Photographs by Aaron Huey.
Radius Books, 2013. 208 pp., 134 color illustrations, 9x12½".
In this powerful new book of photographs, Aaron Huey portrays both the broken social landscape
and the ceremonial warrior culture of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This body of work goes
far beyond the obvious poverty and into the world of the tribe’s visions and dreams. It is a witness
to both the dark and the light, and is intentionally presented as more of a prayer or poem than
documentary. The book begins and ends with a traditional Lakota prayer, suggesting that the
intervening images may be analogous to a transformative ceremonial experience.
The Pine Ridge Reservation, located 75 miles south east of the Black Hills in South Dakota, is
sometimes referred to as Prisoner of War Camp #344, and is now the home of the Oglala Lakota.
Sadly, Pine Ridge is now the quintessential example of the failure of the U.S. reservation system
imposed upon the Lakota and other tribes, with staggering statistics on everything from violent
crime to education. The unemployment rate is nearly 90% and the life expectancy for men is 48,
roughly the same as Afghanistan and Somalia.
Huey, a photographer who has covered war and crises in some of the most far-flung places on
the planet for magazines like the New Yorker and National Geographic, stumbled upon Pine
Ridge seven years ago. Since then he has created one of the single largest bodies of work on a
contemporary Indian Reservation. His color photographs stand as a testament to the incredible
difficulties facing the tribe and the reparations yet to be made to them, but also to the strength
and beauty of their spirit, which shines through all of the darkness.
Read David Ondrik's review of Mitakuye Oyasin on photo-eye Blog.
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