Coming Home to the Cheyenne River Reservation, in Photos

Coming Home to the Cheyenne River Reservation, in Photos


Through child’s eye and camera lens, the Cheyenne River Reservation will be brought to life through photographs and creative writing. The magic starts this weekend, with the opening of a 30-photograph exhibit on the reservation, coinciding with a Kickstarter campaign launch to raise money to turn the creations into a coffee-table book.

The fine-art photographs, taken by professionals Richard Steinberger and Matt Normann, are accompanied by text written by Cheyenne River youth in an exhibit titled, fittingly, “Home: Cheyenne River.” Richard Steinberger and his wife, writer Heather Steinberger, who contributes to Indian Country Today Media Network, are the creative team behind the project. Heather Steinberger has worked with the not-for-profit Cheyenne River Youth Project for nearly eight years, and the exhibition was made possible through the support of Child Fund International. Heather Steinberger said the exhibit tells a story not often seen by outsiders.

“Although many photographers and writers have documented native reservations over the years, the picture they paint of Indian Country tends to be a negative one, focusing primarily on the poverty and social ills that afflict reservation communities,” she said in a statement.

“We had a different approach,” Heather Steinberger said. “We’re not going to whitewash the hardships that are present here, but we hope to demonstrate to a wider audience that what they see of reservation life in the mainstream media is not a complete picture. It neglects to show the pride community members feel for their home. It neglects to show their dedication, and their love.”

Local not-for-profit groups and reservation schools helped the author and photographers collect poems, essays and short memoirs, writing that represents “the thoughts, feelings and hopes of the next generation, who are perhaps Cheyenne River's greatest treasure,” the artists’ statement said.

The exhibition started on Saturday January 25 with a reception at the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s Cokata Wiconi teen center in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, that celebrated the youth project’s 25th anniversary.

The Kickstarter campaign is seeking money to produce, print and distribute a coffee-table book of the same title, Home: Cheyenne River, containing the material from the exhibit. It is the culmination of work that began in 2011, when the Steinbergers joined with Normann to capture scenes of life from the 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, where four Lakota Nation bands live. The territory covers sacred Bear Butte as well as the prairies stretching from the Cheyenne River to the hallowed ground of Wounded Knee.

Here are some of the photos taken by Richard Steinberger and Normann, for those who are nowhere near South Dakota. More information on the photo project is at Timberline Media, the Steinbergers' site. They also have a Facebook page, Cheyenne River Reservation - Fine Art Project.

The Kickstarter campaign officially launched on January 24, giving the creators about four weeks to raise a total of $65,550. 

All photos courtesy of Richard Steinberger and Matt Normann.

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