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Can photos tell the full story? Watch 'Honor The Treaties': A documentary film about Aaron Huey

By dpreview staff on Aug 7, 2012 at 21:32 GMT

American photographer Aaron Huey has recieved some tough assignments over the years, covering the drug war in Afghanistan for The New York Times and The New Yorker, as well as the assasination of Benazir Bhutto - also for The New Yorker. But one project in particular, 'Poverty in America', has provided Aaron with a different perspective on his role as a photojournalist, and has ended up spawning a number of related art, film, and audio projects since he started work on it in 2005. 

Huey's original goal when planning the 'Poverty In America' project was to travel across the country shooting a broad range of poor communities. But after visiting the first location, The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, he abandoned the project as it was originally conceived, to focus solely on Pine Ridge.

Aaron would end up going back to Pine Ridge -  home of the Oglala Sioux Tribe - close to 20 times over the following seven years, enabling him to have ongoing exposure to feedback, both positive and negative, from the people he was taking photos of. 'We don't usually have to look back into the eyes of our subjects' said Huey of his Pine Ridge work. 'In Afghanistan, I just had to survive, but with the Pine Ridge work, I had to evolve'.

Released worldwide today, Honor The Treaties is a short documentary by Director Eric Becker about Aaron's Pine Ridge work, examining Huey’s personal growth as a photographer, storyteller, and advocate. The film was recently selected as a featured short documentry at The Seattle International Film Festival, and is now available publicly for first time on Vimeo:

Honor the Treaties: A film by Eric Becker 

Aaron Huey and National Geographic Magazine

Aaron began working with writer Alexandra Fuller last year on a cover story about Pine Ridge for National Geographic Magazine. The story, published in July and on newstands now, digs deeper into the state of affairs on Pine Ridge today.

"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."

From 'In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: Rebirth of a Sioux Nation' - cover story of National Geographic Magazine, August 2012


The story and several special features can be accessed through National Geographic's website and iPad app. Of particular interest is the Community Storytelling Project Aaron created working in collaboration with Cowbird, an online platform for storytelling. Aaron explains how the project started here, and National Geographic has also published 20 of the audio slideshows on its site.

Comments

Total comments: 16
OneGuy
By OneGuy (Aug 13, 2012)

Marisa dear, read and then read some more. Sad is not the world, sad are not the vanquished. You are the keeper of your fire

0 upvotes
Georg13
By Georg13 (Aug 8, 2012)

What a great video about a sad story!
Its good to see that a great phographer goes beyond the line of only documenting the situation....

1 upvote
Petrogel
By Petrogel (Aug 8, 2012)

Photos can not tell the truth, photos are the two dimension display of a multi-dimensional real world, BUT they can give a guided perspective, some times true, some times false .
The movie was Very inspiring, an excellent work

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
joebloggs
By joebloggs (Aug 8, 2012)

Touching and inspiring, how your work can have an emotional effect. The emotion is the starting point. I hope that they are given their land back, not just paid off. However I fear commercial profit, as so often (always) prevents the 'right thing' being done.

1 upvote
Gerbear
By Gerbear (Aug 8, 2012)

I am inspired and moved by the courage of Aaron Huey to move from observer to participant. It is not a safe move and will stir controvery and provoke attacks from vested interests.
The story of the Oglala Lakota is the story of First Nations all over the Americas. In Canada the highest level of unemplyment and poverty is among the original people. The damage done by the theft of land, the criminalization of the culture and the genocide of the residential schools will not be healed by dollar bills.
There are no simple solutions to the crimes of the past but maybe we can confront the pathelogical behaviours of governments who continue to allow multinational energy companies to destroy the land and run pipelines through pristine and sacred territories. In British Columbia there are few ratified treaties to honour. The years of exploitation are not over yet. http://www.bctreaty.net/files/faqs.php

Comment edited 27 seconds after posting
4 upvotes
Chahn
By Chahn (Aug 8, 2012)

Seems Hitler got his ideas for concentration camps from the designs of the U.S. Indian Reservations.

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Aug 8, 2012)

I believe the inspiration was from British imprisonment techniques in South Africa during the Boer War. But either way, please let this be the end of the discussion.

