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Contributions by Theodore C. Van Alst Jr.:

“Let’s Say”

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Collaborators’ Q&A: What do you think is the role of art in regards to real-world, real-time events? In other words, what makes a “successful” occasional or political piece of writing or art? Poet Bryce Emley: Whatever reaches the people who need it. I think that’s all you can ask for… But I think that kind of art needs to be accessible enough (in multiple senses) to show its face and be felt and at the very least be an emotional bridge to the people who aren’t experiencing the events themselves.

Poet Bryce Emley’s poetry and nonfiction can be found in Narrative, Boston Review, Best American Experimental Writing 2015, december, Prairie Schooner, and others. Photographer Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr. is Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Native American Studies at the University of Montana.

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“Indigenous Kinship Systems”

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Collaborators’ Q&A: Artist Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.: Jenny Davis’s poignant reflection on the pain inflicted on our relatives, human and others, tells us that even in the face of those violent actions our kinship networks can save us, and the hands that made these marks on the home of the little school remind me of that fact in ways that few other things can. Poet Jenny Davis: Art is, at its most powerful, a chance to contextualize and re-contextualize events in ways that prioritize the relationships between the beings, times, and places and the world(s) we all live in.

Photographer Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr. is Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Native American Studies at the University of Montana. Poet Jenny L. Davis (Chickasaw) is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where she lives with her partner and spends most of her time tending her cats (and cat-sized Chihuahua), plants, and the students in her Anthropology and American Indian Studies classes.

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“Camp of Prophecy”

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Collaborators’ Q&A: What do you think is the role of art in regards to real-world, real-time events? In other words, what makes a “successful” occasional or political piece of writing or art? Poet Lois Red Elk/Reed: In my Dakota/Lakota culture, I belong to a traditional Dream Society. I had a dream about Standing Rock and although I cannot share all the contents or details, the dream opened a portal for me to share some of my culture and traditions through poetry with a larger audience. Poetry transcends many kinds of barriers.

Photographer Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr. is Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Native American Studies at the University of Montana. Poet Lois Red Elk/Reed is a grandmother, poet, activist, an adjunct professor at Ft. Peck Community College, and an enrolled Sioux Tribal member.

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“Stand”

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Collaborators’ Q&A: Artist Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.: I took this picture of the sun setting as we were heading north away from the camp, and I knew we too would all return. The white weight is as inevitable as the brown resistance, the sun’s setting as inevitable as its rising. Poet CMarie Fuhrman: Following the news about my brothers and sisters at Standing Rock, I could not help but begin to feel the weight of all this white. The snow on the shoulders of young trees, became the snow on the shoulders of young people at the camps at Standing Rock, but also a metaphor for something greater that has been accumulating on the shoulders of all Indigenous people. What happens to the Indigenous people of any region is telling of what will happen to the region as a whole, the earth as a whole. How much more weight can be held before the small trees bend or break?

Photographer Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr. is Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Native American Studies at the University of Montana. His short story collection about sort of growing up in Chicago, Sacred Smokes, will be out in 2018. Poet CMarie Fuhrman is an Indigenous daughter of the Rocky Mountains. Passionate about the wild and sacred, CMarie concentrates her writing and poetry on protecting cultural heritage, preserving open places and remembering Native peoples.

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“Shadow Road”

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Collaborators’ Q&A: Artist Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.: The “panoramic vistas” / “South Dakota” / “red road” all pulled my eye, all led to memories of the “prayer song(s),” the prayer actions that focused so many, in such real ways, and the photo is of the road where we sang. Poet Gabrielle Williams: In early November 2016 two of my friends and I decided to drive out to Standing Rock from our home in Las Vegas. We gathered money and items to donate from our community here at UNLV… We helped build yurts for the coming winter and watched wild horses gently wander the grassy plains. We slept in a tent covered by the shadows of the hills around us and woke every morning frosty and dew covered in our sleeping bags. The events at Standing Rock are ongoing, such as history is perpetual. So I wrote about the small moments. I wanted to honor all of those little things, the ways which we continue, the ways in which nothing ends, only begins again and again.

Photographer Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr. is Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Native American Studies at the University of Montana. His short story collection about sort of growing up in Chicago, Sacred Smokes, will be out in 2018. Poet Gabrielle Faith Williams is currently attending The University of Nevada, Las Vegas for her MFA in Creative Writing and received a BA in Poetry from Columbia College Chicago.

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“Snake Dance”

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Collaborators’ Q&A: Artist Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.: The light on that stretch of the river that day made me think of the coming winter with hope, the cleansing scour of the north wind, the soft pink of the bluffs and banks surrounding the icy blue of the water presaging Peg Duthie’s December reflection. Poet Peg Duthie: Writing sharpens what I think and amplifies what I feel. Success: when my arranging of words moves someone to say “Oh!” or “Yes!” or to demonstrate love or to be more here.

Photographer Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr. is Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Native American Studies at the University of Montana. Poet Peg Duthie was born in Texas to parents from Taiwan. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she tends to Prairie Fire peppers and French “Brave Heart” hollyhocks, paddles on Percy Priest Lake and the Cumberland River, and hikes around Radnor.

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“Night Watch, Cannonball North Dakota”

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Collaborators’ Q&A: Artist Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.: This work made me think of the helicopter and plane that circled us, made me think back to what that being watched must have been like for the ancestors, and what has always been the fear that the settlers and their armies had then, have now, and cannot or will not lose. Poet Claire Hermann: In the short time I spent at Sacred Stone Camp, I was struck by two unexpected experiences. The first was the strangeness of being in such a beautiful natural setting while having spotlights on us all night, drowning out the stars and making it possible to walk around camp without a flashlight, and hearing the constant noise of airplanes, helicopters and drones. The second was the constant, powerful grounding of the daily life of the camp in prayer and ceremony.

Photographer Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr. is Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Native American Studies at the University of Montana. His short story collection about sort of growing up in Chicago, Sacred Smokes, will be out in 2018. Poet Claire Hermann lives in central North Carolina, where she raises funds and tells stories for progressive nonprofits.

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