I first came across the sad red earth last year. It is an extraordinary project put together by writer A Jay Adler and photographer Julia Dean to catalogue contemporary Native American culture. It’s been my pleasure to be in sporadic contact with Jay, and have always been impressed by his vision and commitment. He and Julia bring academic rigor and artistic integrity to a project for which they have an incredible passion. There are many many such projects, and I am constantly amazed at what’s being done not to preserve and catalogue dying cultures with sad resignation, but to catalogue living cultures, and to fight for their ongoing, evolving survival, and raise awareness not just of culture as a set of documents and images, but as a breathing thing that lives in and beyond them.
Here, Professor Adler talks about their work. Please go and take a look around this truly extraordinary site.
sad red earth has evolved in many directions, but the blog’s origin, and a sustaining purpose, was in documenting the lives of American Indians today. Julia Dean and I hit the road in our motor home for a year of travel across the United States, our purpose to document in word and image what people shared with us about how varied Native American Tribes and communities live today in the long aftermath of conquest. We visited reservation and non-reservation based communities, some “only” a century old, others over four-hundred years after conquest. We met with urban dwelling Indians and we interviewed educational, Tribal, and organizational leaders. Though our year on the road has ended, our work, far from complete, continues. Our next mission is to investigate a major urban story, the transplanted lives of American Indians in Los Angeles, the city in which we live. Our ultimate goal is a documentary book of photography and largely Indian testimony of life today, a book tentatively titled Native Now: the Lives of Native Americans in the Twenty-First Century.