So Long as the Grasses Grow and the Waters Flow

From the very moment of first contact over five hundred years ago, up until today, the Indians of North America and the American settlers have found themselves caught in a tragically inevitable struggle. It was a clash of different cultures, a clash of different peoples, a clash of different ideologies, and a clash of different civilizations. Ultimately though it was a clash over the land itself: lands that the Indians called home and that the Americans coveted for themselves. This is a story of sorrow and tragedy spanning centuries, of loss and pain that can never be redeemed, only acknowledged.

The following images document a visual timeline of that history of conflict and dispossession. Each image, photographed on location at or near the anniversary of a particular event, bears witness to a land forever haunted by this past and how we have come to remember that history today. The formal compositions of these images allude to the place where this tragic story continues to reside as epic American myth in our collective conscience, places where memorialization and preservation have become acts of tacit reparation and acknowledgement. 

The project’s title, “So Long as Grasses Grow and Waters Flow,” is based on a common phrase employed by the United States in its treaty negotiations with Indian tribes that referenced ownership of the land. Today those words are tinged with a sad irony as they have come to represent America’s failure to keep those promises and treaty obligations throughout its history. While those bucolic words reinforce the formal beauty of the landscape itself, each image offers a visual record of centuries of conflict and dispossession. In the words of Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Sioux, “They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one: they promised to take our land and they took it.”

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