My name is Zig Jackson. Rising Buffalo is my Indian name. I am of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara descent and was raised on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota.
For as long as I can remember, art has been my passion. An integral part of my culture, art to me is innate. As a child, I remember playfully fighting with my brothers over government commodity boxes which we used to sketch on; commodities were U.S.-subsidized foods given to us by the government.
My primary education comes from the government Indian boarding school systems. It was at St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota that I initially received formal training in sketching and painting. For my secondary education, I went to the Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, Utah—where I first picked up a camera. There I gained an awareness of all Native American needs and problems—such as poverty, alcoholism, and suicide, realizing that all Indian people are confronted with the same obstacles. Until then, I had believed this to be true only of my own tribe.
Continuing on to college at Northeastern Oklahoma State, I earned a Bachelor's Degree in education. There I proceeded to build a solid foundation in art, studying from a Kiowa-Comanche painter—David Williams—and from Johnson Bobb, a Choctaw painter and jeweler. As well, under the tutelage of two Sauk and Fox Indians—Grace and Gail Thorpe, I learned sculpture and pottery.
Pursuing my interest in photography, I then went on to the University of New Mexico to study with Tom Barrow, Betty Hahn, Rod Lazorick, and Patrick Nagatani. During this time, I also taught photography at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, with Meridal Rubenstein--a nationally known photographer. In 1992, seeking an advanced degree in photography, I entered the San Francisco Art Institute, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts degree in May of 1994. The following year (January 1995-December 1995) I was awarded a Residency Fellowship at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California—where I continued exploring several recurrent themes in my work including cultural identity, representation, and appropriation.
In January 1997, I received a Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation Grant for excellence in the photographic arts, and a culminating exhibition, “Entering Zig’s Indian Reservation,” ran from October to mid November at the American Indian Contemporary Arts center in San Francisco. In 1999, I was awarded a National Millennium Survey Grant to participate in a group exhibition in the year 2000. I was both honored and gratified to learn, in early 2005, that I was the first Native American photographer collected by the Library of Congress, when 12 of my images were accessioned by its Prints and Photographs Division. Later that year, along with the Jonson Gallery of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, I received the first Beaumont Newhall Award for Photographic Excellence from the New Mexico Humanities Council. Currently, I am teaching photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and exhibiting my work at various venues throughout the country.