This interesting series of environmental portraits was selected as a finalist in the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2016 . Discover more inspiring work from all the 39 winners, finalists and Jurors’ picks.
In 2006, Montana gave permission to the Nez Perce of Idaho and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes of northwest Montana to hunt buffalo (American bison) on federal lands outside the border of Yellowstone National Park.
During winter months, buffalo migrate to lower elevations outside the park in search of food. The tribes’ 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty with the federal government grants them the right to hunt on traditional hunting grounds that are now public land, such as the Gallatin National Forest bordering the park. The interpretation of these treaty rights has been caught up in complicated litigation since the 1980s. Additionally, the Cayuse, Walla Walla and Umatilla tribes of Washington, and the Shoshone-Bannock of Idaho also have recognized hunting rights today.
My current series of photographs focuses on a small group of “primitive skills practitioners” who attend the annual hunt to scavenge animal meat and other animal products left behind by Native American hunters. After offering assistance to hunters by field dressing, skinning, quartering and carrying off buffalo to vehicles for transportation, any meat scraps left behind are canned or packaged, fat is rendered and placed in jars, hides are tanned and bones are used to make primitive tools and ornamental objects.
These individuals see themselves as a neutral party to the often controversial polemic around the hunt and management of Yellowstone buffalo and aim to make use of what would otherwise be left behind.