Quannah Chasinghorse: An Indigenous Woman Reclaiming Face Tattoos

Quannah Chasinghorse is an indigenous model from Alaska who has changed the definition of modern beauty by showcasing her traditional face tattoos in her work. 

As a tattoo artist, it’s important to understand the history and meaning of tattoos, especially ones that represent ties to indigenous land.

In this article, we’ll talk about:

  • Chasinghorse’s tattoo placement
  • What her tattoos mean
  • The impact these tattoos have in the lives of indigenous women

Who is Quannah Chasinghorse?

Indigenous model Quannah Chasinghorse

Quanna Chasinghorse is an Indigenous American model of Hän Gwich’in and Oglala Lakota Inuit descent who was featured on the 2020 Teen Vogue list of Top 21 Under 21. 

Chasinghorse was interested in modeling from a young age but thought she wouldn’t make it as a model because she never saw indigenous women in magazines and on runways. Quannah thought people wouldn’t want to see an indigenous model. 

Chasinghorse has recently been in several high-profile modeling campaigns including Vogue Mexico and Calvin Klein, and she is currently working as a professional model out of Fairbanks, Alaska. One of Quanna’s most notable qualities is her activism and drive to redefine beauty by showing off Native fashion and traditions including her face tattoo

Chasinghorse wants the world to know about indigenous traditions, and she chooses to challenge the idea that models have to be a blank canvas. To Chasinghorse, the tattoos on her skin are a part of her beauty.

Quannah Chasinghorse’s Yidįįłtoo Tattoos

Quannah Chasinghorse shows off her chin tattoo

Quannah decided at age 14 that she wanted a traditional Indigenous face tattoo called Yidįįłtoo. Yidįįłtoo tattoos are made of three distinct lines on the chin, and Chasinghorse had her mother, Jody Potts-Joseph hand poke the tattoos for her. 

The experience of getting her first tattoo gave Chasinghorse a feeling of power and connection to her heritage. After giving her daughter her first Yidįįłtoo tattoo, Jody Potts-Joseph was inspired to reclaim the chin tattoo as well, and had her son, Izzy, do them for her. Now, many women in their family have the tattoo. 

What are Yidįįłtoo Tattoos?

A family where each woman has a Yidįįłtoo tattoo photographed by Ash Adams

Yidįįłtoo is a traditional face tattoo with three lines on the chin that represent a rite of passage for an indigenous girl of the Hän Gwich'in culture. Tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak says that Yidįįłtoo tattoos are over 10,000 years old and represent tribal belonging, warrior status, and emotional healing. 

Traditionally, Yidįįłtoo tattoos show which part of the Hän Gwich'in group people belong to based on how wide the lines are and how far apart they are spaced. 

During colonization in the 19th and 20th centuries, indigenous tradition and identity was at risk of being lost. Things that were a big part of indigenous history like the traditional tattoo were banned. Now, there is a movement by native women to reclaim their cultural traditions, and face and chin tattoos represent this advocacy work.

Quannah Chasinghorse’s Influence

Quannah Chasinghorse at the Met Gala

Quannah Chasinghorse says the lines on her chin represent overcoming trauma, and she feels like having the tattoos accepted in the modeling industry is a meaningful way to defend her culture. Quannah has brought important aspects of her life as an indigenous girl in Alaska to the world stage, even appearing at the Met Gala. 

Quannah represents the younger generation of indigenous people with more than her face tattoos. Her personal style combines her identity as an indigenous person with her love of grunge, and she’ll often combine the tradition of beaded earrings with facial jewelry and ripped jeans. 

Bringing Yidįįłtoo into the mainstream modeling industry has allowed Quannah to speak about her heritage and bring indigenous history to the forefront. Quannah uses her growing following to further her advocacy work in environmental conservation and preserving the culture of indigenous women.

The Impact of the Quannah Chasinghorse Tattoo

Potts-Joseph tattooing her niece in Alaska photographed by Ash Adams

Yidįįłtoo is gaining popularity in the indigenous Gwich'in community, and Potts-Joseph’s experience has made her proud to continue her indigenous art. She views these tattoos as a way to connect people to their land and show how proud they are to belong to their community. 

Potts-Joseph has become a prominent tattoo artist in Alaska for indigenous people who want face tattoos. She uses the traditional stick-and-poke method with [sterilized] bird bones to inject ink into the skin. She accepts trades for her work because she believes that money shouldn’t keep someone from getting such an important addition to their body.

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Understanding tattoo history is an important step in your journey, but it can also be pretty eye-opening to how difficult tattooing can be. Without the right knowledge, it’s impossible to level up your skills and become a professional tattoo artist. 

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This is one of the biggest struggles new tattooers face, and too many talented artists have given up their goal of getting into tattooing because of the years it would take to unlearn their bad habits. 

That’s why aspiring artists are learning to tattoo with the Artist Accelerator Program’s structured course. As a student, you learn every step of the tattooing process from professional artists with the experience and advice you need to build your skills and create incredible tattoos. 

With the Artist Accelerator, you can stop wasting time searching through incorrect information. You just get the clear, easy-to-understand lessons you need to start improving fast… along with support and personalized feedback from professional artists in our online Mastermind group.

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Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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