20 amazing Native American-themed photos by Native Viewpoint contributor Alex Hamer

“Photography for me is a way to connect to people and the places that I go.” – Alex Hamer

Alex Hamer and I go back about 15 years, and together, we have been on the frontlines of some of the most intense Indian Country stories. We both attended White House events, the most intense of protests related to the Keystone XL pipeline and much more.

As a former editor at Indian Country Today and now Native Viewpoint, Alex Hamer has submitted to me what I believe to be some of the most beautiful photography I have ever seen. I was proud to ask him to contribute to Native Viewpoint, as you will see below. I am sure you will enjoy them as much as I have. As Alex has told me, “I have about 100,000 images,” what you see is a fraction of a percentage of what he has contributed over the years.

I interviewed Alex about his thoughts on photography and found his words to be profound and insightful. It’s been great working with you all these years, my brother.

Nia:wen for everything you have captured for the world to see, Alex.

Vincent Schilling, editor and founder of Native Viewpoint.

Alex Hamer and Vincent Schilling in Washington D.C. (Note the small orange octagon badges we are wearing. They are White House Press Pool press accreditation passes in addition to our standard press badges.)

Photography by Alex Hamer, in his own words.

Photography, for me, is a way to connect to people and the places that I go. It has allowed me to help tell people’s stories, document historic events and meet incredible people.

Fabian Fontenelle, Zuni, Omaha Dancing at Ganondagans Music and Art Festival 2022 (Photo by Alex Hamer)

One such person in this set of photos is Sara Omi, who I photographed during Global Canoe in New York City in 2016. Sara is one of the Embera People of Panama, the first Indigenous woman lawyer from Panama, and she was named one of Forbes’s “100 Most Powerful Women of Central America.”

Sara Omi Embera Leader from Panama at Global Canoe in NYC 2016 (Photo by Alex Hamer)

The photo of the Social Smoke Dance is a personal favorite as it was taken on “The 32” in 2023. Which is the 32 acres that the Oneida Indian Nation reclaimed in 1974 after the Boylan Case decision. As a child, when my grandfather, Martin John, would take me to the 32, it was very different than it is now. The progress that has been made and the fact there is a place like the Sha:kowi Cultural Center to host these events isn’t lost on me. My uncle Lyman “Jake” John, who was integral to establishing the bingo hall at The 32 under outside pressure, would be impressed with how far things have come.

Smoke Dance Social at Oneida Indian Nation hosted by the Sha_Kowi Cultural Center (Photo by Alex Hamer)

Indigenous stories lend themselves to photography with a diverse culture, important messaging and beautiful people with a variety of stories to tell.

Levi Winnie, Seneca at Standing Rock 2016 (Photo by Alex Hamer)
Spirit Riders at Standing Rock 2016 (Photo by Alex Hamer)
Nathan Phillips, Omaha Singing at the Peoples Climate March 2017 (Photo by Alex Hamer)

Some are heartbreaking, and other times uplifting and empowering.

A Man Stands Along the Marching Route at Standing Rock with a U.S. Flag Drenched in Oil (Photo by Alex Hamer)
Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota, Olympian Gold Medalist Speaking at Standing Rock 2016 (Photo by Alex Hamer)

I would like people to see my work as a reflection of the aliveness of Native culture.

Onondaga Youth with the Original Hiawatha Belt at Onondaga Lake 2016 (Photo by Alex Hamer)
Jenn Wilt, Oneida During a Photo Shoot at Turning Stone Casino and Resort 2023 (Photo by Alex Hamer)
Jenn Wilt, Oneida During a Photo Shoot at Turning Stone Casino and Resort 2023 (Photo by Alex Hamer)

There are those who ride a skateboard to a protest; others dress in regalia, dance, honor traditions and move forward, fighting when needed, for the continuation and establishment of Indigenous rights.

An Indigenous Youth Ollies Down the Road at Standing Rock 2016 (Photo by Alex Hamer)
A Mohawk Woman Draped in the Hiawatha Flag at the Federal Building in Syracuse, NY, 2024 (Photo by Alex Hamer)
Paddlers Returning to Camp After Observing a Construction Site During the Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance (Photo by Alex Hamer)

My passion for photography lies in my curiosity for people, history and the equipment itself.

Rick Hill, Tuscarora Telling the Audience at the Treaty of Canandaigua Commemoration While Peter Jamison, Seneca Holds the Two Row Wampum 2023 (Photo by Alex Hamer)
Oren Lyons, Seneca, Speaking at the Ska’nonh Museum Opening in Syracuse, NY 2015 (Photo by Alex Hamer)
Monique Powless, Onondaga, Dancing At Cornell University’s Dragon Boat Festival 2022 (Photo by Alex Hamer)

Producing a photo in different conditions under different stressors is always a welcoming challenge. The Indigenous Youth Council Tipi is an example of this. Exhausted, dirty and tired, my companion and I made our way back to our site at Standing Rock. As I was making my way inside my tent 30 feet away, I looked up and saw the Milky Way and clouds moving in. I wanted, needed to sleep. Instead, I decided on one last photo before the clouds set in. I quickly set up as the settings I needed were already in my head. The photo I captured ended up at the Cayuga Museum of Art and History, then donated for a raffle to help a young woman who was bravely fighting cancer. 

Indigenous Youth Council Tipi at Standing Rock 2016 (Photo by Alex Hamer)

In the last decade of being a freelance photographer, I’ve had the honor to have my work shown at the Everson Museum, sold photos at the Fenimore Art Museum and currently have a photo of my friend Heath Hill, Oneida, on display at the Empire Plaza in Albany, NY.

Quinna Hambly, Tuscarora and Hickory Edwards Paddling the Cannon Ball River at Standing Rock 2016 (Photo by Alex Hamer)

My work has been shown in Vice News and Green America, and past clients have included The U.S. Small Business Administration, Oneida Indian Nation, and Ganondagan State Historic Site, as well as earning a White House Press Pass for the Tribal Nations Conference.

Braiding White Corn During the Annual Seneca White Corn Project Husking Bee 2023 (Photo by Alex Hamer)

When I’m not running around with my camera in hand, I usually hang out with my kids or try to get them to help me in the garden. 

My hope is that my drop in the bucket of life pushes the ripples of Love a little further.

I hope to see you out in the world smiling, Alex. 

Alex Hamer, a Oneida descendant, is a photojournalist at Onondaga Homelands in Syracuse, NY. He has covered events at Standing Rock, Washington D.C.’s Climate March and the Women’s March. Alex has also covered local environmental issues in central New York and cultural and historical gatherings. Alex’s photographs have been shown at the Everson Museum, the Cayuga Museum of History, and the Fenimore Museum. When not photographing events or people, Alex enjoys spending time with his family and tending to his garden. His website is alexhamerphoto.com. Follow him on Instagram: alexhamerphoto

See Alex Hamer’s related story here:

Wampum belts, snowsnakes and deer buttons at Ganondagan’s Native American Winter Games

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