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Everyday Native

Sue Reynolds | United States

Ivory, 17, is a high school senior who is really good at basketball and cross country. He especially loves basketball and loves being a part of a team. His academic goal is to go to college and maybe study wildlife biology or astronomy

This is the newest chapter of a 12-year project to understand Native Americans on reservations in Montana, South Dakota and Idaho and to help heal racism there. These places are overlooked by the rest of America, yet the need for peace between non-Natives and Natives is great.

As a European-descended American whose ancestor fought against Indians in the Modoc War of 1872, Reynolds’ father told her of their ancestor’s heroism with pride. Her feelings of pride changed when she began this project.

Listening to Native Americans share stories of loss and resilience in the face of racism, Reynolds discovered America’s dirty secret. Ignorance about everyday Native Americans fosters corrosive hate. The legacy of intergenerational trauma continues in reservation communities. Poverty, worsened by withholding of the full social services promised in treaties, affects many.

This new exhibit, which focuses on children and youth, shows the reality of their everyday lives. With race-based nationalism growing in the U.S. and globally, finding our shared humanity instead of our differences is crucial now.

Sue Reynolds is a documentary photographer whose images of Native Americans combat stereotypes and foster more accurate perceptions of indigenous American people. Since 2005, she’s worked to help heal racism through Native American projects that include solo and group exhibitions, articles and speaking engagements.

Still Here (2013), her collaborative book with Salish poet Victor Charlo, was commended by U.S. Congressman George Miller and California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier for showing the resilience of American Indian people. Her work has received praise from the Montana Arts Council, and mainstream as well as Native American media outlets. Her photographs appear in exhibits in California, Oregon, Montana and Japan and are in private collections.

A fourth-generation Californian of European descent, she resides in Northern California.

This exhibit is meant to help heal racism by building bridges of understanding between non-Native and Native American people, with a focus on the everyday life of American Indian youth. After documenting Native Celebrations for years,I wanted to show what everyday life is like for Native people on reservations.

About 1.2 million American Indians live on reservations in the United States. Firsthand experience and many studies show that racism contributes to Native difficulties on reservations, resulting in higher rates than national averages of poverty, poor health, substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide.

To dispel stereotypes and carry a positive message, these photographs show seldom-seen stories of Native hope and strength in Montana, Idaho and South Dakota. When we learn about our Native neighbors, we begin to see we are all more alike than different. Playing sports, doing homework, spending time with their family or celebrating their heritage, American Indian youth are both American and Indian.

Visiting reservations in these Northern Rockies and Plains states, returning again and again, the heart of this work for me is creating relationships with Native people. I encourage all Americans to create their own connections with American Indian people. Meeting Native youth and families at powwows is one good way to hear Native voices directly.

The Everyday Native project will appear in various formats. In summer 2018, a new 4th-12th grade teacher’s resource that enhances curriculum goes live at everydaynative.com. A companion exhibit in California is planned for 2019.  Other projects aimed at public awareness and education are on the drawing board.

Sue Reynolds



(everydaynative.com teacher's resource launches Summer 2018)

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