More than a decade ago, when I was still an attorney, I was given an opportunity to travel to South Dakota and the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. I jumped at the chance. The group of lawyers with whom I was affiliated had received a request for assistance from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s attorney general. I had never been to South Dakota and the legal issues sounded compelling. In a small farming town bordering the Reservation, school administrators were disproportionately expelling Native American youth, denying them legally mandated educational supports and referring them to the juvenile and criminal justice systems for such mundane activities as sleeping in class.
For over ten years, I traveled back and forth to South Dakota, as the tribe attempted to confront these issues. When time permitted, I drove around, photographing the landscape in an effort to better understand the dynamics of this racially charged community. On its surface, the scenery was beautiful. Yet, everyone who lived there considered the climate to be harsh and unforgiving.