Jeffrey Veregge (Klallam/Squamish/Duwamish) has taken his passion for classic comics and reimagined them in his own Northwest Coast Indian way. He took his 10+ years of experience as a lead designer & studio manager for a media agency and put it to creative use. He is an honour graduate from the Art Institute of Seattle, and has studied form-line with David Boxley, Tsimshian master carver.
“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”
— Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins
LC: You use this Bruce Wayne quote in your “About Me” page on your website, what is it’s significance to you?
JV: For me this is more than just quoting one of my favorite characters. I mean I did choose it because of where it originated from, but it was much more than that. To me it is telling the world you may see me as one thing, that you may have expectations based on glances into my life trying to guess where I should be headed next, but the truth is I am in control of this life and even though you see one thing, my actions will tell you who I really am.
Much like my Vulcan hero; Spock, I am of mixed heritage. My mom is Native (S’Klallam, Suquamish & Duwamish), My dad is French/German and at times it felt like each world had an opinion of what this meant. There have been moments where I struggled with this myself. As an artist, I wasn’t sure where I could go. I appreciated what both worlds had to offer, but never felt like I could choose just one.
Who you see today is a person at peace with who he now is. I am comfortable with the man in the mirror. The work you see today is years of internal battles, cultures waging war on my heart being brought together by a common interest of just to being me. That is why I call myself an Indian nerd or Salish geek, as I am not just one or the other, I am both equally and I am good with that.
LC: Where and how you were raised? Was art always a big influence for you growing up, or was it graphic novels (or both)?
JV: I was raised in Kingston, Washington on the Port Gamble S’Klallam Reservation known locally as Little Boston. My rez is not a big one, but we are right on the water. Almost my entire family is there on my mom’s side. Growing up with all my cousins close by, being able to go to any of my aunts and uncles homes, always feeling loved and welcomed, is one of the greatest memories I cling to. One of my favorite things was listen to my mom and auntie’s gossip sessions, they would be funny, colorful and gave me more laughs than I can remember anywhere else as a child.
LC: If you could give your ten-year-old one piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?
JV: Save every single action figure, every single comic book you get, because as an adult you will spend massive amounts of time and money reacquiring them. Seriously though I would tell him no matter how dark it gets, no matter how much you may feel alone, that it all gets better. To keep drawing, keep dreaming and above all believe in yourself. That don’t worry that you are not really good at any sports, that everything that you may get teased for or made fun of, will not only be accepted but will help you achieve more than you ever could imagine.
LC: Was Native culture a big part of your life? How has that shaped you?
I think a lot of the way I think has a lot to do directly with my culture. I have always believed Natives to be some of the most generous people on the planet. “You hungry, here I just made some dinner, come on in and join us.” “You need a few bucks, here ya (sic) go!” “All alone this Christmas, come on over and spend it with us!”
The sense of community, family that we are all in this together, is one that guides my daily life. I choose to help, much like my fellow Tribal members not out of obligation or because I think I will get something out of it, but because I care, and love. This lesson is the greatest thing I have taken from all of them.
LC: What kind of work do you want to do moving forward?
JV: Well I have given this a lot of thought lately. I want to continue to explore the visual connection between comics, sci-fi and horror with my idea of Native art. I want push the boundaries of my own creative expression, looking onto other avenues to try. I have been writing more and more and recently started contributing to Indian Country Today, as NDN Geek. I am loving this and see writing as a big part of my future. I would like to move toward the entertainment industry at some point, I love movies, and have tons of ideas that I would love see translated into this medium.
I am hoping to be one part Chris Hardwick (The Nerdist), one part Todd Mcfarlane (Spawn) in terms of ambition and direction but all done in my fun loving mischievous way.
About the Author: Lisa Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in from Alexis Creek Indian Band, BC) is a writer and an entrepreneur based out of Toronto. She has studied Fashion Communications at Ryerson University and Professional Writing at York University. She is the founder of Urban Native Magazine and is currently writing a novel. You can connect with Lisa on Twitter @UrbanNativeGirl and check out her magazine, Urban Native Magazine.