TED Talk (Blog 10)

This Land is Your Land, this Land is (not) My Land (anymore)


Watch from 13:06 to the end for a nice synopsis of Huey’s main points…

At a young age, we are taught that this country we live in is your land just as much as it is mine. At a 2010 TED Talk, photographer and social activist Aaron Huey reminds us that this is not necessarily true. Only a few hundred years ago, this land was not ours, but that of the indigenous peoples we refer to as Native Americans. Today, these peoples are all but extinct, and those that remain are stranded in the worst of poverty on reservations.

The images that Huey shows and the statistics he speaks of are frightening. Year after year, our forefathers broke treaty after treaty until the Natives became what they are today. On the Pine Ridge Reservation, known as “ground zero” for Indian rights, the Lakota tribe sits atop a hotbed of alcoholism, violence, and some of the worst health and economic status in the entire country—and world. The life expectancy for males living on Pine Ridge is equal to that of Somalia. And yet, we turn a blind eye to these troubles. Even worse, America turns a blind eye to the upsetting history of the white conqueror and the Native American as a whole.

Lawrence-Red-Feathers-sit-002 (Photo and Featured Image by Aaron Huey)

Huey points to the ultimate idea that America should relinquish its hold over the Black Hills and return them to the Sioux. By law, by right, and by ethical reasoning, it is their land, not ours. I don’t know that this will ever happen—realistically it will not, and I don’t necessarily think that it should. But I think that sometimes, as Americans, we aren’t cynical enough about who we are as a country and what we learn in school. We are taught that our country’s history was filled with heroes who made the United States the best country in the world. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln never told a lie, and the American Revolution was won solely by farmers with pitchforks fighting for freedom against an unjust and tyrannical monarchy. (Do we really think it happened that way)? No one likes to talk about that time we destroyed—and some would prefer the term genocide—an entire indigenous race.

I’m proud to be an American. But we need to embrace our past, not ignore the parts that we wish didn’t happen.

Click here to view some more of Huey’s moving photography capturing some of the poverty of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

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6 thoughts on “This Land is Your Land, this Land is (not) My Land (anymore)

  1. I think its very easy for people and countries to sit back and place the blame on others or try to cover up negative events with “success” stories. Australia had a similar thing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with government apologizing for their actions on behalf of the country only happening for the first time in 2008

  2. Native Americans in some tribes, have rising populations. Still a tiny part of the overall US population. Just to say that “all but extinct” may be a little too dire.

    You are absolutely correct about the dire economic conditions of most (almost all) reservations.

    Robert Rosenberg, an English Professor here of writing, and his wife , Michelle, lived and taught on a reservation. I think there is an education professor, Richard Henne (sp?) who also does work on reservations.

    In general, I think we could, as a society, just start anew and make the treaty violations whole and try to reset the whole relationship.

    By the way, here is what someone should get you for a holiday of your choosing…

    Lies My Teacher Told Me

  3. I find it so weird that the United States constantly focuses on feeding the hungry in Africa and trying to fix other world issues, yet we ignore the ones in our own backyard.

  4. Jordi, Professor Henne-Ochoa’s wife is the one who showed me this talk in my social inequality class. Henne-Ochoa has done work on the Pine Ridge reservation, the one that is featured in this talk and my blog.

  5. Pingback: A Lakota Letter to Washington | B-Ethics

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