Here are some of photographer Joseph Zummo’s favorite images, among thousands he took in Indian country over this past year. The first four come from a December trip to traditional Standing Rock Sioux territory in North Dakota, where tribal members and others have rallied against the Dakota Access Pipeline’s planned route across the Missouri River.
Calling themselves water protectors, they have said this would endanger the tribe’s water supply and has already destroyed burial grounds and sacred sites. Since spring, the group has faced increasingly violent responses from law enforcement and the pipeline company’s private security contractors; the demonstrators have been beaten with batons, maced, tear-gassed and shot with concussion grenades and rubber bullets. Hundreds have been arrested, and more than 100 have been hospitalized.
Below, on the day the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withdrew permission for the pipeline to proceed, children played with bright green flying saucers, one water protector displayed a sign proclaiming the camp’s nonviolent ethic, and another on horseback overlooked the crowd. Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Arvol Looking Horse, who was born on the neighboring Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, explained the movement’s aim—to protect water and its practical and spiritual properties for future generations.
In Nevada, Joseph shot this photograph of Joseph Holley, former chairman and now councilman of the Battle Mountain Band of Te-Moak Western Shoshone, and his grandsons. The three are seen here by an ancient rock shelter in a sacred landscape that Western Shoshones have used for prayer and healing for many thousands of years. The photograph appeared on Indian Country Today Media Network, as did the one below it, of Johnny Bob, a spiritual leader from the Yomba Shoshone Tribe. Bob was part of a group of tribal members who traveled to Nevada’s highland forests in early September to pick pine nuts, a traditional staple that is roasted and used in soups and stews.
Joseph photographed these images on the Puyallup reservation in Washington state. In the first one, Lisa Earl mourns for her daughter, Jackie Salyers, who was shot by police in January of this year. The image appeared in In These Times magazine. Below it, tribal members express their connection to each other and the water as they practice for an upcoming canoe journey.
In the New Mexico portion of the Navajo reservation, Joseph photographed a story for In These Times magazine on ways Native people fight exploitation by government and corporations. Here we see Navajo tribal member Anselm Morgan with a decades-old pipeline marker, showing the pathway of an oil line that crosses his family’s land in return for the pittance that the Bureau of Indian Affairs allows the company to pay. The dozen houses making up the family homestead are seen below it.
C. Stephanie Woodard; photographs c. Joseph Zummo.