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Exhibit captures stories, spirit of Indigenous people in Pablo

Portraits on display at the Building Buffalo Gallery in Pablo are sharing the stories of Indigenous culture.
CSKT Photo Exhibit
Posted at 4:13 PM, Jun 07, 2024

PABLO — Over 20 years of portraits are being displayed at the Building Buffalo Gallery in Pablo. But there are more than just pictures on the walls — there are also stories of culture.

“This is the first time the work from both these places is going to be under one roof and the roof is in the community. So it's a big deal,” said photographer teacher David Spear.

Spear started the program in the early 2000s with a dark room and an idea.

“I realized how lopsided photography was in the context of a larger collection of photographs. So, what I didn't see there was representation by many people in many places because of one of the economic issues of photography is that you have to have money to buy cameras.

“He would just give us cameras, let us go out, do our thing. He just did whatever he could to pull resources and you know, seek funding -- small funding from different places,” said Rose Gurule who was one of Spear’s first students.

CSKT Photo
The gallery will be open on display at the Building Buffalo Gallery in Pablo until the end of August.

She says it’s bittersweet to look back on the work they’ve created together — photographing elders and loved ones and etching them into the collection forever.

“And one thing that's like near to me now is that a lot of those people have passed on and not only elders but also young people that you know, have been lost to the system,” Gurule told MTN.

Current photography student Katie Medicine Bull is showcasing her family and culture from the Flathead Reservation to a national stage.

“Honestly, it's changed my life. You know, I really didn't know what I wanted to do until I met David and I got into his program. And it's really given me a reason,” Medicine Bull said. “I found my path.”

In 2019 Medicine Bull’s photo of her sister, Lily Blossom, was selected to be featured in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Now Medicine Bull is traveling to New York where her work and classmates’ work will be displayed at Photoville.

CSKT Photo
Over 20 years of portraits are being displayed at the Building Buffalo Gallery in Pablo that share the stories of Indigenous culture.

“My work is out there, that was the moment that I kind of see myself as a photographer.”

Medicine Bull’s photography may have gotten her to New York, but the constant support from her family keeps her striving for more.

“To watch my daughter grow in the capacity that she has is to me has been such a beautiful thing to, to witness,” Katie’s mother, Tracey Medicine Bull said.

Through showcasing her work, Katie Medicine Bull is giving back to her people.

“I know she wants to use her platform to advocate for Indigenous communities as well as growing up on a reservation to create those paths for other Indigenous youth,” Tracey Medicine Bull said.

“I really want my work to branch out there just to spread awareness for Indigenous problems. Indigenous people can do it,” Katie Medicine Bull told MTN.

The Medicine Ball family is currently raising money for their trip to New York City. Click here if you would like to help out.

The gallery, which is located on the Salish Kootenai College campus, will be open until the end of August.