Native Lives… Through the Lens of a Camera

January 3rd, 2013  |  Published in Art, Community, Culture, Education  | 

O’siyo. To begin the 2013 new year,  we decided to discuss the topic of  Native students and photography. Today, Native students express themselves in many positive ways. Another medium that is gaining popularity among Native students is photography. National Geographic has a program entitled Photo Camp, which was started back in 2003.  The program provides students from different countries and cultures the opportunity to explore and interpret  their community through photography.  In the United States, Native students from Taos, New Mexico and  South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation had some of their work exhibited in the National Geographic magazine. Although the photos are several years old, their beauty is everlasting. Even if students do not join the Photo Camp, the  idea of starting photography clubs in Native high schools  is an effective and unique way for students to convey their feeling and thoughts about their community, and culture.  The following are some examples of the profound and hauntingly beautiful, and funny photos taken by Native students.

Taos Students at Photo Camp.

Excerpt: Photo Camp: Native High School Students, National Geographic Education

“National Geographic Photo Camp has partnered with organizations worldwide to give youth a voice since 2003. Our mission is to provide opportunities for young people from underserved communities, including at-risk and refugee teens; to provide cross-cultural learning experiences through the photo workshop process; and to work with the next generation of photojournalists to highlight youth perspectives on issues of importance to all. 

Native American Dancer Photograph by Francisco Velande.

Photo Camp inspires young people to explore their communities through a camera’s lens and to share their vision through public presentations and exhibitions… from Taos High School and the Taos Pueblo

“The natural world, the world of peace. I was taught we belong to the Earth.
Caretakers. Making the most of the day. Being thankful for each breath. 
I hear the one who has taught me everything speak. 
He is all-wise. The many wrinkles in his skin stand for all the knowledge he’s seen through his eyes. I love him, because he taught me to love Mother Earth and Father Sky. He is the true definition of a man who has done all he can for his people. 
I respect this man. 
This man is my grandfather.”-
Francisco Velande

Fence and Clouds Photograph by Patrick Archuleta.

“My personal connection with Mother Earth is when I go hunting. Hunting up on Taos Pueblo Mountain is awesome. It’s like going into a sanctuary.”—Patrick Archuleta-

Night Portrait Photograph by Denna Andrews.

“What is my connection with nature? I’m not really sure. I like nature. I enjoy being outside. In a way, I see nature like a place I can escape to. A place where I can find peace… Sometimes when I’m in the mountains behind the Pueblo, I think about how my ancestors have been to the same places I have. Also how lucky my people are to have a beautiful ‘backyard’ that we can use for our ceremonies and for our lives.” -Winona Winters-

Red Chili Peppers Photograph by Laura Henry.

“Bright, bold red chili peppers surround a single green chili.”

National Geographic’s Pine Ridge Photo Camp asked a group of youths from South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation to present a portrait of their community’s efforts to reconnect their cultural identity to the natural environment.

Crosses and Graves Photograph by Chaz Thompson.

“This view of a family burial plot is particularly poignant in Pine Ridge, where poverty and poor health have driven life expectancy there to some of the lowest levels in the country.”

Buffalo in a Field Photograph by Tori Buckman.

“The theme of Pine Ridge Photo Camp was the environment and conservation. Bison, like this pair grazing near a field of crops, no longer cover the American West, but are still an important part of Native American culture.”

Native American Man Photograph by Katie Zacher.

“A Native American man dressed in traditional attire prepares for a dancing competition at the Oglala Powwow at the Pine Ridge Reservation.”

Sunset Over Rocks Photograph by Anthuny Broken Nose

“There was ample time for fun at Pine Ridge Photo Camp. Here, a playful shot makes a T. rex figurine appear to lord over South Dakota’s Badlands National Park.”

We believe that this is a  great way to allow young students to voice their feelings, thoughts, and opinions. Give them an inexpensive  camera…and watch the magic!


Hands Holding a CandlePhotograph by Winona Winters

 “Our lives may be crappy, we may not be with our mom or dad, but we still are strong people, and we’re connected with every native, no matter where we may come from!”~Photo Camp Participant~

“…There were so many beautiful things to see, and eventually I picked up a camera to record what I found. I found that the arts (writing, photography, drawing) were a way of escaping, a way of being free. I was lucky to have found nature while other teenagers found other means of escape, like drugs, alcohol, and partying.”~Emma McCollum~Photo Camp participant

“I used to think of nature as a part of life, something that was not very important to me. Now I know that nature is what makes life. I’m looking at nature now with a whole new perspective, through a new lens.”~ Kylee Martinez~Photo Camp participant

Related sites:

Visions of My People, By Lee Marmon-

“Lee Marmon is America’s most renowned Native American photographer.”


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Oil Spill May Spell Disaster for Atakapa Indian Tribe

June 18th, 2010  |  Published in Culture, Education, Politics, Social Issues  | 

By Fritz Faerber, June 8, 2010 National Geographic

The catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has caused irreparable damage to people and wildlife, but might it also cause the extinction of an American Indian tribe?

The Atakapa-Ishak Indians are a small group of Indians living in the marshes of  Louisiana in the Grand Bayou Village.  Rosina Philippe, a spokesperson for the tribe had this to say.

” The Atakapa have survived smallpox, Manifest Destiny and a millennium of hurricanes, but the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which represents a complete unknown, is the scariest threat of all…”

Maurice Phillips, another member of the Atakapa-Ishak Tribe had this comment,

“I’ve been a shrimper all my life, and trapping. That’s all I ever did. We live off the land. We get all our wildlife, seafood, and everything off the land…I can’t even think about leaving it. And the way the economy is, where are you going to go and live?”

Ruby Ancar, is also a member of the Atakapa-Ishak and here are her thoughts,

“Nature, you can’t control. You can’t control a hurricane you can’t control a tornado. But when you have things that are man made: that destroys a person’s life or an entire village or an entire community, I mean, that’s uncalled for.“

A big “thank you” to National Geographic for calling public attention to the  plight of the Atakapa-Ishak Indians.

Read the article, view the video, and share your  thoughts with us!

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