Jaida Grey Eagle

Oglala Lakota

Born 1987, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota

Jaida Grey Eagle is an Oglala Lakota artist, currently located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Jaida is a photojournalist, producer, beadwork artist, and writer. She is a Report for America Fellow with the Sahan Journal covering communities of color in and around the Twin Cities. She is also researching Indigenous photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts as an ongoing former Curatorial Fellow.

Five days before starting full-time as a photojournalist in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis Police. A few months already into the Covid-19 pandemic this has been a year unlike any other, let alone one to photograph. Immediately after the killing of George Floyd, I remember watching the fires and teargas from my backyard in Frogtown, knowing I’d be starting as a photojournalist within the next few days, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. But I felt such a weight of responsibility on my shoulders. Throughout the year a large part of my photo documentation has been protests. What brings the community together during a time of unprecedented events—and unprecedented dangers? What brings us together in a time when we are told to isolate? The protests I’ve documented range from collective grief over the loss of Black men killed by police to missing and murdered Indigenous women. While COVID cancelled events, concerts, festivals, and sports, the protests and injustices continued. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with cyanotypes as a way to reground my work both figuratively and creatively. As an Indigenous woman I am always thinking of my own roots and the land I live upon (Oceti Sakowin/Dakota and Anishinaabe) and the ways in which that informs my work. With cyanotypes I use a digital negative with plant and flower silhouettes exposed into the overall composition to define the space in which we all occupy and as a reminder of where we are. The negative space the plants defined within the compositions is to remind us of the Indigenous land we stand upon while standing up. A few weekends ago I was trying to leave my house to cover an event but couldn't due to a march for Daunte Wright happening down my street. Instead of trying to leave I followed the march and witnessed my neighbors come out to their porches and witness. I picked flowers from my yard and used their silhouette in this image to root it near my home in multiple ways. I think we often forget that so many of us live here, and although yes, "The whole world is watching", so are we, every day.