viernes, 27 de julio de 2012

In the Shadow of Wounded Knee

After 150 years of broken promises, the Oglala Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota are nurturing their tribal customs, language, and beliefs. A rare, intimate portrait shows their resilience in the face of hardship.

By Alexandra Fuller
Photograph by Aaron Huey
 
Almost every historical atrocity has a geographically symbolic core, a place whose name conjures up the trauma of a whole people: Auschwitz, Robben Island, Nanjing. For the Oglala Lakota of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that place is a site near Wounded Knee Creek, 16 miles northeast of the town of Pine Ridge. From a distance the hill is unremarkable, another picturesque tree-spotted mound in the creased prairie. But here at the mass grave of all those who were killed on a winter morning more than a century ago, it’s easy to believe that certain energies—acts of tremendous violence and of transcendent love—hang in the air forever and possess a forever half-life.
Alex White Plume, a 60-year-old Oglala Lakota activist, lives with his family and extended family on a 2,000-acre ranch near Wounded Knee Creek. White Plume’s land is lovely beyond any singing, rolling out from sage-covered knolls to creeks bruised with late summer lushness. From certain aspects, you can see the Badlands, all sun-bleached spires and scoured pinnacles. And looking another way, you can see the horizon-crowning darkness of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

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Photograph by Aaron Huey
Teenagers disregard the threat of a summer storm in the town of Wounded Knee. On December 29, 1890, at least 146 Indians were killed by the U.S. Army near here. For the Sioux and other Native Americans, Wounded Knee remains a potent symbol—geographically and politically—of historic injustice.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Stanley Good Voice Elk, a heyoka, burns sage to ritually purify his surroundings. In Oglala spirituality, heyokas are recipients of sacred visions who employ clownish speech and behavior to provoke spiritual awareness and “keep balance,” says Good Voice Elk. Through his mask, he channels the power of an inherited spirit, which transforms him into Spider Respects Nothing.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Three-year-old C. J. Shot bathes among dishes. The Oglala concept of tiospaye—the unity of the extended family—means that homes are often overcrowded, especially with the severe housing shortage on the reservation. In 2008, when this photograph was made, 22 people lived in the three-bedroom house. “These houses aren't who we are,” says Oglala activist Alex White Plume.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Oglala youths hold an upside-down flag—an international symbol of distress and an act of defiance toward the U.S. government—at a rally to commemorate a 1975 shoot-out between American Indian Movement (AIM) activists and FBI agents. Two agents and one AIM member died; AIM's Leonard Peltier was jailed for life.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
In 2006 Oliver Red Cloud, now 94 years old, sits in the back of the pickup leading the annual Oglala Nation Pow Wow parade in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Alex White Plume stands amid the wild remains of his low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) hemp crop. In 1998 the Oglala Sioux tribal government passed an ordinance approving the cultivation of low-THC hemp on the Pine Ridge Reservation. But federal law overrides tribal law, and in 2000 White Plume's crop was destroyed by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Olowan Thunder Hawk Martinez cooks in the tepee where she lived for a time with her son, her two daughters, and various other young Oglala Lakota. Martinez is a leader in the local chapter of the Native Youth Movement, a small group dedicated to resistance. “We're fighting for our land, our people, and our way of life,” Martinez says.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
It's graduation day at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Nine of the school's students were among the thousand recipients of 2011 Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium scholarships.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Bareback riders Carey Rouillard (left) and Travis New Holy stop for a neighborly chat in Evergreen. Oglala have a traditional reverence for the horse, which they call sunka wakan, or sacred dog. Evergreen, one resident says, is “a good community. Everybody gets along. Neighbors help out neighbors.”


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Mitchell Crow plays with his dog on what remains of 28,000 pounds of donated used clothes near Loneman, South Dakota. Unclaimed, the rain-soaked handouts began to go moldy during the summer.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
A passenger barely has room for the journey home as a car is loaded with used clothing donated by a Colorado-based Native American charity. Contrary to popular myth, Native Americans do not automatically receive a monthly federal check and are not exempt from taxes. The Oglala Lakota and other Sioux tribes have refused a monetary settlement for the U.S.'s illegal seizure of the Black Hills, their spiritual home.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
A candlelight vigil is held to honor 15-year-old suicide victim Dusti Rose Jumping Eagle. The suicide rate for the Oglala on the reservation is more than three times as high as for the U.S. population as a whole. “No matter how young, they know about suicide on the reservation,” says Eileen Janis, a suicide prevention leader.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Possessing alcohol or being under its influence is illegal on the Pine Ridge Reservation. But in Whiteclay, Nebraska (population around a dozen), on the reservation boundary, four liquor stores sell some four million cans of potent malt liquor annually. Alcoholism afflicts eight out of ten Oglala families. The tribe has filed suit against beer distributors for knowingly making alcohol so readily available.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
A young man suffering from the effects of a neurological disease and alcoholism sleeps in the living room of his home, six miles from the nearest town. Since the photograph was made, in May 2011, the house has been condemned, and he and the other occupants have moved elsewhere.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Riders take a break during a day of activities to mark the 1876 defeat of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Lenny Jumping Eagle rides in a celebration of the defeat of Colonel Custer in the Battle of the Greasy Grass (the Battle of the Little Bighorn), June 25-26, 1876. Every year dozens of long-distance rides or horse races on and beyond the reservation commemorate great leaders, sacred lands, and historic events.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Participants in the 14th annual Crazy Horse Ride gather in Fort Robinson, Nebraska. The ride takes place early in June and ends four days and roughly 80 miles later on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior and among the most iconic of Native American leaders, was killed at Fort Robinson on September 5, 1877, while allegedly resisting arrest. A riderless horse goes with the group to carry his spirit back to his people in Pine Ridge. It is said that as Crazy Horse lay dying, his last words were, "When you see the Black Hills, if you can think of me."


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Spiritual Ways
After intense communication with the spirits, participants emerge from a steaming inipi, or purification (sweat) lodge. This ceremony was held by Rick Two Dogs, a medicine man descended from American Horse.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Spiritual Ways
With the reverence afforded a sacred being, Oglala men fell a specially chosen cottonwood tree and carry it to the center of a Sun Dance circle. Erected in the earth, the tree will become the focus of a days-long spiritual ceremony. Sun Dances and other traditional ceremonies have undergone a resurgence since the 1970s.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Spiritual Ways
A sacred tree decorated with prayer flags is raised in preparation for a Sun Dance ceremony. Rick Gray Grass says the Sun Dance is a way to give back "to the creator, to our ancestors, for a way of life and for all the help and guidance we ask for."


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Spiritual Ways
A woman prays beside a sacred Sun Dance tree after the ceremony has ended. During the Sun Dance a medicine man guides certain men in making a solemn offering. They are attached to the ropes by bone pegs piercing their chests or backs and must tear themselves free. The colorful ties on the tree contain tobacco and other offerings and represent prayers for the people and for all of creation.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Nine-year-old Wakinyan Two Bulls places prayer flags in a tree near Mato Tipila (“bear lodge”), or Devils Tower, in Wyoming. The story of the Oglala—their spirituality and their fight to remedy old wrongs—goes well beyond the Pine Ridge Reservation.


Photograph by Aaron Huey
Spiritual Ways
Scars on Lyle LeBeaux's chest are from sacred piercings during Sun Dance ceremonies. Le Beaux belongs to the Thunder Valley community, a group of traditional-minded Oglala Lakota who live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
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