Best Work by an Emerging Photographer | Nominee
Felix von der Osten
The Buffalo that could not dream
The project is about the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana, USA. It gives an impression of the outcome of the 1851 Appropriations Act that forced Native Americans to live in reservations, with a focus on how and where they live, as well as their struggle to try to maintain their centuries-old culture.
Fort Belknap is the shared homeland of the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes, who were historically enemies, but were forced to live together. My project documents this community and shows a life and circumstances that most people don't know about. The project shows what life is like for people on a reservation: what they do and how they try to maintain their beautiful centuries-old dying culture in the white world of America. This project lets the viewer explore a 2,626.415 square kilometre area, as it is, with its rich history, both in the past and present.
I want to show and give a sense of place to the reservation in Montana by focussing on two aspects: the continuation of tribal culture and the current living conditions of people of the Native American ethnic heritage. While the culture is important, it wouldn't be complete without revealing the destitute, sad and run-down socio-economic conditions of Fort Belknap. A place where the American government forced two enemy tribes to live in a place where their living conditions are quite different from the typical image of America. The poverty, lack of advancement opportunities and sad living conditions are what I attempt to capture in a subtle way – in contrast with the beautiful, noble and awe-inspiring traditions of Native American culture. I want to show the native people's beautiful and spiritual way of life which is so different from ours. These ways of life still exist even if the people have had to adapt to the sensibilities of modern times. It is relevant for the outside world to understand their culture and with that to be able to fully accept and acknowledge them into modern society.
My aim is to raise awareness of the oppressed and abused native population and their dying culture by taking a closer look at Fort Belknap. I show what it means to live on a reservation. Native people have to fight everyday to keep their culture alive and undisputed. A lot of people know about that but almost no one does anything. It is a forgotten problem.