Anpetu waste! I am Stephanie Big Eagle. The owner & founder of Thunderbird Rising Studios. I offer the sacred art of handpoke tattoo and educational opportunities. Traditional handpoke tattooing has been practiced by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years and is recently being revitalized by Indigenous artists.
I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii as a "military brat." My father is an enrolled member of the Ihanktonwan Dakota Sioux Nation from his mother's side, and on his father's side, he is Kul Wicasa Lakota and Isanti Dakota. My mother is Celtic, Nordic, and of various Indigenous ancestry. I was raised with almost no teachings of my Native heritage and culture, having been adopted and raised in an oppressive environment that made me uncomfortable in my own skin. I was lost in an identity crisis that lasted until I was 21, when my ancestors started coming into my dreams and showing me beautiful visions.
These visions were powerful enough to transform my self-shame and inspired me to reconnect with my family on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota. At 23, I re-united with my father and relatives after 20 years! I attended my first wacipi, or powwow, and my whole life shifted. I remember watching the fancy shawl dancers, and promising myself that I would dance like that one day! I also remember feeling at home for the first time in my skin as I looked at so many familiar faces with the same dark skin and sharpened features.
One year later, I was gifted my first shawl, and began fancy shawl dancing. It must've been in my blood, because no one taught me, I just watched, then danced, and haven't stopped. Dancing helped heal my soul, and brought me back to my people.
I began to pour myself into our history as Native American and Indigenous people in general. As I became more educated in the injustices our people have faced -- particularly genocide, broken treaties, prisoner of war camps or reservations, boarding schools, the outlawing of cultural practices, and more -- I became both an Environmental and Indigenous Activist. I was honored to stand with many other activists at Standing Rock to protect our sacred sites and resources. It was at this time that I was taught the ancient practice of traditional handpoke tattoo.
I opened my first handpoke tattoo studio in 2021, Thunderbird Rising Studios. Now I travel internationally with the intention to empower all peoples that I interact with through my teachings, art, and culture as an artist, model, inspirational speaker, and more.
Check out my debut novel, my memoir, Thunderbird Rising!
Pidamayaye, thank you, for visiting my site!
~Stephanie Big Eagle,
Thunderbird Rising Studios
PC: Lucas Zhao Photography,
Graphic Design by Stephanie Big Eagle