling it with her work. This was a huge takeaway for me. Think about the things that you notice are missing from the world. What can you do to bring forth that change? Think about that while you get to know Sadie here!

Name: Sadie Red Wing

Age: 27

Job Title/Company: Assistant Director of Native Student Programs @ University of Redlands, CA

Education Background: BFA New Media Arts & Interactive Design @ Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Santa Fe, NM; Masters of Graphic Design @ North Carolina State University (NCSU), Raleigh, NC


1.     Tell us a little about who you are.

a.     My name is Sadie Red Wing. I’m Cheyenne River Lakota/Spirit Lake Dakota. I’m originally from Fort Pierre, South Dakota. I started working here at the University of Redlands in January 2017 (Almost a full year!). When I started, I entered as an outreach coordinator where I would talk to youth about going to college. I am blessed to have this opportunity for a couple reasons: I received a new title, as the Assistant Director of Native Student Programs (NSP), and my department is able to award 10 fully funded scholarships to Native American students.
b.     Also, I teach the Indigenous Perspective in Visual Communication course. Both my degrees are in design, where I focus my research on visual sovereignty, and forcing indigenous perspective in westernized design curriculum. Specifically, for this university, I focus on issues of underrepresented groups in the media, and how you grow a greater voice in the media through leadership and advocacy.
c.      Aside from teaching and outreaching, I help with student retention, support, and mentorship. I do my best to keep the students comfortable during their academic journey, and be there for them during life stresses. I coordinate cultural events for the campus and provide resources for whatever the students want to do.
d.     [Short-Direct Answer] Who Am I: Sadie. Lakota. Designer. Advocate. Educator. Leader. Voice. Supporter. Activist. Sister. Unique. Cool. Chill. Workaholic. Public Speaker. Smiley. Foul-Mouth. Strong. Brave. Fighter. Respectful. Passionate. Bulldog

2.     What sparked your interest in building your brand [work]?

a.     The lack of Indigenous leaders in Design Education

3.     Who are you most influenced by?

a.     My Students

4.     What was your first job and how long did you hold that position?

a.     Hostess at Perkin’s Bakery & Restaurant. I held that job for about 6 months.


5.     Can you share one of your proudest achievements with us?

a.     One of my proudest achievements was completing my Master’s thesis after being diagnosed with Harada’s (VKH) disease. With the help of my thesis mentor, Denise Gonzales Crisp, I wrote Learning the Traditional Lakota Visual Language legally-blind.

6.     What were your initial goals with your work? How have they evolved?

a.     My initial goal was to be a graphic design teacher at a tribal college. I realized that graphic design is not taught appropriately to the Native American demographic, nor is indigenous ideology even taught in design academia.
b.     How they evolved….I want to change design education. My goal now is to incorporate indigenous perspective in design teaching, as well as, create a design degree for tribal colleges.

7.     What do you think is the most important life skill you learned from being a designer?

a.     Honesty and Bring your Identity into your work. If you cannot be comfortable in your own skin, it reflects in your work, studies, and communication.


8.     Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

a.     I hope to be surrounded by motivated and inspired Native American students interested in graphic design. (We need more Native Americans who recognize themselves as designers, and not artists or crafters).

9.     What is a typical day like for you?

a.     (Day starts 8am) Wake up – Check Phone.

b.     Breakfast – Oatmeal + Yogurt + Almonds

c.      Walk to Work

d.     Get a coffee on campus

e.     EMAILS!

f.      Student will sometimes spoil me with lunch from the cafeteria.


h.     Make sure my two interns are getting their work done.

i.       Check-in with the students I mentor.

j.       Attend Native American Student Union meeting (Or other student activities) (6pm)

k.     Dinner

l.       Catch up on misc. design projects

m.   (midnight) Chamomile tea + Lupin the III series + BED

n.     Sleep.

10.  What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced so far in the process of pursuing your goals?

a.     My VKH Disease – It’s change my whole life.

b.     VKH (Harada’s) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the eyes. The inflammation detaches the retina’s in my eye. I’ve been fortunate to have great care from retina specialists to help my retina reattach to my eye walls. I will never question the ability to see, and am blessed to overcome blindness. Other effects of the disease include: color pigment lost in skin and hair, nerve sensitives, and diet restrictions.

If you cannot be comfortable in your own skin, it reflects in your work, studies, and communication.
— Sadie Red Wing

11.  What is the best piece of advice you have received?

a.     Stay true to your heart and values, beware of tokenism.


12.  When do you get your best ideas?

a.     When I wake up in the middle of the night and waiting to fall back to sleep. (Then I never remember them in morning).

13.  Can you share with us one time that you failed and what you learned from that failure?

a.     I’m a sensitive person, so it’s easy for me to feel guilty over a “failure”. I’m guilty of cultural appropriation (fail), calling a person the wrong gender pronoun (fail), and allowing my fun-time to overrule my work ethic (fail). Each time I’ve learned and grew from the situation.

14.  How do you unwind?

a.     I love me some chamomile tea, comfy clothes, and an UNC Men’s basketball game on ESPN.

15.  What would you tell someone else who is interested in entering your field?

a.     This work is from the heart and for the people—selflessness.

16.  What do you hope people take away from your story?

a.     I hope they understand the work that I do is for cultural survival and not for trends, or “because it’s cool”.

17.  Anything we missed that you would like to share?

a.     I do my best to keep my humbleness. I struggle to keep in contact with people. Like I tell my family, add me on social media to know what I’m up to. I’m not on my cell phone 24/7.

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Follow Sadie here:

Website /// Twitter /// Instagram