In the spring of 2015, 15-year-old Chelsea Spotted Eagle committed herself to attending prom at Browning High School on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. It was a decision she did not take lightly, given it was the first time she would wear a dress in public.

Chelsea is transgender.  After an incident in which she was harassed and chased through her neighborhood, her parents were left nervous and zealously protective. She is kept strictly at home when not in school, and her friends have gotten use to coming to her if they wish to hang out. Her first prom represented not only a chance at public self-expression, but also an opportunity for social independence she rarely gets to experience.

Her story is part of a larger project on LGBTQ life on Native American reservations.  To identity as transgender can be challenging in the most progressive of communities, even as the word becomes more familiar to the ears of many Americans. On the Blackfeet Reservation, as in many rural communities, there remains a serious lack of resources for the LGBTQ community.

“I want him to get out there in the world, to be free.  And not to feel like he’s trapped,”  said her mother, Lydia Spotted Eagle, who still sometimes uses the pronouns of the son she gave birth to.  “Not just because he’s transgender, but because he’s a Native American on a reservation.  And around here we know there’s not a whole lot for our kids.”

 

The teal waters of the Elk River meander roughly 140 miles through the mountainous southeast corner of British Columbia before they cross the international border into Montana.  For decades, the area has been lauded as one of the continent’s most fruitful ecosystems for fly fishing. The river also happens to drain Canada’s most productive coal country.

In 2013, a pair of American scientists published a study that confirmed the Elk is more polluted than had been previously assumed. The river contains high levels of selenium, a poorly understood byproduct of mine waste rock. A naturally-occurring mineral, selenium is actually needed in tiny amounts to support healthy metabolism in animals. But mining and other industrial practices can cause it to accumulate to dangerously high levels in the environment, causing physical deformities and population crashes in fish and aquatic birds.

This past summer, the EPA tightened its standard regulation for the mineral in U.S. waters to reflect science’s evolving understanding of its potential damage.  At the same time, British Columbia has granted permits to expand four out of the five coal mines nestled along the Elk River, setting the stage for more waste rock and more selenium in Canadian and U.S. waters.

As the U.S. government takes steps toward stricter pollution controls and Montana conducts its own selenium research on Lake Koocanusa, the transboundary reservoir into which the Elk River feeds, some on the Canadian side who call the Elk Valley home are left feeling forgotten. Paul Samycia owns Elk River Guiding Company and is one of a handful of fly fishing outfitters in the small town of Fernie, British Columbia.  Though he appreciates the water treatment facility erected by Teck Coal, owner of the five mines, and he has faith that the U.S. will eventually pressure his own province into further protective action, he can’t help but feel like a low priority.  

“All the baselines and all the targets seem to be: What is the level of selenium crossing the border?” he said on a pebbled bank of the Elk last spring.  “Why aren’t we concerned about the levels of selenium in the river right here, flowing by my house or by my business or through my town?”

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A short film on finding fulfillment after retirement, this profile follows farm caretaker Greg Butts. Produced during NPPA's intensive Multimedia Immersion. 

Teaster trailer for a larger project on the Kinabatangan River.   Meandering 350 miles through northern Borneo, it's the second longest river in Malaysia.  Known for its remarkable and unique ecological habitats, the "Father of Rivers" is home to extraordinary wildlife, the orangutan being the largest celebrity in the bunch.

On its lush banks sits Sukau, a village that is taking measures to counter the lure of palm oil production, Malaysia’s fourth largest industry. Expanding palm plantations often occur at the expense of biodiversity as rainforests are razed to the ground and replaced with massive monocultured plantations.

Local biologists and environmental groups in the small town have helped create economically viable measures to connect severely fragmented forests, securing safe passage for the density of wildlife the area is so well-known for.  Residents have begun to invest in tree nurseries, the young saplings used to reforest these “corridors of life,” which are established with the well-paid labor of locals.  In a region where demand for wildlife tourism is on the rise, this alternative to small-scale palm production for locals is showing potential to be an effective model for change.

A short multimedia profile on Dick Padgett, a veteran pilot who now spends his retirement flying glider planes for tourists and his own enjoyment. Produced during the Eddie Adams Workshop. 

Commissioned by Eagle Street Rooftop Gardens in Brooklyn, NY for their Growing Chefs project.  A collaborative project done with fellow members of the mixed media collective, Goddamn Cobras.