Spirit Lake

Myrna Whiteshield, 47 and her boyfriend Richard Jackson, 46. at their friend's home where they currently reside. Myrna lost her own home 10 years ago to a fire accident and has been homeless ever since, living out of various households on the reservation. Photo  by Rena Effendi

Myrna Whiteshield, 47 and her boyfriend Richard Jackson, 46. at their friend’s home where they currently reside. Myrna lost her own home 10 years ago to a fire accident and has been homeless ever since, living out of various households on the reservation. Photo by Rena Effendi

Located in an isolated and economically languishing area of North Dakota, Spirit Lake is a Sioux Indian reservation home to some 6,200 inhabitants. Tribe members struggle with crippling social problems, among which are poverty and high unemployment rate, staggering at 39%, endemic alcoholism and poor nutrition. Medical conditions such as cirrhosis and diabetes are very common on Spirit Lake and mental health has deteriorated. Inordinate alcohol consumption, depression and neglect lead to abuse, death from overdose or accidents, and finally suicide with rates among the highest in America. But the most chilling statistic on Spirit Lake is this: for every 163 residents on the reservation, there is at least one registered sex offender and native children account for 30% of all child abuse cases in North Dakota. According to the tribe members, a vast majority of the child abuse crimes on the reservation, to this day, continue to be neglected by the law enforcement and remain unpunished. These facts are gruesome in Spirit Lake and while people struggle to protect their children from the horrors of abuse, the family union is strong. People persevere and even as they barely make their ends meet, they take care of their own children and those of their relatives. While in Spirit Lake I met Jada Longie, a 39-year-old single mother of two. Subsequently, I photographed her family of about 80 people – her parents, her many siblings and their children and children’s children. Headed by “mom and pop” Mary and Frank Lovejoy, the family elders, the portrait of this expanded Spirit Lake clan is a reflection of both the community’s soulful wounds and its healing with familial bonds.

check See Full Photo Essay

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s