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Storyteller Eyes

This past July, Walter Lamar attended North American Indian Days in Browning, Montana while his son Wasey traveled to the Mandree Powwow in Mandree, North Dakota. Both had cameras in hand. Walter is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation and a descendent of Wichita Tribe. Besides Blackfeet and Wichita, Wasey is Hidatsa. He shoots with a Canon, Walter shoots with a Nikon; Wasey is Gen Y and Walter a Baby Boomer. Newton Lamar (Wichita), father of Walt and grandfather to Wasey, was a photographer in the late 1960s on the Navajo Nation. He told Walter that Native people have been storytellers since time immemorial, and explained that photography gives us the ability to tell a story with an image. Like a story, photographs entertain, educate and are a way to document history.

Walter Lamr, Devan Kicknosway, Mo-hawk/Potowatomi, is a Northern Traditional dancer. His paint tells his story: “Eyes are clear of paint for better sight, the dots represent family (seven in all: me, my wife, two kids, father, mother and older brother). The lines across the cheeks is a warrior story about cutting the cheeks of our enemies.”

Devan Kicknosway, Mo-hawk/Potowatomi, is a Northern Traditional dancer. His paint tells his story: “Eyes are clear of paint for better sight, the dots represent family (seven in all: me, my wife, two kids, father, mother and older brother). The lines across the cheeks is a warrior story about cutting the cheeks of our enemies.”

Wasey Lamar, Amber Cleveland, Ho Chunk/ Nakota, is a Fancy Shawl dancer. A pow wow circuit celebrity and back-to-back winner at Gathering of Nations 2012 and 2013, Cleveland’s dance steps have been described as lighting fast, a mixture of discipline and grace. Her favorite color is orange and is usually prominent in her regalia.

Amber Cleveland, Ho Chunk/ Nakota, is a Fancy Shawl dancer. A pow wow circuit celebrity and back-to-back winner at Gathering of Nations 2012 and 2013, Cleveland’s dance steps have been described as lighting fast, a mixture of discipline and grace. Her favorite color is orange and is usually prominent in her regalia.

Wasey Lamar, Keegan Her Many Horses, Lakota, Fancy Dance. Keegan has been dancing since he could walk. A cross-country and track team standout, he’s been coached by his father, Chico Her Many Horses, and honors him by wearing his beadwork design, only in reverse colors.

Keegan Her Many Horses, Lakota, Fancy Dance. Keegan has been dancing since he could walk. A cross-country and track team standout, he’s been coached by his father, Chico Her Many Horses, and honors him by wearing his beadwork design, only in reverse colors.

Walter Lamar, Herman Schildt, Blackfeet, wearing Traditional War Bonnet. The Blackfeet-style war bonnet was passed down to Herman by his older brother Pat “Sam” Schildt, who was a past Blackfeet Tribal Council member. All council members at the time were given war bonnets, and Sam gifted it to his younger brother in recognition of Herman’s work with individuals struggling with addiction and mental illness.

Herman Schildt, Blackfeet, wearing Traditional War Bonnet. The Blackfeet-style war bonnet was passed down to Herman by his older brother Pat “Sam” Schildt, who was a past Blackfeet Tribal Council member. All council members at the time were given war bonnets, and Sam gifted it to his younger brother in recognition of Herman’s work with individuals struggling with addiction and mental illness.

Walter Lamar, Jade Ironshirt, Blackfeet Piegan. The beadwork on her buckskin dress is her great-grandfather George Kicking Woman’s design, and she wears it in honor and memory of her grandfather. Her Blackfeet Dance style is a lesson in grace and dignity.

Jade Ironshirt, Blackfeet Piegan. The beadwork on her buckskin dress is her great-grandfather George Kicking Woman’s design, and she wears it in honor and memory of her grandfather. Her Blackfeet Dance style is a lesson in grace and dignity.

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Wasey Lamar,Jocy Bird, Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara/Dakota, Fancy Shawl. Like many dancers, Bird handcrafted her regalia. She is widely recognized across tribal communities—she was an ensemble dancer in the 2005 production, Spirit: The Seventh Fire, and is an influential and honored member of the pow wow community. She is a leader who will assure pow wow remains a strong part of the tribal community.

Jocy Bird, Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara/Dakota, Fancy Shawl. Like many dancers, Bird handcrafted her regalia. She is widely recognized across tribal communities—she was an ensemble dancer in the 2005 production, Spirit: The Seventh Fire, and is an influential and honored member of the pow wow community. She is a leader who will assure pow wow remains a strong part of the tribal community.

At pow wows and gatherings in the 1960s and 1970s Walter came to appreciate what he considers old style: calm deliberate movement, the graceful sway of shawl fringes, and the easy motion of rocker feathers. These days, Wasey sees the energetic athleticism of fancy and grass dancers contesting, regalia designed to catch the judge's eye, and jingle dancers lifting off the ground. Both male and female dancers are turning arenas into excitement of motion, vibrancy of color and the style of today. Walter tells his story of pow wow while Wasey tells his, both through Native eyes and the finely machined glass of their cameras.

Walter Lamar, a traditional lodge at North American Indian Days (Walter). Native American service in all branches of the military is widely recognized and honored. The flying of the Marine Corps flag atop this lodge identifies the resident as a proud Marine Corp Veteran.

A traditional lodge at North American Indian Days (Walter). Native American service in all branches of the military is widely recognized and honored. The flying of the Marine Corps flag atop this lodge identifies the resident as a proud Marine Corp Veteran.

Wasey Lamar, Jarid Yazzie, Navajo/Apache, Fancy Dance. Now 21 years-old, Yazzie he has been dancing since the age of five. He has danced all across the United States and Canada. Jarid’s family all dance in the Fancy style; his father and brother dance Men’s Fancy and his mother and sister both dance Fancy Shawl.

Jarid Yazzie, Navajo/Apache, Fancy Dance. Now 21 years-old, Yazzie has been dancing since the age of five. He has danced all across the United States and Canada. Jarid’s family all dance in the Fancy style; his father and brother dance Men’s Fancy and his mother and sister both dance Fancy Shawl.

Walter shoots with a Nikon D7100 and likes to shoot with two lenses that his father purchased in 1967, a 50mm and 24mm. The lenses are non-CPU, meaning they can’t communicate with the camera, requiring Walter to use all manual settings. “Looking through the same lenses as Dad,” he says, “is like seeing through his eye.”

Wasey shoots with a Canon 5D Mark iii and likes a 24-70 zoom at a 2.8 aperture setting. Like many of his generation, he gained photography technical expertise by watching hours and hours of online video. He credits his passion to his father and grandfather.

Both Walter and Wasey believe the only way to shoot pow wow is outdoors with natural light. The colors pop and natural shadows accentuate movement. When they shoot together there exists a fun father-son competitive interaction. They tease each other about settings and getting the shot. Walter likes to say, “Don’t worry son, if none of your shots turn out, you can use one of mine and we’ll say you took it.” Wasey just rolls his eyes and shoots away, showing one and all that he is a true photographer.