NPR: Muckleshoot Tribe lets youth tell the story

"Bob Charlo patiently hands out disposable cameras to his summer photography class. Little fingers scramble at the plastic packaging and wrestle to open them. Giggles and smiles are everywhere.

SOUND: Unwrapping plastic sound, laughing

These are film cameras not digital. The expense of a class like this is only possible lately at the Muckleshoot Reservation. The tribe is doing well now thanks to a casino near Seattle and Tacoma. Just in the last seven years the tribe has built: A new school, a county library, a health and wellness center and a tribal college. The unemployment rate has gone down, but poverty is still a problem.

Charlo is leading this class because he's a professional photographer himself and a member of the Kalispel tribe north of Spokane.

Bob Charlo: "Does anybody know what composition is? When you draw something what do you do?"

Charlo tries to teach the students one principle of photography per class. After each session they get a new camera to take the lessons into the field. Sometimes it's hard to know if the children listen to his explanations of proper composition and using the flash. But he knows they're focused when he develops the film.

Bob Charlo: "Sometimes I am just blown away by some of their imagery. But these pictures that they come back with, the little snippets of their world, of their activities, their adventures - I think that is what is really neat."

Get the Story:
Learning Through the Lens: Tribal Children Explore Their World (National Public Radio 8/6)