Alumnus Aaron Huey tells Pine Ridge reservation story in National Geographic

One of Aaron Huey’s photos from the Pine Ridge project shows Lenny Jumping Eagle riding in a celebration of the defeat of Colonel Custer in the Battle of the Greasy Grass (the Battle of the Little Bighorn). Every year dozens of long-distance rides or horse races on and beyond the reservation commemorate great leaders, sacred lands, and historic events. Photo courtesy of National Geographic

A feature in the latest issue of National Geographic features the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to the Oglala Lakota. Featuring striking photography by Aaron Huey (BFA ’99) and text by Alexandra Fuller, the cover story also includes a new form of storytelling. Huey, who has spent the past seven years documenting and befriending the Lakota, teamed up with Jonathan Harris, creator of Cowbird, to launch the Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project. The collaboration is an attempt to give the people of Pine Ridge a chance to tell their own stories. Users can access photos, audio and text on one seamless platform that attempts to build a library of human experiences.

“I have been dissatisfied for quite some time with the limitations of traditional journalism in both how Pine Ridge could be covered, but also in what I knew to be the flaw of all journalism in the eyes of the journalistic ‘subject’—that it’s someone else telling YOUR story,” says Huey, who spoke about Pine Ridge at the 2010 TEDxDU event. “I had been interviewed enough times for various projects and adventures to know that what I saw printed rarely resembled how I felt or what I wanted people to hear. There is great value in having an outsider tell the story of a people or community, and put the pieces they find into a beautiful, objective narrative. But returning for many years to Pine Ridge meant that I had to look back into the eyes of the same people again and again after they had seen themselves on websites or in the pages of magazines, and they all wanted to know why I couldn’t tell more of the story.”

Read the full Q&A with Huey about the project at the 10,000 Words blog.


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