Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lakota - Prisoners of War?

Interesting TED talk by photographer Aaron Huey on the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation in South Dakota which he likens to a prisoner of war camp.

I've been to Pine Ridge and the surrounding area.  The poverty is evident (as it is on all Indian reservations I've been through) and disturbing (drive through Whiteclay, Nebraska sometime, a mile south of the town of Pine Ridge.  The only business in this town of a dozen or so people are four liquor stores with walk-up windows that sell booze to alcoholic Indians who stumble over from Pine Ridge).  It's like visiting a 3rd world country and I didn't really feel safe there by myself.

I also have a good memory of attending a pow-wow dance in Pine Ridge.  It was a community thing, not a show for the public, in honor of Father's Day and Lakota veterans.  People were friendly and a couple of kids asked where I was from and looked amazed when I said New York.  Earlier that day I drove by the Wounded Knee massacre site and had hiked in the beautiful but desolate Badlands within the reservation (Stronghold Unit) and saw numerous Oligocene mammal teeth and bones (geologists get excited about such things!).

It's a place of stunning contrasts.

While the Black Hills were stolen from the Lakota I can't ever imagine the area being returned and I have a hard time imagining how the Lakota can ever claw their way, as a people, out of their crushing poverty on the reservation.  It's sad and depressing.

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