Haatepah Clearbear wants to support his community through raising awareness about the issues they face.
Meet Haatepah Clearbear. He is 22 years old and a full-time model based in Los Angeles, California. However, his Instagram page is not just filled with #ThirstTraps and amazing selfies—it has become a hub for learning. As an Indigenous person, he uses his platform to educate his followers and spread awareness about climate change and Indigenous rights and history. In an interview with Vogue Magazine, he shared why his online activism was so important to him. With 141,000 followers on Instagram and 479,100 on TikTok, his message of social justice has clearly resonated with other social media users as well.
When he was growing up, Clearbear felt disconnected from his Indigenous culture. He, along with his twin brother Nyamuull, was adopted by two White fathers when they were very young. "Me and my brother didn’t even know what race we were for a good amount of time," he said. "When we turned 18, we contacted our biological family, and figured out who we really are. We always had a feeling that we were native, we just weren’t exactly sure what tribes we were." Up until that point, the twins had grown up in California's Bay Area desperate to learn more about their culture.
Through contacting his biological parents, Clearbear learned that he was Kumeyaay, Pai Pai, and Chichimeca-Guamare. Sadly, he started facing troubles at home. One of his adoptive fathers died due to cancer. He always encouraged his sons to find out more about their culture, unlike their other father, who inhibited them from embracing their identities. Soon, they moved out following increasing disapproval from his other adoptive dad. The model explained, "All his prejudice came out times a thousand. So, one day we had it, and we moved out." At 21, Clearbear and his brother moved to Los Angeles, where he was homeless for a while.
During this time, he was discovered on Instagram via the casting director Daniel Peddle. He had also completed smaller modeling gigs. Eventually, he was picked up by the agency Storm LA. Now, he is a full-time model with them and has appeared in campaigns for brands such as Nike, Uniqlo, Youth to the People, and Lululemon. Though he has been a full-time model for a year now, he is yet to leave Instagram. In fact, he has only grown more active. "I see myself as a model, but I think of myself as an activist, first and foremost, for my people," he stated. When he is not shooting, you can find him helping his community through the Indigenous Alliance Movement, a collective he launched with his brother. They are currently 60 people strong.
Of course, he also raises awareness through social media, about climate change in particular. "Environmental issues are at the heart of most Indigenous people," Clearbear affirmed. "It’s Indigenous culture to be in balance with nature. To be in balance is to respect the land that you’re on. It’s something sacred, and if you don’t honor it, we’re all going to die." The model has been sheltering in place during the pandemic but has been connecting with his community and allies through Instagram. He said, "There’s so many ways to communicate with people online—you can reach them in different ways."