From photojournalist/activist Aaron Huey:
"They made us many promises, more than I can remember. But they kept but one - They promised to take our land...and they took it." â€¨- Chief Red Cloud
Over the past seven years I have made many stories, but one project has come to own me. It is the story of the Oglala Lakota, who live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation near South Dakota's Black Hills. The reservation is sometimes referred to as Prisoner of War Camp Number 344. If you have ever heard of the Wounded Knee Massacre, the American Indian Movement (AIM), Leonard Peltier, or the stand-off at Oglala, then you know that Pine Ridge is ground zero for Native issues in the U.S.
In 2010, after years of superficial journalism and disappointing magazine stories I decided that I had to do something more. The magazines weren’t doing enough, and they would never let me do it through them. They weren’t representing the [Oglala people] well enough; they couldn’t say the things that needed to be said, and they couldn’t choose a side. But I did not have those restrictions.
In the summer of 2010 I chose a side. Using the TED.com stage I made my choice clear by ending my talk with these words: "Give back the Black Hills. It's not your business what they do with them."
And from TED it began to grow, snowballing until it landed on the doorstep of National Geographic magazine. Last summer National Geographic published my Pine Ridge work and the real story of the Oglala Lakota as a 38-page cover feature.
Since defining my vision two years ago, I have been working to tell the world a story that does not fit into the pages of most magazines. One of the greatest outlets for this has been my collaboration with Ernesto Yerena (an Activist/Artist working primarily on border and immigration issues) and with Shepard Fairey, the most prolific street artist in America. Together we have taken my photographs of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the message of the Oglala Lakota to the streets of America.
On January 31, Aaron will speak at the Iris Lecture Nights on the evolution of the Pine Ridge story from journalism to activism.