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Arts & Life

Fine Art Book Celebrates Cheyenne River Reservation

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Courtesy Heather Steinberger
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A coffee-table book that incorporates photos of life on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation with the wisdom of tribal elders and the perspectives of tribal youth is now available to the public. SDPB’s Jim Kent visited with the author of “Home: Cheyenne River Lakota Nation” to discuss what her goal was for creating a multi-dimensional insight into the life of a tribal nation.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation comprises 4,000 square miles of rolling prairie in the very heart of South Dakota. Its 8,000 tribal members – from elders to children – carry on the traditions of their Lakota culture while also living as an active part of the 21st century.

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Credit Courtesy Heather Steinberger
Heather Steinberger (right) with Cheyenne River Youth Project volunteers enjoy a picnic in the Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) garden with members of The Main youth center.

And it’s the positive aspects of that dual existence that Heather Steinberger wanted to capture in photos and in words.

“When people heard about reservation life in the media it was largely focused on the social ills that are present there…the poverty that’s present there,” explains Steinberger. “And it was just a very dismal perspective of these communities…that everything was sadness and despair.”

Heather says that image wasn’t what she and her photographer husband, Richard, had encountered during their many years spent visiting the reservation.

“We had talked to so many people who were so fiercely proud of their home and love it…for so many different reasons<” Steinberger adds, “that we thought…wouldn’t it be interesting not only to capture the Cheyenne River Reservation in photography…but to approach young people and say…’Okay. Here’s an assignment. Home. What does it mean to you? How do you feel about it? What’s your perspective on how outsiders see it?”

The goal, says Heather, was to introduce the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation to a larger audience through the voices of the children who live there accompanying photos that help tell the truth of their story.

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Credit Courtesy Heather Steinberger
“Home is where you come from…who you grew up with…and what you believe in.” - Keith Jewett

“Home is where you come from…who you grew up with…and what you believe in” from an essay by Keith Jewett is one example of those voices.

The cooperation of the students with the book project, says Steinberger, was remarkable. From poems, to essays to short memoirs, the Cheyenne River Reservation students shared their innermost thoughts and feelings in a book that can be read by the world.

Marcella LeBeau is a respected elder of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Marcella says she’s happy that her image is among those that fill the pages of Heather Steinberger’s book.

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Credit Courtesy Heather Steinberger
Lakota elder Marcella LeBeau

“We have so much beauty here…and some people fail to see it,” LeBeau observes. “But I see the sunrises in the morning...when I would take walks. And the sunsets in the evening...like I used to tell my grandchildren about how beautiful they were. In fact, one of my grandsons...he called me to go and see the sun set one evening. And those are the things that...maybe other people don’t see. The beauty all around us. The birds…the animals…the trees. We have lots of beauty here.

Marcella LeBeau hopes Heather Steinberger’s book will teach others what she already knows….that the Cheyenne River Reservation is among the most beautiful places on Earth.

-  All proceeds from “Home: Cheyenne River Lakota Nation will benefit the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, S.D.

***To order books, go to amazon.com, select “Books” in the search bar, and search for “Richard Steinberger.” When you view the book’s listing, be sure to click “See all 3 formats and editions” — three versions are available, from 8x10 to 11x13, in hardcover and paperback.

To order more than 10 copies, please contact the creative team at heather@timberlinemediallc.com, as discounts may apply.

Related links: 

http://www.lakotayouth.org/

cheyenneriverfineart.com