“The Black Hills Are Not For Sale.” A statement that many have heard, seen on fliers, buttons and bumper stickers, promoting action that protects the mountain range in western South Dakota that many Plains tribes consider sacred.
This is also the theme for the Black Hills Unity Concert, a gathering held in the Black Hills that brings people from all walks of life together to address the social and political issues affecting indigenous communities today, including educating the public on the Black Hills Initiative, as well as discussing the Keystone XL Pipeline, Uranium mining in the Black Hills, Protect Oak Flat and the current youth suicide epidemic plaguing many reservations, just to name a few.
Native and Non-native artists, speakers, story tellers, musicians, poets, rappers and spectators from all over the country came out in support that the Black Hills have always and will always belong to the Great Sioux Nation. Among those were the performances of Frank Waln, Supaman, Scatter Their Own, Keith Secola, Earth Guardians, Ulali, Nahko Bear and more. 2014 being the first time the event took place, it drew a crowd of several thousand people to the venue, which is located at the Elk Creek Resort in Piedmont, SD off of I-90 on August 28-30th.
I had attended on Saturday, and this being my first year going, I was excited to see what the evening would bring. As soon as you entered the campground, you were greeted with the site of several tipis, each which served the purpose for discussion for the youth, women and men, as well as a 24-hour prayer tipi. There were also a couple of the traditional Pine-bough shades in front of the stage and many vendors set up to support and sell their artwork, clothing and goods.
As the sun went down below the hills and the dry August heat dissipated, more and more people arrived and we were able to witness old friends being greeted and new friendships being made. Many photos were taken, a new music video for the Earth Guardians was filmed and I did what I always do – observed with my camera in hand, of course.
It was a great time filled with powerful words, music and feelings. I had the chance to see and meet some of the voices that stand up for all of us and do what is right, not only as Native people, but as human beings for the benefit of Unci Maka, grandmother Earth. There were also several celebrities in the crowd, some which didn’t want any photos taken and simply wanted to enjoy themselves.
Here are some of the photos from the event:
And you can also watch a short video here:
Learn more about the Black Hills Initiative and how you can help at www.theblackhillsarenotforsale.org
(All photos and film by Tara Rose Weston)
Tara Rose Weston is an Oglala Lakota photographer, videographer and blogger from the Pine Ridge Reservation. Keep up with her on Instagram @rwxse.