Having grown up in southern Wisconsin many miles away from the nearest Indian reservation I never had much of a chance to immerse myself in the Native American culture. However, even if I had, I’m not sure it would have meant much since every reservation and tribe has its own identity. So learning the customs and traditions of the Pottawatomie or Oneida tribes in Wisconsin probably would not have done me much good when first introduced to the Nakota or Aaniiih tribes at Fort Belknap Indian Reservation or Chippewa Cree tribe at Rocky Boy in Montana. I have visited five different reservations since I moved to Montana and every one of them is different and everyone of them has their own identity.
There aren’t a lot of places in America where you can go and find both cowboys and Indians. I am fortunate to have come to know both here in north central Montana. I spent several years working on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation getting to know it leaders, its elders, and many of its members. In that time I also came to appreciate their traditions and culture. And I have made many friends in the process. In doing so I’ve had the opportunity to experience some things very few people outside of their communities ever see. Whether it is riding shotgun inside a pick-up truck as they round up buffalo, attend a private pow-wow, or hear the many stories from their elders, it has been an amazing experience. And making photographs of Montana’s Indians has been equally (if not more so) amazing.
For those reading this outside of Montana, please allow me to set the record straight about a few things. For starters, the Indians in north central Montana call themselves Indians. So I am not using a pejorative when I use the term. In fact I find myself being scolded occasionally when I say Native American; the term more frequently used in Wisconsin. “You were born in America, too. Aren’t you also native American then?” I see their point. Also, Indians do not have bison on their reservations. They have buffalo. So despite the National Park Service’s best efforts to convince you otherwise, in these parts at least, they call them buffalo.
In this my latest edition of 20+ photos I am featuring 20 (or more) photos of native America…specifically photos made on the Rocky Boy and Fort Belknap Indian Reservations. I plan to do much more photography on Montana’s reservations in the months and years ahead, so stay tuned for even more varied and exciting new photos of Montana’s Indians and the Native American culture. Please enjoy these photos of Indians and Native America.