Indian Photographing Indian: Zig Jackson's Journey
through Native America

Andrew Smith Gallery Arizona LLC is pleased to announce the exhibition, Indian Photographing Indian: Zig Jackson's Journey through Native America. There will be an opening reception with the artist on February 12th, 2022, from 7:00-10:00 pm. The exhibition will continue through April 30, 2022.

Zig Jackson spoke on The Photographic Journey of Rising Buffalo on Saturday February 12th at the auditorium of the Center for Creative Photography.

A longtime gallery artist Zig Jackson, also named Rising Buffalo, is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara) and the first Native American photographer to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in photography.

Jackson's most recent work in the Native American homeland focuses on his culture and the changing way of life of both urban and reservation Indians, along with the attendant socio-political issues of the "Indian Condition." In this series Jackson uses photography as a teaching and story-telling device to de-mythologize his own history and to break down the romanticized and racially charged stereotypes of Indians perpetuated in history and the media by presenting a simple straightforward journey. In the poetic photographic style of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and like Bill Owen's work Suburbia, Jackson documents the joys of ordinary life with humor and empathy.

©Zig Jackson, Mitch and Christine Williamson (Sauk and Fox, and Choctaw), Cushing, Oklahoma, 2001-2002.

This image portrays my friend Mitch Williamson and his wife, Christine, who served as mentors for me. As a former POW, Mitch was a war hero, but he never spoke of it or flaunted his honors and years of service. He and Christine adopted me as their son.

©Zig Jackson, Christine and Dorothy Tiger (Sauk and Fox, and Pawnee), Cushing, Oklahoma, 2019-2020.

After Mitch passed away, Christine's niece, Dorothy, took over her care. Christine is the last of the traditional-speaking Sauk and Fox Indians.

©Zig Jackson, Bertram Bobb (Choctaw), Antlers, Oklahoma, 2013.

Bertram Bobb, who passed away in 2015, was another tribal luminary who will be greatly missed. As a holy Choctaw medicine man, he had the power of the old ones, praying for tribal members and loved ones. He prayed for me as well.

©Zig Jackson, Art Smith (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara), Mandaree, North Dakota, 2013.

Art was the head singer of the traditional Hidatsa singing group. I visited him every summer while traveling across Native America. Before he passed away in 2017, I visited Art for about an hour, when he spoke our traditional Hidatsa language, I was able to understand every word he said.

©Zig Jackson, Squash Blossom, Clarine Dancing Bull (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara), Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, North Dakota, 2016.

Clarine Dancing Bull paints her native language on her walls so she will never forget it. Here she is showing me her beadwork, which she is very proud of.

©Zig Jackson, Harvey Charging (Hidatsa), Fort Washakie, Wyoming, 2015.

Harvey Charging, who passed away in 2016, lived in Ethete and was married to a tribal Shoshone woman. He was a tribal elder whom I visited every year during my travels. As a steward of tradition, Harvey made war bonnets and passed down our Native stories.

©Zig Jackson, Philamena Grinnell (Mandan), Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, North Dakota, 2016.

Philamena was another tribal member who greatly impacted me and maintained our traditional ways. She always spoke our Native language of Hidatsa when I was growing up on the reservation, and she fed us neighborhood kids with fry bread and beans. Her death in 2017 was a great loss to our tribe.

©Zig Jackson, James Goggles (Arapaho), Ethete, Wyoming, 2015.

This image shows James standing on his steps, praying, and giving thanks for life as he watches the sun go down. His sister, Mary Rose, was my friend and classmate at Intermountain Indian School, which is now closed.

©Zig Jackson, Ernest Simpson Goggles (Arapaho), Ethete, Wyoming, 2015.

Here James Goggles tells me a hunting story of when he killed an elk. He stalked it all day and then prayed to its spirit after killing it, "Thank you, my brother elk. You will feed my family." James takes care of his younger brother, Ernest, who has lung sickness.

