Though most of the 2.5 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives live outside reservations, about 1 million Natives from 567 federally recognized tribes live on 326 reservations.
With a generous grant from Sony, one of three grants awarded to TPS members, I spent part of summer 2017 inside 17 of these reservations, sacred lands and associated border areas of the American west, driving 6000 miles through several states, from my childhood home in Washington State to my house in Los Angeles. I aimed to photograph the intersection of Native culture and the rest of American society and to capture the complexities of the landscape, representative of both tribal success as well as the many issues facing the tribes.
I sometimes found little difference between reservation land and the rest of the United States, as reservations are generally checkerboarded with regards to ownership and jurisdiction. Some land is tribal, other land might be county, state or federal. Often a reservation includes non-native mostly white populations who, due to economic status, generally inhabit the best and most valuable land. But reservations in general are often the best and most fertile land in a region, or even the homeland of a particular tribe, but an assigned location granted through American congressional and executive order. Still, there are areas where the cultural landscape is intact, such as with sacred sites.
Murals in the border towns beside the reservations often depict Natives meeting white men dressed as military or settlers. The meetings always appear peaceful, as if the genocidal history never existed, a form of American propaganda designed to keep the two communities at peace. Natives live hard lives on these islands within American society, but leaving can sometimes be worse – like leaving ones country.
For more from this project, including a video overview, please visit: