Our names are Carlotta Cardana (images) and Danielle SeeWalker (words). Carlotta is Italian and currently resides in London, while Danielle is an enrolled tribal member of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and lives in upstate South Carolina.
We are two girls living continents apart. Most people wonder how we know each other and became friends.
Let’s start from the very beginning.
The year was 1998 and the place was Fremont, Nebraska; Danielle was uprooting there from North Dakota about to begin her sophomore year in high school and Carlotta was about to embark on a new adventure as a foreign exchange student from Italy.
We were both new in town and neither of us knew anyone. We met in drama class – a class that we both grew to love so much and where much of our bonding happened. We were drawn to each others’ creative awkwardness. By ‘awkwardness’ we mean that we didn’t fit in with the typical Midwestern teenage scene. We traded notes in the hall coded in an ancient alphabet, weren’t shy to come to school barefoot with blue hair (which in those days was ‘weird’) and we wore nothing but vintage thrift shop clothes. Somehow, we both kind of knew we were going to be life-long friends.
That year was an adventurous one that went by too fast; we became best friends and were inseparable. When Carlotta’s time was up and had to go back to Italy, it was probably one of the saddest days; but Danielle managed to book a ticket to Italy that summer for her first-ever visit to Europe.
Fast forward 15 years later, our trips back and forth are still going on. In July of 2013, we met up in London to hang out. At this point in time, Carlotta had been working professionally as a photographer for a few years and Danielle was working in “corporate America” on the East coast. Over a casual glass of wine in a centuries-old wine cellar, we were dreaming (like usual) of how we wanted to combine our two creative minds into a collaborative project together. Our conversations evolved into a focus on the American Indian culture.
Carlotta had always been fascinated by the culture and recently read an article about the Wounded Knee Land being up for sale. This article sparked ideas about doing a story featuring all the positive stories Danielle had always told her about. It seemed that the only stories being told in mainstream media focused on the negative issues in Indian country rather than the richness and beauty that often stay unmentioned.
We decided it was now or never. We had to stop talking about it and start acting on it. The inspiring stories of Native American people had to be told.
That same night, with no actual plan, we booked plane tickets to meet in Danielle’s home state of North Dakota just two months later. And this is how our journey of the Red Road Project began.