Dawn E. LeBeau, an independent photographer, is Itazipčola Oóhenunpa (without bows and two kettle) of the Tetonwan Oyáte Lakota (People of the Prairie). She currently resides on the Wakpá Wašté Lakota Makoc’e (Cheyenne River Lakota Lands) with her two beautiful wakanyeja (children), promoting Lakota wellness, gardening, Lakota language and Lakota kinship values.
LeBeau was introduced to photography when she was given her first Nikon camera while working on a tribal youth project in 1996. She is inspired by portrait, landscape and documentary photography. She studied the Lakota language in college and interviewed a Lakota language professor about the importance of learning the language. That experience, at the beginning of her adult life, has shaped her trajectory forward. Her community shares her passion for revitalizing the language and participate as subjects in her work.
With the LIFT award, LeBeau will complete the Lakota Language Speaker project, which celebrates and preserves Lakota culture by honoring every single fluent Lakota language speaker on the Cheyenne River Nation in a series of photograph portraits and video interviews. The photographs will first be presented as an outdoor exhibition printed on large banners that wave in the South Dakota wind. A QR code on each image will lead viewers to the videos, which they can watch on the spot and revisit at home.
It is essential for Indigenous people to have balance and to bring dialogue and diversity to the forefront of conversations across Turtle Island and Unči Maka (mother earth).
—Dawn E. LeBeau (Oóhenunpa Itázipčo – Cheyenne River Lakota Nation)