Sunday, July 25, 2010

Perfect Ending

The trip here is coming to an end. Tomorrow we leave, and today had a perfect ending. After having my last big meal in North Dakota at the house of Tony, the elder who has been spending time with and talking to me Tammy and I went to the pow wow. Yesterday I spent a lot of time talking to a man who was from a reservation in South Dakota and was very traditional. Today I found out he is a medicine man, star reader, and pipe carrier. He often goes on vision quests aided by smoking tobacco and peyote. After talking with him again today for a little over an hour Tammy stopped by and asked to go to the rodeo so we left. As we left the man I had been talking to had a vision of Tammy and I and made a peyote sketching of the his vision. When I came back later to talk some more he gave me this great etching.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pow Wow

Today's pow wow was great. It was an amazing mix of old tradition and modern times. After the dancing and drumming kids in traditional beaded garments and feather headresses were chasing around their friends in jeans and tshirts, and old women wearing ceremonial jingle dresses were chatting with old women wearing dresses from the sale rack at kmart. I am very excited to go tomorrow and spend all day at the pow wow, but very upset that I will be leaving in two days. Here a just a few of many shots I got today.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

90.7 Rez Radio

News is listened to on the radio more than papers, tv, or internet here on the reservation. 90.7 is the local station dubbed "The Heart Beat of the Spirit Lake Nation". I have been searching for where they broadcast from and finally found them yesterday evening. I stopped by and met some great people there and photographed the announcer in the studio. They were even kind enough to give me some t-shirts.

Be Wise, Economize

Home of Economy has this great neon sign, I stopped by tonight to see if it would be lit up night, and to my surprise it was. It doesn't get dark until after 10 PM and the store closes at 6, but they did turn it on.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Nightlife Fort Totten

The part of the reservation I am on is known as Fort Totten. The nightlife here isn't exactly jumping. There is a grocery store/cafe in town. But they close before dark.


I guess when people's stove or hot water heater around here break there is only one place to bring them. I found the pile of tons of them. It was weird to find a pile of stoves in the middle of a field, but it is amazing what you get used to.


The gutted houses across from rolling hill that I photographed before I decided to explore a little more. I found out they are being saved for the fire fighters to burn later in the year. I went out and got some pepper spray just in case I ran into someone in them that didn't want me there. I saw some interesting things until something fell in the attic and I ran.


So this whole trip I have been driving Tammy's car and my little dirt bike. I really miss my truck, and everyone here seems to have at least three trucks. Unfortunately most of the trucks that are really cool and old don't work. I am going to start making a collection of all the awesome trucks I find.


After passing it twice I found Warwick. There is only a small sign that points to a dirt road. After following the dirt road for a mile you come to main street (another dirt road). I main st. I found this great gas station. It was 9:30 PM and the son was just starting to set. Over the gas station was the only older orange street light. The rest of the lights up and down the road were the newer round blue ones. One by one the round blue ones lit up as the sun set. They were all lit before 10, but it was still a little light out. I waited until 10:15 before the final light I wanted lit up. It was well worth the wait though, all I could keep thinking of was something Carlos told me, "Sometimes we would wait all day doing nothing for the 15 minutes when the light would right." I am so happy the light worked, and I didn't wait all night for a light that was burnt out.

Road to Warwick

Warwick is a town of 75 people not too far away. There isn't too much in Warwick, but there is a post office, gas station, and bar. On the ride their I decided to stop when I saw something interesting. I first found a large pillar of smoke coming from behind a field full of cows. It smelled horrible, those cows must have been so pissed off. As it got darker the dragonflies starting coming out in swarms. The next picture of the watering system has a few dragon flies going by in it, and then I came across one of the many barns that has seen better days.


Out here most Indians have tattoos. They are most common on the forearms. Most older Indians have small initials or names in black on the top of their forearms, a lot of the younger generation have large tattoos on the under part of their forearms. I have had dinner two night in a row at this family's house. I think eating was first discovered by the Indians. Everything has a meal after, and the food is amazing. I had Indian tacos last night which are infinitely better than tacos, and I really liked tacos before. Here is one of the many sons of the family where I have been having dinner. Just like in New York, before dinner we played a few games of call of duty.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tony and Vina

Tony and Vina are a very nice couple that have taught me a lot since I have been here. They have been married for 51 years. All of the times I have talked with Tony he would tell me stories, and the exact date the stories happened. One was May 28, 1983. He was ordained as a Catholic Deacon then, he also planted the tree he is standing next to that day.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pow Wow Sample

Today I was invited to the Spirit Lake Ministry for traditional songs and dance. The dancer has been dancing the traditional Indian dances for 20 years and has been in movies for it. The singers were a father and daughter who sing at the Pow Wow as well. Some of the ceremony they showed us will be at the Pow Wow as well but will they will not be able to be photographed there because of the traditions. Luckily tonight I was able to get photographs.

