Devils Tower, USA – 2020
There is wide recognition now that Christopher Columbus did not discover America in 1492 and the events in Minneapolis have accelerated the debate on the possibility of institutionalised racism in the teaching of American history. This is not a discussion with which we want to fully engage, as we are ill equipped to add value, but I do want to celebrate some of the tribal elders I have had the fortune to encounter in the last month. Their pride, manners, grace and humility have been humbling. We have made new friends in the North.
The senior Elder of the fabled Lakota tribe is Chief John Spotted Tail. We spent two days with him in Northern Wyoming and he was so excited to wear the headpiece that only the most senior Native American chiefs like him can wear. His attire was emphatically his decision not ours. Their heritage is integral to their souls.
The ground in front of Devils Tower has film history. It is, of course, where Spielberg shot Close Encounters of a Third Kind immediately after the release of Jaws in 1975. More poignantly, it is sacred land for Native Americans, and at dawn, before our early morning shoot, John and his wife - Tamara Stands and Looks Back, spent some time there praying.
At around 8.30 am, the low hanging clouds lifted above the iconic geographical landmark and shafts of light lit up our canvas. We had our moment. Later that day, when I showed Chief John Spotted Tail this image, he shed a tear and I am proud to admit I did too. It was one of the most privileged days I have ever had in the field.