The Border Town (ongoing)
The Rosebud Sioux Reservation is located in south central South Dakota. It is home to a branch of the Lakota people known as the Sincangu Oyate or the Upper Brulé Sioux. Historically nomadic, the Sincangu followed the buffalo - the animal upon whom they relied for survival - throughout what are now the states of Montana, Wyoming and North and South Dakota. Following the Civil War, the federal government fought the Lakota in the Great Plains Wars to gain exclusive access to that land for farming, ranching and gold mining. The Wars ended with the government forcing the Sincangu onto the Rosebud Reservation. In the first half of the 1900s, the federal government reduced the size of the reservation by roughly two-thirds, distributing what had been reservation land to white ranchers and farmers.
The primarily white towns that grew up just outside of the reservation's current borders have had an uneasy relationship with the Lakota. As a civil rights lawyer, I represented Native American students in a lawsuit against a public school district in the town of Winner. Located on the reservation's eastern boarder, Winner was so named after it "won" a railroad right-of-way in 1909. For years, district administrators had local police arrest indigenous students for minor infractions in school such as sleeping in class or walking down school hallways in groups.
I began to photograph the town and its surrounding landscape to understand better the hostility that gave rise to the lawsuit. Over time, I have realized that for many South Dakotans the Great Plains Wars have never ended. "The Boarder Town," is an ongoing long-term photographic project.