Photos and text by Deborah Anderson
If someone had told me a year ago I would be living in the mountains of Idyllwild, editing a documentary film about the modern-day lives of the Native American Lakota Women having spent two months with them on the Pine Ridge reservation earlier this year, I would have given them a quizzical look of concern.
You have to understand, I was happily maintaining my world on another sacred mountain in California called Topanga, shooting images for magazines, pop stars, movie stars, music album covers, and advertising campaigns. This all made for an exciting life, or at least that’s what I thought until it all fell apart before my eyes.
Over a couple of short years everything I knew my life to be was stripped from me… my health, my financial stability, and my work, which may have looked like a complete meltdown of sorts to some and to a selective few a spiritual cleansing. However, for me, this experience brought me to my knees, to stillness. It was in this stillness that I was brought to Idyllwild.
Now in hindsight, I see this shedding experience was a preparation for this great new chapter in my life, one that included sacred ceremonies, ancient wisdom, native music, prayer, and the power of thousands of years of ancestral understanding whilst living on a magical mountain that supported this adventure from the very beginning. I just wish I had been given a small clue alluding to this whilst in the throws of the darkness I experienced on the road to getting here, yet that is not how ‘personal growth’ works, and what I have come to understand is that nothing is by accident, that everything is in perfect Divine time and I am exactly where I am meant to be.
I recently traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the home to the Oglala Lakota Nation. I was told it is one of the poorest of all the reservations and as I observed the broken pieces of a history that has tried to erase these people, I met with the women that are the backbone of the community and keepers of their ancient wisdom.
These photos presented are stills from my upcoming feature documentary film about the Native Women that live on the Indian reservations in America. Their stories of loss, suicide, murder, and epidemic meth addiction amongst their community are mirrored by their deep ancestral roots, traditional ceremony, prayer, and hope.
The story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman holds deep importance within the Lakota tribe and many other Native tribes across the continent. The understanding is that of manifestation, rebirth, abundance, and world harmony.
In the words of Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe of the Lakota Nation: “It was told that next time there is chaos and disparity, she would return again. She said she would return as a White Buffalo Calf. Some believe she already has.”
This project is a gift to me, I know this deeply. To shed light on the murdered and missing Indian women that go un-documented, the continued racism, genocide, and chemical as well as alcohol addiction on the reservation, is to bring change. I sat and listened to women recall their first-hand experience of losing a child to suicide, another mother explained how she is fighting to find her daughter after she had been stolen from the reservation for sex trafficking. I, with these stories and more, realized that this is a result of hundreds of years of human rights violations of the Native American people by the federal government that put them there in the first place.
Having successfully premiered the first photographic exhibition from this project, “Women of The White Buffalo” at the Leica Gallery in Los Angeles, I am proud to present a portion of the show at my own gallery and boutique, Wyld Sage at The Fort, Idyllwild, then it is traveling to the Leica Gallery in New York.