Comment edited 36 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
Paul Farace
By Paul Farace (Aug 9, 2012)

Don't be an assh*le... there are no Gestapo on reservations and no gas chambers. After 120 years you have to be able to say "I am responsible for my current situation." From past crimes from the white man to their current crimes of drugs and gang violence, that is the story I want to see in this documentary. Not all NA reservations are like this. What is different about this one?

2 upvotes
TJL LTFF
By TJL LTFF (Aug 8, 2012)

The NG article is very good reading. Very informative for the ignorant among us (that especially includes me). The Ogalala have a wonderful way with language - expressing gentleness, hope and a dash of pride.

1 upvote
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Aug 8, 2012)

I watched it, I am not sure that I get this. Native Americans are eligible for significant financial assistance more than any other ethnicity here. These include grants and scholarships, preference in admissions, food, medical, and child aid and welfare of numerous types, and housing assistance. In many states (like mine) they are granted the exclusive privileged of owning and running the state casinos, and all of the profits that come with them. So, unless these folks are seriously spending on drugs and alcohol, gambling and other pursuits, and mismanaging the funds.. or having them embezzled disastrously by their tribal leaders, I really do not see the point in all of this ethnocentric finger-pointing and blaming of the U.S. government and the American people for having the gall to be here. Indeed, their were wars going on here in past centuries, and injustices committed by ALL.

4 upvotes
SteB
By SteB (Aug 8, 2012)

The film explained the points you raised fairly clearly. From the film.

"The last chapter in any successful genocide is the one in which the oppressor can remove their hands and say, my god what are these people doing to themselves. They're killing each other. They're killing themselves, while we watch them die. This is how we came to own these United States. This is the legacy of manifest destiny. Prisoners are still born into prisoner of war camps, long after the guards are gone. These are the bones left after the best meat has been taken. A long time ago a series of events were set in motion by a people that looked like me, eager to take the land and the water, and the gold in the hills."

continued below

5 upvotes
SteB
By SteB (Aug 8, 2012)

"Those events had a domino effect, which has yet to end. As removed as we the dominant society may feel, from a massacre in 1890, or a series of broken treaties 150 years ago. I still have to ask you how you should feel about the statistics of today? Is any of this your responsibility today? I have been told that there must be something we can do. There must be some call to action. Because for so long I've been sitting on the sidelines, content to be a witness, just taking photographs. The suffering of indigenous peoples is not a simple issue to fix. So where does that leave us? Shrugging our shoulders in the dark. The call to action I offer today, honour the treaties, give back the Black Hills. It's not your business what they do with them”.

Similar patterns and problems are seen all around the world amongst indigenous peoples dispossed of the land they once enjoyed. The similarity of these problems can't be mere coincidence.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
liveagain
By liveagain (Aug 8, 2012)

@Camediadude, there is some truth in your statement, although there is a larger issue at hand, which is that we have a precious cultural heritage being lost as we speak. And we all should do something about it.

To put ourselves in the native Americans' shoes, supposed an alien species invades Earth and they thrive to a population of 20 billion and human kind could not compete and our population dwindles down to $20 million. Now, as a race, what is the hope that our heritage could survive this "change"? Are we supposed to be content with some grants, privileges and reserved lands offered by the aliens? What would be humans' sentiment as a race for losing Earth?

OK, so that was a stretch, but I hope it puts things in perspective a bit. And I am not naive to think that we should or could change history. But at the very least, we should be aware of their situations and do something to revive their beautiful culture.

Thanks for sharing this work, dpreview.

2 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Aug 8, 2012)

There are many sides to every story. He even admits, that his mission is to exclusively tell theirs. This is but one side. My big thing is that we all bear responsibility for our own actions. Thanks.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Chahn
By Chahn (Aug 8, 2012)

The Black Hills to the Lakota are sacred. How would Catholics feel if Vatican City were stolen from them and then used as a market place? How would a Moslem feel if Mecca and Medina were stolen from them and desecrated? Same thing with the Lakota/Dakota and the Black Hills.

6 upvotes
SteB
By SteB (Aug 8, 2012)

Thank you for highlighting this important work here.

1 upvote
Total comments: 16