I took the following pictures of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation during a road trip across the western U.S. in 2009. I often struggle with my desire to take photographs, to so openly document the things I see; many of the photos below are blurry because they were taken quickly, often from a moving car. I did not want to appear to be what I was: a privileged white tourist merely on her way through one of the poorest spots in America.
I didn’t share this simply to depress you, or throw you into a fit of guilt–though, for me, that often comes with the territory. Here’s what I do with this information:
I’ve bought books online and had them sent to a school on the reservation through the Friends of Pine Ridge.
The Friends web site has other ideas–if you’re a teacher, you could teach there. If you’re a doctor, you could offer free clinics. If you’re a business owner, you could do business with them. Or you could do something as simple as donate your coupons.
I’ve read these statistics in many places; for this post, I referenced: http://www.re-member.org/pine_ridge_reservation.aspx
Jessica Null Vealitzek is the author of the coming-of-age novel The Rooms Are Filled. She contributes to PDXX Collective and Great New Books, and blogs at True STORIES.
Find her online at www.jessicavealitzek.com
I’ve been there. It is sad. The Cheyenne River reservation just a few hours north is just as bad. I have some friends who started a school there to give the kids a better education than they were getting at the public school. It’s Windswept Academy. You should drive up that way the next time you’re out there. Their website is http://www.windsweptacademy.org
I’ll be using it and sending it to my friends. It’s something everyone should know, and I don’t think it’s depressing. I think letting kids watch too much television and play too many video games is depressing.
Thanks for your story. I did pass through The reservation a few days back. The sign at wounded knee has been replaced by a new one, but pine ridge and the other settlements were just as depressing. The handful of natives I had the chance to talk to were friendly, but only interested in my money. Shame. Thank you for your links. Although I am not American, I feel utterly ashamed about how these people are treated and their culture left to rot. So I want to help, and the links mentioned are a good start.