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Although many photographers and writers have documented native reservations over the years, the picture they paint of Indian Country tends to be a negative one, focusing primarily on the poverty and social ills that afflict reservation communities. My husband, professional photographer Richard Steinberger, and I have decided to take a different approach. We want to create something that, if we put it into the hands of the Lakota elders, will give them a sense of pride, a feeling that we have honored them.

So we’re joining forces with accomplished Wisconsin-based portrait photographer Matt Normann to create a coffeetable book that will celebrate Cheyenne River — its landscapes, its flora and fauna, its communities, its traditions and its people.

The book will incorporate a variety of fine-art images, captured by Richard and Matt through four seasons on Cheyenne River. And while I’ll prepare an introduction for the book, the images will be accompanied by the words of those who know this place best — Cheyenne River’s young people, teenagers who are involved in the writing group at the Cheyenne River Youth Project‘s Cokata Wiconi Teen Center. I’ll be working closely with CRYP staff to edit the teens’ work and select excerpts for publication.

When the book is published, a portion of the proceeds will support CRYP programming and services. In addition, Richard will make limited-edition fine-art prints available for purchase; a portion of these proceeds will support CRYP as well. We also hope to create a traveling art exhibition, which will have its premiere at Cokata Wiconi.

The book and the artwork hopefully will demonstrate to a wider audience that beauty, joy and hope often are found in the most unexpected places. To discover that beauty and to appreciate the stories that run deeply within this land and its people, we need to first open our eyes. And then, open our hearts.

To learn more about the new Cheyenne River fine art project, visit our new Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CheyenneRiverArtProject.