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The Rez - Home of the Lakota Nation

Vincent Plenty
Bachevanova, Chief red coud
3. 9. 2010 - 2. 10. 2010

Photographies from Indian Reservation “The Rez”.

The photographs are taken from September 2007 to June 2008. During this time I travelled back and forward from New York to South Dakota where the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is unlike any other place in the world. Here the past and the present merge like two powerful rivers meeting, generating raging rapids and deep undercurrents. A people living in dire poverty under conditions equivalent to occupation have embraced the past, embraced once lost traditions, in order to struggle against the oppression of their present lives.

Photographs of American Indians play a central role in American culture, both for white Americans and for Indians. For white Americans, the iconic images of Indians, based on well known photographs by Edward Curtis and Frank Rinehart, reinforce the idea of the other, a noble savage whose life and culture are part of a bygone era. For Indians, the very same images offer a sense of dignity and differentiation from the dominant American culture. The images offer a noble identity as a chief, a warrior, a hunter, a medicine man, a woman in elaborate traditional dress. They offer an image of a life of rugged independence, of strength and resistance, a life of the spirit.  But to some Indian critics these same images, all produced by white photographers, represent a false, romantic identity that has kept Indians locked in a mythical past.

My project, “The Rez - Home of the Lakota Nation” explores the contrast and psychological conflict between the reclaimed cultural and spiritual identify of the Lakota Sioux and the poverty and deprivation of life on the Rez, as it is familiarly known to its residents .
Garvard Good Plume who is the Lakota representative in the United Nation was my guide and host. A brave and courageous man, who everybody in the Reservation knows and respect, Garvard introduced me to people from every walk of life among the Sioux Indians. That is how I met, photographed and interviewed people like Pete Plenty Wound, chief of the Red feather society, Chub Eagle Hawk, a former American Indian Movement member, Dorothy Sun Bear, mother of 13 kids, the family of the famous chief Red Cloud and many others