280 Tribes, a Protest on the Plains

Scrolling through Alyssa Schukar’s work in her “280 Tribes, a Protest on the Plains” collection, I was really struck by the color of the photos more than anything. The vibrant indigenous garbs that many of her Native American subjects wore really caught my eye. I also like the way that several of her photos capture the spirit of the plains, with wide open tent-littered spaces in the background and country elements like trucks and horses. Here are two of my favorites.

Credit: Alyssa Schukar for the New York Times

There are a couple of things that I like about this picture. First of all, the traditional headdress and outfit of the central man is very attention-grabbing. It draws the eye to the center of the photo and makes the viewer consider the vibrancy and resiliency of Native American culture. I also like the juxtaposition the other two people provide. The man on the right is holding what looks to be some sort of ceremonial drum, but is wearing jeans and a Miami Marlins baseball cap. The woman is dressed in a cardigan and a T-shirt that looks like it says: Strong, Resilient, Indigenous. I like this juxtaposition because it shows the way Native American culture has blended and melded with that of European newcomers to the United States in the past few centuries. In the background, the numerous flags of different native groups add a sense of scale to the movement, both physically and spiritually as many groups have arrived to protest the pipeline.

Credit: Alyssa Schukar for the New York Times

This photo has a markedly different feel. There’s only one person, and the hustle and bustle of the campground is further off in the distance than before. This wide open scene, coupled with the horse, the subject’s flowing hair, and his relaxed expression give this photo more of an easygoing feel than the last one. I think it really serves to capture the essence of Native American culture, one that is in tune with nature and prone to roaming. While several of the other photos depict individuals in the camp with more serious expressions, the subject in this photo seems more relaxed and carefree. This serves as a nice contrast- on one hand, you have several Native Americans extremely concerned about potential damage to the environment, on the other, you have a more calm individual relaxing and enjoying the freedom that the plains have to offer.

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