In his video “America’s Native Prisoners of War” Aaron Huey discusses how to end the suffering of indigenous people by honoring the treaties and giving back the Black Hills to the Lakota people. The Lakota are one of many tribes that were moved off their land to prisoner of war camps now called reservations. The Pine Ridge Reservation is located southeast of the Black Hills in South Dakota and as Aaron Huey states in his video, “Pine Ridge is ground zero for Native issues in the U.S.” ( Huey, 1). With his photographs Aaron shows the reality of what has happened to Pine Ridge because of the broken treaties.
Aaron worked on the reservation for five years and eventually built a relationship with the Lakota people. The Lakota did not trust him at first because he is white and they called him “Wasichu” which means “non-Indian” and “the one who takes the best part of the meat”. The U.S. government made and broke several treaties with the Lakota and their main reason for breaking the treaties was to take the Lakota’s land and food. “The first treaty of Fort Laramie was created in 1851 outlining the borders of the Lakota’s land” (Huey, 3). Years later President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, this lead to an abundance of white settlers into Lakota and Sioux lands. “Because of this an uprising of Sioux Natives in Minnesota ends with the hanging of 38 Sioux men, the largest mass execution in U.S. history and was ordered by President Lincoln”. (Huey,3). This was merely the beginning of tribulations between the Lakota and U.S. government.
The transcontinental railroad was built right through the heart of the Lakota nation and white hunters began the whole sale killing of buffalo, eliminating a source of food, clothing and shelter for the Sioux. 1890, a date that Huey believes to be the most important in his video. “On December 29th, U.S. troops surrounded a Sioux encampment at Wounded Knee Creek and massacred 300 men, woman and children, using a new rapid-fire weapon that fired exploding shells called a Hotchkiss gun” (Huey, 8). The U.S government openly declared its position on Native rights after this event and a new era in Native American history began. Huey wants everyone to open their eyes and see how America’s injustice has damaged the Lakota people for generations. We must stop the violence and suffering on Pine Ridge, and help end the poverty.
Huey believes that in order to fix the Lakota’s problems we must honor the treaties and give back the Black Hills. “Statistics about Native population today, more than a century after the massacre at Wounded Knee, reveal the legacy of colonization, forced migration and treaty violations” (Huey, 12). “The unemployment rate on Pine Ridge is about 90 percent, they are forced to live in rotting buildings infested with black mold; the infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and cervical cancer is five times higher than the U.S. national average” (Huey, 12). “Half of the population over age 40 suffer from diabetes and the life expectancy for men is between 46 and 48 years old”(Huey, 12). This is the legacy of manifest destiny. As Huey says “Prisoners are still born into prisoner-of-war camps long after the guards are gone” and “These are the bones left after the best meat has been taken”(Huey, 13).
I for one agree with Huey’s stand on Native rights, the U.S. government must take responsibility and give back what was illegally