A portrait of George Preston outside his home in Sugar Hill, Harlem — a brownstone that is packed with hundreds (thousands?) of African artifacts and sculptural works of art. While he’s most known for his influence as a scholar, professor, curator, and collector in the art world, he is also an avid fan of baseball. When I took this photo almost exactly ten years ago, he was 71 years old and played second base in a over-40 fast-pitch league, and was also working on developing a prototype of a new bat (seen here).
says the magpie to the morning, don’t let this fading summer pass you by
Nisrine, two nights before her wedding. I’m in Tunisia this week to photograph her marriage to Magd, one of six Syrian siblings from Raqqa whose story I’ve been trying to document for the past four years. For more, check out the “Ahmads” story pinned in my profile.
For the past four years, I have been trying to tell the story of the Ahmads — an ordinary Syrian family whose lives were thrown into chaos when ISIS arrived in their hometown of Raqqa. At one point, each of the six adult children lived in a different country abroad, forcing them to create a very 21st century facsimile of their tight-knit family through social media and modern tech. This is the family matriarch, Suaad, in Qatar a couple years ago. Tomorrow, I will head to Tunisia for the wedding of her third oldest son, and a partial family reunion. For more of the Ahmads’ story, from France to Qatar to Norway to England, check the newest pinned story on my account.
Walking through what’s left of St. Mary’s Mission on the Colville Reservation. This former Jesuit boarding school is still structurally in decent shape, but so many of these buildings across the country are just left to rot, and are being slowly reclaimed by nature, vandalism, and time. Graduates of St. Mary’s were included in a $166M settlement in 2011 (one of the largest in the Roman Catholic church’s history) for 450 Native American and Alaska Native former students who were abused at Jesuit mission schools throughout the northwest. None of the accused priests have been charged or otherwise held legally accountable. @signsofyouridentity
Chemawa was the second Indian Boarding School established in the United States (after Carlisle), and still operates to this day in Salem, OR. This cemetery (it’s almost impossible to identify, the small headstones are flush with the ground) is one of the only remaining parts of the original campus, which once was its own self-sufficient city, complete with a hospital, post office, dairy farm, and bakery. The cemetery holds about 200 marked graves, but a Northern Cheyenne grad student named Marsha Small used ground penetrating radar recently to discover that there were hundreds — if not thousands — more unmarked graves in the vicinity.
A diorama at Old Mission State Park depicting Catholicism’s arrival in Idaho. While Jesuit missionaries did first come to the area at the invitation of a delegation from the Flathead + Nez Perce Reservations (in part because they associated the church with military power), local Native communities were perhaps not as quick to embrace the accompanying faith system as these clay figurines might suggest.
The interior of the Chilocco Indian School, which operated in northern Oklahoma from 1884-1980. It was one of five off-reservation boarding schools authorized by Congress in 1882 — the others were Carlisle (PA), Haskell (KS), Chemawa (OR), and Fort Simcoe (WA). The campus is still largely intact and is now managed by 5 local tribes (the Kaw Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Pawnee Nation, Ponca Nation, and Tonkawa Tribe). In the past few years, it’s been used for federal law enforcement training, as a substance abuse rehab center, and briefly was considered for Homeland Security biochemical attack testing, though that plan was later abandoned after widespread protests. #signsofyouridentity @signsofyouridentity
The remains of St. Mary’s Mission on the Colville Reservation. The building is slowly beginning to decay — most of the windows have been broken and the wooden doors are rotting. But the classrooms are still filled with old projectors, textbooks, past assignments, and other signs of student life. Graduates of St. Mary’s were included in a $166M settlement in 2011 (one of the largest in the Roman Catholic church’s history) for 450 Native American and Alaska Native former students who were abused at Jesuit mission schools throughout the northwest. None of the accused priests have been charged or otherwise held legally accountable. @signsofyouridentity
This is Clarita Vargas, a member of the Colville tribe who attended St. Mary’s Mission from 1968-1974. We spoke for about two hours in a little park on the Columbia River until I realized the sun had almost disappeared and I asked if we could take a brief break so I could photograph her. I set up my backdrop and she sat for me, continuing to talk the entire time, memories spilling out of her in rapid succession while I photographed her in the pauses between stories. So — this photo feels a touch misleading, not a full representation of her energy or belly laugh or wicked sense of humor — but I’m not sure a still image could do her justice. #signsofyouridentity
A wooden carving of Father Pierre-Jean De Smet, a Jesuit priest who purportedly travelled 180,000 miles across North America establishing missions in Native territories. This particular statue resides at St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville — the first European settlement in present day Montana. @signsofyouridentity
Up above the Grand Canyon.
Little bits of beauty in the Arizona desert.
Yesterday was largely a failure of logistics and planning on my part, but it did allow me to spend an hour staring, mesmerized, at this scene... so nothing is wasted. #havasupai
Unsure which I love more — my motel room bedspread or the complimentary copy of “Super Chevy” from 1982.
