The Timberline Media creative team completed its fourth production trip to South Dakota this month, spending 10 days on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. It was probably the most diverse trip we've had so far!
Of course our photographers, Richard Steinberger and Matt Normann, were busy exploring the early spring landscape for just the right shot. One memorable day, they climbed Thunder Butte to capture images from its summit, and then they spent half the night pursuing the "money shot" — a time-lapse photo of Thunder Butte, the surrounding prairie and a night sky swirling with stars. On another interesting day, Richard got his truck stuck in the prairie gumbo near Promise. Really stuck... and with no cell phone signal. Minutes later, as he was busy calculating the distance he'd have to walk for help, a Game, Fish & Parks employee discovered him and helped pull him out. In typical Cheyenne River fashion, it was the same gentleman with whom Richard had visited the day before, as he pursued a different shot!
But this visit was more than a photo-gathering expedition. Heather visited Tiospaye Topa, Takini and Cheyenne-Eagle Butte schools to speak with teachers and high-school students about the book project and get them excited about participating. (She's already been in touch with the Dupree and Timber Lake schools as well, so that all five reservation high schools will be represented.) She and Cheyenne River Youth Projectstaff also hosted a writing workshop for CRYP's "Power of Four" teen interns; since the workshop was held in conjunction with the not-for-profit organization's "Circle of Storytellers" oral-history project, the event incorporated talks and Q&A sessions with two respected elders, Marcella LeBeau and Dr. Jim Garrett.
And, purely on the fun side, Heather helped chaperone the Power of Four kids on a special CRYP trip to Rapid City, where the group saw the celebrated Blue Man Group performance and enjoyed lunch and dinner on a sparkling 70-degree day. That same weekend, Richard and Matt donated their time as fashion photographers during the annual CRYP Passion for Fashion event. While Matt photographed the girls (and, in some cases, their families) in a formal photo studio, Richard captured them on a New York-style fashion runway. It was a great day, especially for Heather — many of the young women were just little girls at The Main youth center in 2006, when Heather volunteered for a summer. She says that seeing them "all grown up" was a beautiful, and emotional, experience.
The book project is becoming more exciting with every trip. Not only are Richard and Matt capturing the people, places and seasons of Cheyenne River, the team is having an unprecedented opportunity to engage with the community. Working with the kids, visiting with friends in Outrider Cafe and Lakeside restaurant, meeting the teachers, listening to the elders and sharing our creative vision for this book and its artwork... each of these things is a great privilege, and we do not take this lightly. Cheyenne River has become our home away from home, and our greatest hope is that our project will honor this remarkable place and all of those who have opened their arms and hearts to us.