Slideshow: The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

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The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota is, to borrow a phrase from journalist Chris Hedges, a “sacrifice zone.” It’s a place where, he writes in his new book, “the belief that we have a divine right to resources, land, and power, and a right to displace and kill others to obtain personal and national wealth, has left in its wake a trail of ravaged landscapes and incalculable human suffering.” The surrounding Black Hills region was once rich with timber, coal, gold and uranium; now 49 percent of people on the reservation, mostly members of the Oglala Lakota tribe, live below the poverty line.

Seattle-based photographer Matthew Williams has been spending time with the Lakota since 2006 and shot these images over the course of the past six years.

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  • Tingleskapsicawin

    I feel  soo saddened that my relatives are in this state.. that warrior sweat is sad reminder of who they could have been..

  • Tingleskapsicawin

    America  America..GOD shed his grace on thee…

  • Tingleskapsicawin.

    tretre whut??? man! THAT IS a SAD SAD sight.. I dont know how they are Gngstrs..all they do is rob and beat up defensless  women and our elders for dimes and pennies…  Thats NOT gngstr at all.. if they left and went to the cities,they’d come running home hanging onto their pants..

  • Marykaye2crazy

    The worst part of the sadness is that so many people overlook that such a once proud people are left to live in such conditions…. We turn a blind eye and only see in this country what we choose to see or can stomach without feeling some sense of guilt or the urge to stand up for what is right!

  • Libbieb

    And the Greed continues to grow and consume…

  • john

     very true!! Well said. Agree100 percent.  Spent some time there as an anthropology student years ago.

  • Jeannemcdonald

    As a native South Dakotan and being very familiar with the Pine Ridge Reservation because I drove through it frequently in trips back and forth between Denver and Sioux Falls, I am shamed and saddened.  I have witnessed the devastation far too often and know not what I can do…

  • Alice

    Stop and get to know the people rather than just driving through. Volunteer at a school,  a food bank, etc. Over at Rosebud, volunteer through the Tree of Life Agency.

  • Alice

    small-minded, petty comment

  • django

     Can anyone explain what’n hell this guy has taken the time to publicly state? Sounds like angry gibberish to me…

  • Crazylaughingriver

    Not working!

  • Crazylaughingriver

    The video isn’t working either!… :-/

  • Dolores Marconi

    My sister, Deanna Pfeifle, is a family councilor there in Rapid City. She makes them play in small sand boxes moving little toys around to see what “they are really thinking” so she can advocate jail or taking their children away based on child abuse. My sister is a sick puppy herself, from sexual abuse from a male nurse. Sad STATES those RIGHT WING outposts.

  • Dolores Marconi

    My sister, Deanna Pfeifle, is a family councilor  in Rapid City. She told me that she has Native Americans play in small sand boxes moving little toys around to see what “they are really thinking” so she can advocate jail or taking their children away based on child abuse. My sister is a sick puppy, herself, from sexual abuse from a male nurse. Sad stories, those RIGHT WING outposts of Christian religious fanatics, especially the psychology majors from that State.

  • Dolores Marconi

    They continue to be abused by poorly educated “professional” that are really right wing assholes.

  • Dolores Marconi

    Ooops . Bill Moyer?  Would love to see the video!

  • Elaine Kurpiel

    Alice is right.  Get involved.  Sitting and complaining has never changed a thing.   Write letters to legislators  ( I wrote a letter to Michelle Obama and included several pages of information and pictures of Pine Ridge and the disease, poverty,  poor nutrition. )  I received a letter from the BIA from a Native woman who agreed with me.  She said Native America needs many more advocates and writing letters, organizing are just two ways to get known.  Do not be silent.  Be noticed.  Get media involved and do not stop with just one story.  NPR was great but I have nothing more.   All Native Americans are loved by many, many people and the folks at Pine Ridge need a lot more notice.

  • BJ Tuininga

    I work with an all volunteer organization called ONE Spirit (
    http:/// )who is recognized by the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council. We currently are working to save the children from the plight that so often befallen their parents and elders, or worse yet, teen suicide. There is so much to be done and our resources and volunteers are often stretched to the maximum. 

