Native Lives… Through the Lens of a Camera

January 3rd, 2013  |  Published in Social  | 

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 “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-

“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-

“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.

“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.”

“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.”

“A Native American man dressed in traditional attire prepares for a dancing competition at the Oglala Powwow at the Pine Ridge Reservation.”
“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! Visit the site to see the beautiful photographs taken by the students.

   “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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