Sorry for the big gap between blog updates; it hasn’t been that I’ve had nothing to talk about but rather that I’ve been working so much and haven’t had much time to push images!
This past week was my spring break; for the week I went on a trip with RIT NPPA to Niagara Falls where we each picked something different around the falls to spend the week photographing. For those of you who don’t know this already, I’ve been spending my weekends for the past 2 months on the Tuscarora Reservation. I was able to work on the reservation for the week because it’s really close to the American side of the Falls. I originally wanted to photograph the reservation and give a sense of place and talk a little about the culture of the tribe.
This week however, everything changed.
I met a bunch of new people over the course of this week on the reservation and was educated much more thoroughly about the current issues on the reservation.
I was shocked to learn what is really going on.
The suffering of America’s indigenous people has not lessened up over the course of the years, they’re facing a lot of problems that for the most part did not even originate inside their own community, but rather from the rest of the country.
As upset as I was to find that we are in no way trying to help our tribes with these issues, I was absolutely horrified to realize that we are not even talking about them.
If you have at least a basic middle school education, I’m sure you have a strong knowledge on the holocaust and Rwandan genocides; you probably realize how awful these events in history are. But have you ever heard of Indian Boarding Schools? These schools only closed more recently than the “notable genocides” ended, and I had never heard of them until less than a week ago. A native from the reservation made a 30 minute documentary on survivors of the boarding school, it’s called “Unseen Tears” and I highly recommend you watch it to understand the suffering that these people are dealing with, and the repercussions are being passed down onto further generations.
The boarding schools aren’t the only struggle our indigenous people, specifically the Tuscarora people are trying to cope with and recover from, there are many more but being a photojournalist it’s my job to show you with images.
Despite all of these problems though, the people of the Tuscarora reservation have blown my mind with their strength and determination to restore their heritage. From teaching ska’ru’re , the native language in their schools to the traditions of art and dance, the Tuscarora people are not giving up.
"Living on the rez is a state of determination" I was told.
This past week I focused on meeting people, talking to people, trying to understand the community and the issues and the impact we have had on the Tuscarora people. I made some portraits, but this story is going to take a long time to cover. I have a lot more understanding and listening to do, but I feel a calling to tell their story. We need to be more educated on what we’re doing to our tribes, because if we understood the pain and social unjust we are causing, things would be a lot different.
I’ve met some amazing people this week, I’ll push some portraits later. Keep following this story as it unfolds. This story is important, this culture is important and these people are important. I feel blessed that the people I am working with are beginning to open up and trust me when history suggests that it’s in their best interest not to. I hope over time I can prove to them that I’m trying to tell their stories and the truth.