    As an organization we work to empower the Lakota people by supporting programs such as the food and winter wood programs which employ their members. We are currently working to raise the money to build a community center in Allen which will create a space for the youth to meet, to learn traditional crafts, to play ball, and it will also serve as a meeting space for the Reservation. We have a Sponsorship program where one can adopt a family, an elder, or a needy child. You then send care packages and monthly checks which will help in support of their care. We have many ways that people can help through sponsorship whether it is the food, the wood or just donating to the OKINI program, where one can share used goods (clothing and other needed items) Checkout our website http:///

  • Rkevghas479

    I am glad to see some real pictures of reservation life posted. I worked on Standing Rock in the communities of Mclaughlin, Little Eagle and Bull Head back in 2000 providing community based mental health services for a short time. The living conditions were deplorable and not because they necessarily wanted to live that way– but because of a lack of resources (jobs) and lack of transportation and services. If the government that has broken so many promises and treaties would even begin to treat the people with the respect and dignity they deserve and to consider first their culture before building or handing out scraps– the People would grow and prosper in ways that would amaze most government officials.  I met wonderfully creative and determined individuals when I was there– but the war zone atmosphere on the reservation is depressing and zaps one’s confidence and will to pursue dreams of a better life.  For the People, it is not about leaving the reservation, because that is home and where their roots are now in the land– it is about developing infrastructure- roads without enormous potholes- so that businesses might thrive because they can deliver goods to and fro safely.

    As far as the gangs go– I worked with a few gang members in Little Eagle– young teens– very vulnerable boys that were ‘stuck’ in the middle of hopelessness with little chance of developing the life they wanted to lead. The gangs were violent and many took the violence out on the numerous animals-cats and dogs- that run in wild packs scavenging for scraps. They also terrorized the few that were attempting to help make changes for the better– they ran a co-worker of mine that worked with the behavior problem school kids out of town– she was walking home as she usually did– they knew her path– and had strung a mutilated kitten up in the tree for her to run into. It is not fun and games– because of the apathy and desolation, when a little good shows up, some try to discourage it because change is difficult.  Persistence and truth are what they do remember and respect.  The US government has not done well by them. Standing Rock is very much like the pictures of Pine Ridge.

  • DFK

    We have ruined a culture! Yes, the American people are responsible for this. It turns my stomach! We, white people whose families immigrated here ought to be ashamed of what we have done.

  • kenny

    This is a tragedy! But, many American people are also struggling to make ends meet under the oppressive government system we now have. At least I know I am. But, regardless, we need a drastic change in our system and laws. Not only for the American Indian but the average hard working American in general who pays such high taxes and must put up with laws that only lsy road blocks in the creation of small business, and then lay heavy burdens upon the owners of small businesses after they have struggled to finally get it going. We need to return to God and pay attention of what he has commanded of us all, or he certainly will take our country away from all of us. Hate and revenge and smart comments on either side will not solve anything. Love God above all things and love your neighbor the very same as you love even yourself! Those who are able should reach out to these and all people who are suffering and show them some heart felt compassion and kindness in appreciation for what God has give to them. And the rest who are struggling financially should try to do what they can do as well, if only just to communicate with them to show that you care, and certainly pray for them as well. We are after all Americans, and that is a rather large and diverse family. I will try to do what I can do, and I am struggling to survive myself.

  • Kool Gool

    The white mans Government has KNOWN about these leaving conditions for YEARS!!! AND STILL THEY DO NOTHING ABOUT IT. They don’t care. They couldn’t beat them in battle so they are going to let them die by taking necessities away from them. No water, No electricity, not health facilities, only disease and vermin are left. But heaven for bid that they should close down the ALCOHOL FACILITY that makes these once proud warriors in to dependent drunks and make them not give a diddly squat about themselves. FEED THE CHILDREN organization treats 3rd world countries better than they do this one. THIS IS AMERICA these are AMERICANS we need to stamp out this disgusting atocity and make the Reservation People FREE. Bring them the water and the food and homes and the hospitals and the jobs. Are we that afraid of our People? I have done many things to help but I am only one person. together we can make this a better place.

  • Dolores Marconi

    You have to wonder why psychologists have the highest suicide rate. I think they know that they don’t know and so many have done serious damage to “clients”, a “patient” would be under a physician’s service, right? Either way; watch out for the ones who didn’t read Freud and like Jung.