PINE RIDGE (NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE)
From the postscript to my book Mitakuye Oyasin:
Aho, Mitakuye Oyasin.
On December 29th, 1890, the U.S. 7th Cavalry surrounded a Sioux encampment at Wounded Knee Creek in South dakota and massacred Chief Spotted Elk and 300 prisoners of war. For the so-called “battle,” twenty Congressional Medals of honor for valor were awarded—more than for any battle in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.
The Wounded knee massacre was considered the end of the Indian wars.
Today the Oglala Lakota live in the shadow of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
I started photographing on Pine Ride in 2005 as part of a story about poverty in America. In the beginning, it was all just statistics: a 90% unemployment rate, a 70% school dropout rate, and a male life expectancy of 47 years (roughly the same as Afghanistan and Somalia).
Over time, it became clear to me that these statistics came from a deep historical wound. And then my photographs of Pine Ridge became a story about a prisoner of war camp, a story about genocide, a story about stolen lands.
Seven years after beginning this project, the story and my relationships on the Reservation are more complex than ever. The story has evolved to be about my family, about the people who call me brother and nephew and uncle.
I have stumbled into something sacred on Pine Ridge. It took my eyes a long time to see that, but my heart knew it right away. I don’t know which part was the ceremony. I think, maybe, it was the whole thing.
You are, All my Relations.
MY TED TALK breaks the history down even more: