National Geographic gave 15 Apsáalooke youth from the Crow Native American Reservation in Montana the chance to learn photography and writing during National Geographic Photo Camp from June 8-12. The five-day camp, a partnership between the National Geographic Society and the Crow Tribe, brought together photographers, editors and researchers with the reservation’s young people to discuss the role visual storytelling can play in preserving the tribe’s cultural heritage. The students’ work was then displayed in a public exhibition at Little Big Horn Community College. 21st Century Fox expanded its partnership with the National Geographic Society in fall 2015 to create National Geographic Partners, with 27% of all proceeds going toward the Society’s grant-making pursuits.
“National Geographic believes in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world. We have found that Photo Camp inspires a new generation of storytellers as well as the members of the community who view their work,” said Kaitlin Yarnall, National Geographic Society’s Deputy Director of the Centers of Excellence. “Photo Camp Montana will provide the Apsáalooke youth with a creative outlet to share their unique perspectives and an opportunity to engage with National Geographic in new ways.”
National Geographic Photo Camp was launched in 2003 to help give youth a voice and inspire them to explore their communities through photography. The program has provided learning opportunities and photography equipment to more than 1,500 young people in 70 locations around the world, and the camp in Montana had a special focus on using photography to preserve the history and heritage of the Crow Tribe’s clan system, which facilitates cooperation among large numbers of people. Adrien Brien, a Crow anthropologist based at the University of Montana, taught the students about the roles and responsibilities of the Crow clan system, as well as its decline in recent years.
“The clan system is something that was given to us to keep us socially and spiritually alive,” Brien told the students. “It creates respect between people. It’s a kinship system… It needs to be an everyday thing, but we don’t teach that anymore.”
On the final day of the camp, students shot personal portraits of some of the people inhabiting their town and asked them their Crow names and clan.
“They have a voice that people want to hear,” said Stacy Gold, National Geographic Creative Editor. “We’re trying to empower them to share that voice.”