Extremely honored to have been able to speak with this father-daughter professor duo — Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo’ole Osorio and Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio — about Hawaiian education, sovereignty, and radicalism. I came to Hawai’i intending to continue my work on @signsofyouridentity by looking at the criminalization of the Hawaiian language in secondary schools and how that kind of coercive assimilation was still felt today. Instead, I met a dozen or so Hawaiian educators, parents, millennials, and current high school students who taught me about the Hawaiian Renaissance and the movement for educational autonomy through language immersion and land-based charter schools. “We believe that our language has a lot to teach people — not just ourselves, but everyone — and that there’s value there for everyone in whatever work they’re doing,” Heoli said. “But don’t just translate things into Hawaiian to appease us. Transform the way you operate based off of a Hawaiian understanding of place and politics and power and justice. If you’re not on board for the political side of Hawaiian, then you’re not on board for Hawaiian.” #signsofyouridentity #hawaii @insidenatgeo @opensocietyfoundations
Hawaiian cultural practitioner Lani Yamasaki crouches at the base of a blue marble tree on the grounds of the Lyon Arboretum, where she spent much of her time in grad school growing her knowledge of Hawaii’s native flora. (The blue marble tree is not endemic to Hawaii, but it is very beautiful and the seeds are used as prayer beads in some Hindu sects.)
I’ve spent five years now interviewing Indigenous people impacted by assimilation education policies for an ongoing project called @signsofyouridentity. That’s taken me to Canada to talk to survivors of Indian Residential Schools that operated until 1996, to Australia to interview members of the Stolen Generations who were taken from their mothers in the 1970s, and through about 25 communities in the U.S. — where we have made virtually no government-led efforts to address our own continuing history with cultural genocide. I arrived in Hawaii earlier this month to find many of the same stories here — language bans in the public school system, suppression of cultural practices, creating shame in young children over their ethnic identity — but also a fierce, multi-generational movement to push back against colonial educational practices and build Hawaiian-led school systems. Pele, the remarkable woman in this photo, grew up like most Hawaiians her age: not speaking Hawaiian at home. There was a point in the 1980s where there were fewer than 50 fluent speakers under the age of 18. So Pele and her husband learned Hawaiian when they went to college, and are now raising three children who speak Hawaiian as their first language. Their oldest daughter, Kalamanamana, is 17 and will head to Dartmouth in the fall. #signsofyouridentity @insidenatgeo @opensocietyfoundations
For #internationalwomensday, I’m sharing this photo of one of the bravest women I’ve ever known, Ugandan LGBTQ+ rights activist Kasha Nabagesera. She founded the first LGBTQ+ rights organization in Uganda (and opened the first gay bar), and has spent her life working to protect and empower lesbian and trans women in Uganda. Here is to more power, safety, respect, and health for women the world over, and love to women like Kasha who do the critical work to achieve those goals every day. ✨
Well, I may have driven into a river bed earlier this week on the Pala Reservation in Southern California, which is not quite how I planned on spending my evening, but it did allow me to sit quietly and watch the rain roll in as the sun went down and meet about a dozen local families who all stopped to make sure I was okay on their drive home. Tribal police have now towed me out of snow, mud, and a mostly (but not entirely) dry river, so I think I owe several reservations some kind of donation for their help, and for not making too much fun of me.
1,750 miles from Riverside, CA to Fargo, ND. These signposts are scattered across the campus of the Sherman Indian High School — one of 53 schools still operated by the US Government’s Bureau of Indian Education. Indian boarding schools today are a far cry from the institutions they were meant to be when they were first created in the late 19th century, but these signs still feel like a poignant reminder of how far many students are from home. @signsofyouridentity
Committing to going through my archive and organizing my embarrassing jumble of hard drives this year (if I make a resolution on instagram y’all will hold me accountable, right?). Starting a decade ago, with some old film from a trip to Guatemala, and an afternoon spent with Doña Caterina while she roasted coffee beans in San Juan Cotzal, Guatemala. Doña Caterina is part of the Ixil community, in a region that was heavily targeted during the Guatemalan Civil War that ran from 1960-1996. The Guatemalan Army destroyed 440 Mayan villages in a two year window, and were later found to have killed nearly 200,000 Guatemalans, 83 percent of whom were Mayan. To this day, many of the villages that remain are heavily female, with women managing labor, food production, families, and community organizing.
Onto the next chapter. Goodbye, London.
This is Gregg Deal ( @greggdeal), a Pyramid Lake Paiute performance artist, activist, and painter whose work often interrogates misconceptions of Native identity, asking his audience instead to confront their misunderstandings and reconsider stereotypes. The handprint on his face is from a performance piece “The Last American Indian on Earth” — visit his website to see more. Shot on assignment for @natgeo and out now in the December issue of the magazine.