Fort Totten Corrections Department

The FTCD has a program where prisoners are allowed to work outside for the reservation and have each day of work count as days of a served sentence. I made friends with Andrew, the head of the Fish and Wildlife Department of the reservation and he was having some of the men perform community service by helping build a ramp and mow the local park. Hopefully later next week I will be able to meet up with him again as he has some of the incarcerated pick up rubbish on the sides of the roads. All of the men working were very nice and polite. It was hard to believe that later that day they would be bussed back to the prison.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Tokio with an I and not a Y is one of the settlements on the rez. It has A general store with a gas pump, two churches, a boys and girls club, and a community center. One of my first days I saw the small general store and wanted to come back and photograph it. I went there last night but couldn't breathe because of all the bugs. When my nose would get to crowded with mosquitoes and flies I would open my mouth and they would swarm in there. I tried to put up with it, but two dogs started to bark and come slowly walk towards me from the distance so I thought I would try tonight with bug spray and some cereal (for the dogs).

Abandoned Settlement

Across the road from Rolling Hills is a tiny settlement that has since been abandoned. It consists of 3 empty and gutted houses and several piles of scrap (mainly old large appliances, beds, and furniture). I really wanted to go into the houses, but I was told that sometimes homeless indians and wanderers live in those houses and wouldn't be a nice surprise. I was really nervous being there, but want to find someone who will go there with me to watch my back so I can photograph the insides of these empty houses.

Rolling Hills

I went back to Rolling Hills for another sidewalk sunday school today. The houses that are here are left over military houses from a local base. Each one was designed to last for 10 years, they are now about 50 years old. In the middle of the houses is a swing set and a slide. Besides that the nearest church, community center, or store is about 6 miles down the road.

Pow Wow Grounds

The Pow Wow grounds are located behind the local school. This area is only used once a year and therefor is rarely taken care of. I was riding around the bike paths on a bicycle I bought for $20 and spent $5 fixing when a man recognized me and told me he was going to the pow wow grounds to fix them up for the upcoming yearly festival and I should go with him to get some shots. I threw my bike in the back of his truck and happily went, when we got there we could see the storm coming in the distance. It is amazing how far you can see out here, in one spot it is possible to see many weather systems. I will be here for the festival (Fort Totten Days) and should have many great photos of the Pow Wow grounds in use.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lake Front Property

I described the problem of the raising lake earlier. Many of the properties and buildings most effected are behind peoples houses and through backyards. This trailer and small barn are right on the side of the only road into town. With six more inches this road will be under water so the addition of rocks and dirt will be happening again soon, and because it is a highway the road will have to be paved again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My M&Ms

During the sidewalk sunday school (next post), there was this little kid whose older brother opened some M&Ms we were giving out and gave them to him. He would poor them out in his hand and then the dogs would eat them from out of it. He would get upset and poor more, then wait for the dogs again.

Sidewalk Sunday School

I traveled with a local ministry today that does a sidewalk sunday school. It is a trailer that goes around the town everyday and stops at a playground to sing bible songs and pass out food and drinks. All the kids get so excited to see the painted trailer and can't wait for the snacks and to play games with the people of the ministry.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


The local lake is named Devil's Lake. It is a misinterpretation of the local Sioux language and is actually called Spirit Lake by the Sioux. Unfortunately the lake is fed by a natural spring and has no natural drainage. In 1992 the waters started raising. Many roads are either under water or constantly being raised with dirt, many houses are underwater and thousands of acres of Indian land is now underwater. Once it is underwater is owned by the government. The elder I have been talking has a friend who used to be a cowboy. At one time he had a 1,600 acre ranch with over 100 horses. It is now completely underwater and he lives in a trailer on another reservation. Fishing has become more popular than ever before. I met Gandi today who is related to the elder I spend time with. He fishes with his brother and daughter to pass time on weekends. "Besides driving, this all we got around here."

The Transportation

To get around while I am here I can drive Tammy's car in the mornings, unfortunately after 12 noon I need to use my own transportation so I brought my motorcycle with me. I have outfitted it with a milk crate and exactly measured out PVC tubes for my tripod, and another for my light stand and umbrella. Brian helped me put this together and it works phenomenally. I am able to bring my portable Broncolor pack and everything with me. The dirt roads are a little bit of a pain, but as long as I keep it under 50 its okay. Everything is so far away it takes a little while, but I make it work.


Today I went into town with the group. We stopped at this little store named Home of Economy that had everything you would need to survive out here from groceries to saddles to fishing equipment. I found the boot aisle and was amazed. I decided to take a series of shots and put them together so I can show the entire boot aisle.

The Neighbors

I worked up the courage to go across the street from us where I got chased by dogs my first day here. I was talking to one of the Indians that has been taking me around the reservation and introducing me to people, he is an older man, and told me about that neighborhood when he was younger. "This neighborhood has always been a bad area. The gym where we could work out used to be right behind the church and we would have to walk past those houses every day." After telling him about being chased by dogs he told me about when he was younger and someone had two dobermans there that would chase him. At least I am not the only one that gets chased by dogs. I am going to work some around the town tomorrow with a mission group fixing elders houses so hopefully I will get to meet a lot of people and get a lot of photo opportunities.