Thursday, July 7, 2011

Aaron Huey: The Black Hills Are Not For Sale


Almost 100 years ago, Edward S. Curtis photographed the Native American people as a proud and noble nation, mindful of their tradition despite the encroachment of European settlers. Today, the story is a bit more complicated as the increasing Americanization of their people has had vastly different results. One of the more regretful stories is the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as presented in photojournalist Aaron Huey's powerful photo essay.



Aaron Huey is a freelance photographer, having worked in Haiti, Afghanistan, Yemen and many other places for The New Yorker, The National Geographic and the New York Times to name a few. Before his groundbreaking work on the Lakota and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, his biggest project was his solo walk across the US which took him 154 days back in 2002.



In 2010, Huey presented a TED Talk on America's native prisoners of war; his talk was about the Lakota people and how the rest of America seemed to have forgotten about this old community.

The Lakota are a Native American tribe and are part of the Sioux Nation, being the original settlers of North and South Dakota. Today, about half of the approximately 100,000 Lakota now live in different reservations in these regions and in the surrounding states.



Huey's visit to Pine Ridge was originally supposed to be part of a larger series on poverty and gang violence in America, but he was so taken by the people and the place that he stayed on, never having finished his original assignment.

The place was designated as Prisoner of War Camp #344 during the American Indian Wars, and although it is now known as Pine Ridge, it still feels like a prison camp in many ways. The reservation is considered ground zero for Native American Indian issues as it was the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre which resulted in the deaths of over 150 men, women and children against a heavily armed US army.



The Wounded Knee massacre is not only horrific in nature, it is also symbolic of how the US government disregarded the Native American's rights and treaties in favor of their own interests. That kind of apathy is still present today and the resulting circumstance of the Lakota is the focus of Huey's work.

In Pine Ridge in particular, the worst of all possible cases is present; more than 90% of residents are below the poverty line in America, around 80 to 90% are unemployed, 70% of children drop out of school, and the life expectancy of men is 46 to 48 years of age which is on par with Afghanistan and Somalia. One would think that these figures wouldn't exist in the US, but somehow the government has continued to ignore these people.

Even when the US Supreme Court awarded a $122 million settlement to the Sioux Nation for the treaties the US government breached in taking the Sioux's land, they missed the point; the Lakota rejected the settlement saying that "The Black Hills are not for sale."



 
Instead of simply concluding this  project and putting it on the shelf, Huey wants to increase awareness of this situation across America. While other photographers and artists would be content with an exhibition of their works, Huey opts to work at the grassroots level, tapping the talents of artists Ernesto Yerena and Shepard Fairey to help propagate the information and images he's gathered on the Lakota.

You can help by simply learning more about Aaron Huey's Pine Ridge photo essay here. His TED talk is still online and is a powerful introduction into the subject. The Honor the Treaties website is the natural culmination of Huey's work for the past six years and offers more information on the past and present of the Sioux Nation.

27 comments:

iNews said...

Interesting post, thank you!
Have a nice day.

MRanthrope said...

aside from seeing Native Americans rocking Tupac and NWA shirts, this post was all sorts of sad/depressing. Great photos....a little too great though. Poor bastards.

The Angry Lurker said...

Some very sad pictures there but very poignant.

Guy Movie Blogger said...

This is heartbreaking stuff. In my opinion the most shameful episode in our history as a nation alongside slavery.

VersionDouble said...

such a good story, aswell as powerful photographs.

movie68 said...

Some powerful work, will check out his site.

Jon Dujaka said...

I really feel sorry for them, but I got to admit, I lol'd at that girl bathing in the kitchen sink.

Bart said...

i want a horse, probably cheaper than a car

D4 said...

I will look at the TED right now.

AllenTesch said...

Have you ever seen the Val Kilmer movie Thunderheart? I think that takes place in Pine Ridge.

T. Roger Thomas said...

Great photos and a well told story!

Wintermute said...

these seem more real, and the story was very interesting however rather sad.

StigmataHandjob said...

Same thing everywhere. Indigenous peoples are the world's most unfortunate people. I did the research for my master thesis with an indigenous tribe in Borneo, it was digsgusting to see how they were treated.

Great, and very important, post.

Necroticism said...

The kid shooting with the stick, it's awesome.

Shutterbug said...

Very powerful images!

Major.Mack said...

Sad :(
good post

Pieter said...

The kid in the middle of the plastic is really quite a sad picture. Powerful, but sad.

msmariah said...

Powerful, but sad. It's absolutely tragic what colonization, alcholism, and poverty have done to the native peoples.

Mr. Cactus said...

The 7th one down with the fancy dancers is my favorite.

Electric Addict said...

quite a sad story

Dale said...

Some of these pics are so heartbreaking and the statistics are so sad to think about. This is definitely an eyeopening post. I've heard a lot about the Black Hills because my grandpa was from North Dakota and he used to make Black Hills gold jewelry when he lived there. I feel bad for these families living in such poverty.
Nice post, Hope you had a good 4th of July -Dale

Sub-Radar-Mike said...

Great stuff! Will definitely follow you for future updates!

ed said...

interesting history, i have never met a n.a. in my life

Generally Disgruntled said...

It's tragic how marginalized and disregarded Native Americans have been, even to this day. The worst, poorest, most violent, and addicted places in the country aren't in the inner cities, they're in the rezs. In my home state, our native american population is "better off" than those in other states, but the county with the highest unemployment rate and poverty rate is also the county with the highest population of native americans.

Magixx said...

awesome image, keep it up!

Jaccstev said...

Inspiring photos and post.

Anonymous said...

I live in portugal and always have seen the western movies like an exploration of the native american people, show them as a savage nation and not a free nation. please don`t give up figth for your rights with no guns, but fight don`t let the system destroyed you. the net is a good way to show you to the world.
joao viola portugal

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