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Lesson Plan of the Week: "Today's Native America"

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A good photograph is an invitation to bear witness to the truth in our world. Photographer Camille Seaman’s photographs do just that. For over a decade, Seaman photographed icebergs in the polar regions and her most recent project is committed to documenting and preserving Native America for the future.

Seaman’s photo essay “We Are Still Here” presents portraits of Native Americans from a variety of tribes, both in traditional regalia and ordinary street clothes. Many of the photographs were taken at the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannonball, North Dakota, near the Missouri River, one of the places of protest against the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL). In her photographer’s statement, Seaman writes, “When you see these portraits, you may find we no longer look like you think we ought to. But that doesn’t mean we are not here. It’s time for a new record of Native America.”

In this lesson, "Today's Native America," students explore the themes of cultural displacement, identity, and resilience as well as the history and experiences that encompass Native identity. Before she presses the shutter on the camera, Seaman asks each person about to be photographed, "What, through this image, would you like your descendants to know about you, your life—your experience?" How might photography act as a vehicle for the future to understand the present and the past?

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