This is Peter Toth, a Hungarian-born sculptor based in Florida. He’s dedicated most of his life to carving these larger-than-life statues of Native Americans out of tree trunks — a series he calls the Whispering Giants. His original goal was to place one in every state, but he’s completed 74 so far and, at the age of 70, has no plans to stop. When I was mapping out my plan for the story that just published in the December issue of @natgeo, I knew I wanted to include Peter for personal reasons: he carved a statue that stood prominently at the center of a small Delaware beach town where I spent many summers as a child. It somewhat resembles a totem pole, and I remember assuming as a kid that it must have been a relic from a coastal Native tribe. It wasn’t until decades later that I learned totem poles come from communities in the Pacific Northwest. That was my goal for this project: to look at how non-Native creators have employed, benefitted, and profited from Native symbols and culture, and the misinformation they sow along the way. Sometimes it seems relatively harmless, like my own childhood misunderstanding, but it is not disconnected from the casual racism that underpins sports team names like the Redskins, or any other number of examples of the ways in which we continue to disenfranchise and silence Indigenous people on this continent.
Excited to share that my first @natgeo story is now out in the December issue of the magazine. The piece looks at the ongoing appropriation and misrepresentation of Native Americans in the U.S. — from sports mascots to corporate logos to Indigenous identity as performance. I’ll be sharing some images here over the next week or two from the project (sorry, not iPhone for once) — but make sure to pick up the magazine on newsstands to see this story + work from @kiliiiyuyan @josue_foto @cararomerophotography @matikawilbur @jennyirenemiller @kali_spitzer_photography @brianadamsphotography & @willraywilson!
Hunting camp on the Flathead Reservation a couple weeks back.
there is a world, big as a mountain
Took the long way home.
Columbia Falls, MT
The first evening of an annual hunting camp on the Flathead Reservation.
Back on the road working on @signsofyouridentity in Crow, Salish & Kootenai, and Blackfoot territory for the month. This project always opens up a series of important questions — whose story is this to tell? do I have the right to tell Native stories as a non-Native journalist? is it irresponsible to default to trauma-centered narratives in Indian Country? — and I’m grateful for friends who are patient with me + keep me in line, like Crow ethnographer/archaeologist/preservationist Aaron Brien ( @aaronbbrien) and his @indigenousarchaeology class at Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Reservation. It’s fun to think about translating some of the conversations that journalists are having right now to another field like archaeology: who is in charge of crafting narratives in other disciplines? What is lost in archaeology, or food, or music, or law, when we teach and share and learn through a singular perspective?
Cartagena, Colombia. Trying to decompress from a crazy week/month/year of work and travel and organizing and our world feeling like it’s collapsing into disaster. I always feel slightly embarrassed sharing photos from trips that aren’t purely for work — I am a serious journalist doing serious journalist things! — but I also have never worked more or harder than I have this year, and feel like I’m constantly teetering on the edge of physical and emotional burnout. So, take care of yourselves, friends, in whatever way you can.
“it has drawn criticism for its disproportionately squat legs and “regionally inaccurate fish” (he’s apparently holding a Pacific salmon, rather than an Atlantic salmon; it’s worth noting that an alternative concept for the statue was a lobster wearing a raincoat, which would have introduced even wilder inaccuracies)...”
Brent shows me around what remains of the Fort Hall Indian School on the Shoshone-Bannock reservation. The school operated from 1904-1935, and was later used to house German POWs during WW2. Most of the structures were demolished in the 1960s, but a few buildings remain, now used as storage for the tribe and sanctuary for a kit of pigeons. @signsofyouridentity
Driving across the American west, finishing up an assignment for @natgeo. Stopped at Wilson Arch on my way from the Ute Mountain Reservation to Salt Lake City to take a quick breather and sneakily (or so I thought) raised my phone to take this photo of a kid sunning on the arch. He caught me immediately, fixed his hair, and went back to staring off into the distance. #onassignment #utah #wilsonarch #whplight
despite heartfelt springtimes of regret / the storm, she still cries for days
Mike leads me back to his house in Wounded Knee for coffee and a quick catch up. When I started working in Native communities in the U.S. for @signsofyouridentity I told myself I would avoid Pine Ridge — it’s probably one of the most photographed reservations in America — but on day one of reporting in New Mexico, I met Mike and he invited me to come visit (and when a tribal elder invites you to his community, you don’t say no). One of the best parts of this job might be the close friendships I’ve been lucky enough to form with people in all corners of the globe, but it’s also tough not to be able to stay connected as much as I’d like. I’m always deeply grateful for a chance to stop in and reconnect in person when I can. On assignment for @natgeo in South Dakota.
let’s find you an ocean / that goes with your eyes
I will never stop being surprised by the intense trust and generosity of complete strangers who let me into their homes, lives, memories. Thank you, to everyone I met in Alaska, for sharing with me. #signsofyouridentity @signsofyouridentity