Native American Genocide & the Landscape


Does the landscape, as silent witness, hold memory of tragic events of the past?  How does that memory affect the spirit of the land and the people who experience or inhabit it?

This series, made in and around the Badlands of South Dakota, are places where genocide against Native Peoples were carried out. This seemingly desolate area was one of the last holdouts of Native American resistance to the US government’s campaign to take their land and way of life in exchange for confinement in reservations or death. The end was hastened by the discovery of gold (“the yellow metal that makes the white man crazy”) in the Black Hills, land that was and is considered sacred by the Lakota (Sioux) and Cheyenne, among others.  This land was never sold, bartered or given away by any treaties but was taken as part of manifest destiny. It was a plan to exterminate the last of an independent spirit they could neither control nor understand.

My goal to to photograph the ways the sacredness of the land uplifts the spirit, despite its tragic history, rather than documenting battle sites and graves of past tragedies.

All images were made with a wooden 4×5 field camera on Polaroid Type 55 film.

Commissioned by the Minnesota Center for Photography