Northern Arapaho

Wind River Reservation, Wyoming

The Photography of Sara Wiles

All the photographs and texts are copyrighted

About Sara Wiles

The photographs seen here were taken between 1975 and 2003, and depict members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe who live on the Wind Reservation in Wyoming. All of them, with the exception of the one taken at the site of the Sand Creek Massacre in Kiowa County, Colorado, were taken on or near the Wind River Reservation.

The purpose of these photographs is to show life on the Wind River Reservation as rarely seen by outsiders. Outsiders see life on the Reservation (indeed, any reservation) as a series of sadnesses punctuated by occasional dances or ceremonies. This is both reflected in and a result of the way media portray life on reservations. Common representations of Native Americans tend to fall into two categorical extremes: 1) the poor-victim image of hopelessness, poverty and alcoholism, and 2) the colorful beads and feathers images of ceremonials and powwows. Both images are valid in their historical and cultural contexts, but by themselves are superficial.

I hope to show my friends and neighbors in the way they see themselves: as complex and dignified human beings living in a functioning (if difficult) cultural, economic and political environment. Theirs is a society in which elders are respected for their knowledge of the Arapaho Way as well as for their slow passage to “the other side”. It is a society in which the old ways, the good ways, are still alive in the social and economic contexts of large extended families. It is a society in which, despite years of pressure from outside forces, communities are still held together by traditions that transcend individuals and families - traditions that help to preserve the integrity of a tribal society in a capitalistic world. It is a society in which it is still possible to live ni’iihi’ - in a good way.

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