As a teenager, Olivia Maybee, a senior, always had a passion for activism. She was born in Buffalo, New York, and grew up on the Cattaraugus territory, one of three territories that make up the Seneca Nation, located just south of Buffalo.
When she was 14 years old, New York state planned to build a New York State Thruway extension that would cut through her tribe’s territory. This did not adhere to the treaty the state had with the Seneca Nation, so Maybee participated in a protest to protect her territory. This laid the groundwork for her to be chosen to represent her tribe at the United Southern and Eastern Tribes (USET) convention in Washington, D.C., when she was 16 years old. At 18, she enrolled in college in Southern Illinois, but due to a lack of diversity, she decided to transfer to Adelphi in her junior year.
“I experienced a lot of racism and discrimination at my old school,” she said. “I did a lot of research to find a small private university with a higher percentage of students of color…I chose Adelphi because of the diversity.” She is majoring in art and minoring in business management.
Making an Impact in College
Her love for activism continued throughout her college career. In June 2021, Maybee led a Pride Campaign to bring awareness to LGBTQIA2S+ issues. She was able to have more than 10 Pride flags raised in Niagara Falls, Cattaraugus, Steamburg and Allegheny territories in western New York, and distributed 50 more flags to her community members.
“There’s a lot of discrimination and judgment that goes on in my community,” she said. “There’s a lot of bullying toward our LGBTQIA+ members. I myself am bisexual and my older brother is gay. Growing up, I heard a lot of slurs. I wanted to make a difference for the youth to feel seen and accepted. I wanted to change the culture and make our community more accepting toward the LGBTQIA+ community. We already face hardships and discrimination in the normal world. Why should we discriminate against our own people for loving who we love?”
Using Art to Do Her Part
Growing up, Maybee always loved art, so it was a no-brainer for her to major in art once she transferred to Adelphi. As an art major, she had the opportunity to work closely with Kellyann Monaghan, associate professor and chair of the Department of Art and Art History.
“Kellyann, along with other faculty members in the art department, brought me onto some amazing panels,” she said. “I participated in a panel for Brooks Fredericks [senior adjunct faculty] called Student and Alumni Voices on the Arts and Social Justice.”
Last year, Maybee organized a panel titled Native American Art and Demonstration with Sophia Powless ’20 for National Native American Heritage Month. She is also the president of Adelphi’s chapter of Kappa Pi, the International Art Honor Society. As an artist, her identity plays a huge role in her art, which is why she creates many works of contemporary nontraditional Native American art.
“What inspires my art is a lot of different Native American artists and Indigenous artists,” she said. “And then, of course, my culture and community as well.”
Maybee is minoring in business management and plans to combine her business background with her love for art in hopes of continuing to make a difference in her community. When she isn’t in class or being an activist, she has her hand in a lot of different things. In addition to art, she’s interested in politics, specifically tribal and state politics. She also has an eye for fashion and she models on the side. Not only that, she does accounting and business management for her family’s business.
“I want to live in the city and continue to do art and what I’m doing now,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of young adults my age who do what I do or act the way I do. Especially as a Native queer woman, it’s very important to have that representation.”