©Zig Jackson, Reuben Willow Family (Wind River Indian Reservation), Ethete, Wyoming, 2017.

The Wind River Reservation, where I have many friends, is always one of my stops during my cross-country road trips every year. I never miss an opportunity to visit my friend Reuben Willow and buy a piece of his artwork. Reuben carries on his traditions and culture through his art.

©Zig Jackson, Dominic Lee Sinquah, Ancestors (Hopi), First Mesa, Arizona, 2013.

This image was taken on the Hopi Reservation, which is unlike any place I've ever been and whose people are very strong in their culture. Here Dominic tells me an ancestral story about the end of the world and why the Hopi people no longer perform snake dances.

©Zig Jackson, Dominic Sinquah and Mary (Hopi), First Mesa, Arizona, 2013.

Located high atop a mesa, the Hopi reservation has no plumbing, so residents like Dominic and Mary have to haul their own water.

©Zig Jackson, Barbara Birdsbill (Sioux, Assiniboine), Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, 2010.

I photographed Barbara and her husband, Verdell, at their house on the Fort Peck reservation in northeastern Montana. Here Barbara holds traditional fry bread, as she
stands in front of their government home.

©Zig Jackson, Barbara and Verdell Birdsbill with their Grandchild (Sioux, Assiniboine), Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, 2010.

To support other tribal members at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Verdell buys their artwork and drawings—not only as a show of cultural pride, but also because he knows they need the money.

©Zig Jackson, Lennis Bulltail (Crow), Crow Agency, Montana, 2015.

As seen here, my friend Lennis is very proud of his Crow heritage, religion, and tribal medicine.

©Zig Jackson, Estee Bulltail and Family (Crow), Crow Agency, Montana, 2015.

This image portrays Lennis's daughter Estee, who, though a young mother, is nonetheless steeped in tradition. She made sure that all of her children have Indian names, so when it's time to go to the other side, the elders will recognize them.

©Zig Jackson, Jerome Dancing Bull, Amanda, and Holy Eagle Boy (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara), Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, North Dakota, 2017.

Jerome Dancing Bull is a well-respected elder in my tribe. Because of this status and distinction, he is able to give out Indian names.

©Zig Jackson, Bob and Mary Apachito (Dinè), Alamo, New Mexico, 2019.

During my travels, I visited with this Native family all day—talking, laughing, and singing. We traded stories and compared creation myths telling of where our peoples originated.

©Zig Jackson, Dennis Lee, Veteran Sharpshooter, 172 Infantry (Dinè), Farmington, New Mexico, 2019.

I met this man on the street in New Mexico and learned that he was a war hero. Now he is homeless. He told me about the people he killed while serving as a sharpshooter during Desert Storm, saying that he awakes in the middle of the night to see their spirits standing in front of him. When I asked him if he needed anything, he said "only a bag of ice."

©Zig Jackson, Michaela and Giannis (Hualapai), Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2019.

When I encountered Michaela living on the streets in Albuquerque, I asked her what she was doing there. Hers was like many stories of homeless Natives. She and her husband came looking for work, a better life, but found something else: drugs and desperation. Her husband, she told me, got hooked on meth and crack, took their car, and left. Now she and her two-month-old child, Giannis, live in a tent on the street.

Zig Jackson is the first ever Native American photographer to be awarded a Guggenheim in photography, an award that is especially prized within the field of photography, having been awarded in the past to artists such as Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, and Uta Barth, among others. Jackson was raised in North Dakota on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. When Jackson introduces himself, he often indicates that he is foremost an educator. The camera is his curriculum. Photo-based images teach us about who has been represented visually and how this circulates, challenges, or perpetuates meaning. Credit: A delightful recent interview with Zig Jackson.

A professor at Savannah College of Art and Design in the Photography Department since 2000, Jackson is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation in North Dakota. He attended St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota, as a child and then Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, Utah, where he first picked up a camera.