2015 – Emerging Artist – Morgan Rachel Levy

Morgan Rachel Levy “As Soft As The Earth Is”

In the 1940s the U.S. government forcibly relocated the affiliated Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes to construct the Garrison Dam. It was an area the tribes occupied for centuries. In a matter of years the land was flooded and the tribes’ ancestral home vanished under water. In February and August 2015 I traveled to the Ft. Berthold Reservationwhere the M.H.A. Nation now resides, to photograph the fracking industry’s impact on the community. My ambition was to create images that represent the rippling effects of history and industry on this one community in North Dakota.  Conversations with residents made clear that while fracking is destructive and disruptive, decades of disenfranchisement by the government had already traumatized them. As one community member remarked, “the tribe’s been through so many involuntary transitions, we’ve barely been able to get stabilized before another jolt hits.”  Undeniably fracking has benefited N.D’s economy. And perversely but justly the tribes receive money for enduring this acute disturbance. Most residents recognize fracking as an unstoppable force and try to move forward by advocating for tighter regulations. But in November 2014, the New York Times reported that from 20062014 more than 18 million gallons of oil and toxic waste water were spilled in N.D. Roads once hardly traveled are now trafficked constantly by trucks and are littered with detritus truckers toss out their windows.  Ranchers and farmers have witnessed a negative impact on the health of their crops and animals due to spills, traffic, and construction. Because of the historical tendency to make invisible the sufferings of indigenous communities I was compelled to create pictures in this challenging landscape.