Note: On October 25th I had the opportunity to participate in Ampersand Live: An Evening of Storytelling About People and Place, sponsored by Forterra, a land conservancy in western Washington. I had the honor to share the stage with a number of amazing Northwestern artists. With only five minutes to share stories and show images about the Caribou Rainforest, I thought about what I could share that would connect people with this place and the story of its inhabitants….these are my remarks from the evening.
All Nations Gathering Center and Youth Passageways
At the beginning of September, I was honored to participate in a cross-cultural gathering on the Pine Ridge Reservation organized by Youth Passageways and hosted by All Nations Gathering Center. The goals of the gathering were to explore the role of rite of passage experiences in the modern world, and to deepen the relationship between Youth Passageways, whose mission is to help regenerate healthy passages into mature adulthood for today’s youth, and All Nations Gathering Center, whose work focuses on helping create opportunities for healing and growth within the Lakota Nation and connecting with others doing similar work.
I was asked to help photo-document the gathering. It was truly my pleasure to try to capture the spirit of the gathering through images.
All Nations Gathering Center, founded by Dallas and Becky Chief Eagle, is within the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. While the majority of the Lakota Nation’s traditional territory no longer belongs to them, reservations such as Pine Ridge remain sovereign land of an independent nation within the United States. To the west of Pine Ridge, ownership of the Black Hills remains disputed. Taken without treaty or permission by the United States when gold was discovered there in the 1800’s, the US Government offered payment for them in the 1980’s. The Lakota have never accepted this payment. They continue to state that, despite the fact that the United States holds de facto ownership of them, the Black Hills were not and are not for sale.
Much of the gathering was spent in talking circles, exploring issues of community, healing, and the work of youth initiation. In this group, younger members of the gathering were invited to sit in the center and share their experiences and challenges with coming of age in the modern world and be witnessed by the rest of the group.
The daughter of one of the participants of the gathering joins the group of younger folks in the center of the circle for a moment of laughter.
Altar in the center of the meeting space for the gathering. Host Dallas Chief Eagle shared the story of the buffalo skull on the altar. Buffalo are central to Lakota culture.
A young member of the gathering sits with a group of olders and elders to ask them to explain a piece of art they created.
Becky Chief Eagle sharing during a talking circle at All Nations Gathering Center.
Orland Bishop, part of the leadership of Youth Passageways, sharing his thoughts during a talking circle..
Ramon Parish, one of the facilitators for the gathering and a member of the Leadership Circle for Youth Passageways, listen intently during a talking circle..
Elder Chris Eagle Hawk shares stories from his life including his experience in Indian boarding school as a child. As was typical for many of his generation, he was forced to attend and when he was first brought there he spoke no English and was punished for speaking Lakota.
Lakota man Duane Two Bulls explains points of contemporary Lakota culture.
Photo bomber extraordinaire, Michael, is a young member of the Lakota tribe sorting out what’s next in life, a career in music or the possibly the Marines. This photo is from the visitor center of Badlands National Park which is contained within Pine Ridge Reservation. In the 1940’s the United States used eminent domain laws to take this land from the tribe and turn it into a military bombing range during World War 2. Residents were given a 10 day eviction notice. After the war, the United States moved it into the park system. It is currently managed by the National Park Service, in concert with the Lakota tribal government.
Will Scott and two other members of the gathering reflect at the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre. In 1890, the US military killed 146 Lakota men, women, and children who were camped here, the last armed conflict between the US military and the Lakota.
A moment of reflection and prayer at the graveyard at the Wounded Knee Massacre site. Adjacent to the mass grave from the massacre itself, others have subsequently been buried here. The victims of repeated waves of physical and cultural genecide including the massacre memorialized here, the complicated relationship between Lakota and other indigenous peoples and the United States is reflected in the American flags on the grave of tribal member on sovereign Lakota land.
Lakota elder Cecil Cross leading participants of the gathering on a hike in the hills surrounding All Nations. During this break, he shared a few words and lots of passion and love for this land.
On a hike during the gathering.
Dallas Chief Eagle collecting plants during a hike on the land where All Nations is based.
Moonlight on a teepee at All Nations.
Horses at All Nations.
Sunset from the balcony of All Nations Gathering Center.
Dallas Chief Eagle looks out across Pine Ridge. One of the driving principles behind All Nations Gathering Center, written across the back of his shirt, is “Spirit Led.”