“When the lights go out for good, my people will still be here. We have our ancient ways. We will remain.” - Olowan Thunder Hawk Martinez
Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Not a place most people have heard about. It is certainly not a tourist destination; in fact, it is the poorest place in the nation with 97% of the population living below the poverty line and 85-90% unemployment. That is the reason, however, that Aaron Huey went there. On a self-assigned survey documenting poverty in the US, Pine Ridge was his first stop. It turned out to be his last, but the project was just getting started and has now gone on for seven years. Pine Ridge is an Indian Reservation for the Oglala Lakota tribe. It is steeped in problems – poverty, violence, drugs, alcoholism – but the core is much, much deeper than that and can be traced back over 150 years. A series of broken treaties, murder, massacres, and the greed of people has brought them to what they are today. As Huey says in his Ted Talk, “The last chapter in any successful genocide is the one in which the oppressor can remove their hands and say, ‘My God, what are these people doing to themselves? They’re killing each other. They’re killing themselves while we watch them die.’ This is how we came to own these United States. This is the legacy of manifest destiny.” The images he takes are difficult to look at, but they are important for us to face. In this time of political correctness and all of our talk of patriotism and the greatness of our country, it is important to stare head-on into the mistakes we have made. “I want people that see this story to think about our history,” Huey says, “and think about how we get what we have.” These images show us a people who lost everything, so that we could gain. If you have fifteen extra minutes today, I would encourage you to watch the Ted Talk at the end of the post. It will change how you see this great nation.
[via The Picture Show]