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America's native prisoners of war

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    I'm here today to show
    my photographs of the Lakota.
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    Many of you may have heard of the Lakota,
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    or at least the larger group of tribes,
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    called the Sioux.
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    The Lakota are one of many tribes
    that were moved off their land
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    to prisoner-of-war camps,
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    now called reservations.
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    The Pine Ridge Reservation,
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    the subject of today's slide show,
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    is located about 75 miles southeast
    of the Black Hills in South Dakota.
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    It is sometimes referred to
    as Prisoner of War Camp Number 334,
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    and it is where the Lakota now live.
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    Now, if any of you have ever heard of AIM,
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    the American Indian Movement,
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    or of Russell Means,
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    or Leonard Peltier,
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    or of the standoff at Oglala,
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    then you know Pine Ridge is ground zero
    for Native issues in the US.
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    So I've been asked to talk
    a little bit today
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    about my relationship with the Lakota,
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    and that's a very difficult one for me,
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    because, if you haven't
    noticed from my skin color,
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    I'm white,
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    and that is a huge barrier
    on a Native reservation.
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    You'll see a lot of people
    in my photographs today.
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    I've become very close with them,
    and they've welcomed me like family.
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    They've called me "brother" and "uncle,"
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    and invited me again and again
    over five years.
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    But on Pine Ridge,
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    I will always be what is called "wasichu."
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    "Wasichu" is a Lakota word
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    that means "non-Indian,"
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    but another version of this word
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    means "the one who takes
    the best meat for himself."
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    And that's what I want to focus on --
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    the one who takes
    the best part of the meat.
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    It means "greedy."
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    So take a look around
    this auditorium today.
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    We are at a private school
    in the American West,
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    sitting in red velvet chairs
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    with money in our pockets.
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    And if we look at our lives,
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    we have indeed taken
    the best part of the meat.
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    So let's look today
    at a set of photographs
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    of a people who lost
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    so that we could gain,
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    and know that when you see
    these people's faces,
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    that these are not just
    images of the Lakota;
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    they stand for all indigenous people.
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    On this piece of paper
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    is the history the way I learned it
    from my Lakota friends and family.
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    The following is a time line
    of treaties made, treaties broken
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    and massacres disguised as battles.
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    I'll begin in 1824.
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    What is known as
    the Bureau of Indian Affairs
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    was created within the War Department,
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    setting an early tone of aggression
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    in our dealings with the Native Americans.
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    1851:
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    The first treaty of Fort Laramie was made,
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    clearly marking the boundaries
    of the Lakota Nation.
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    According to the treaty,
    those lands are a sovereign nation.
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    If the boundaries
    of this treaty had held --
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    and there is a legal basis
    that they should --
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    then this is what the US
    would look like today.
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    Ten years later.
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    The Homestead Act,
    signed by President Lincoln,
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    unleashed a flood of white settlers
    into Native lands.
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    1863:
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    An uprising of Santee Sioux in Minnesota
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    ends with the hanging of 38 Sioux men,
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    the largest mass execution in US history.
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    The execution was ordered
    by President Lincoln,
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    only two days after he signed
    the Emancipation Proclamation.
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    1866: The beginning
    of the Transcontinental Railroad --
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    a new era.
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    We appropriated land for trails and trains
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    to shortcut through the heart
    of the Lakota Nation.
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    The treaties were out the window.
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    In response, three tribes led
    by the Lakota chief Red Cloud
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    attacked and defeated the US army,
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    many times over.
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    I want to repeat that part:
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    The Lakota defeat the US army.
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    1868: The second Fort Laramie Treaty
    clearly guarantees
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    the sovereignty of the Great Sioux Nation
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    and the Lakotas' ownership
    of the sacred Black Hills.
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    The government also promises
    land and hunting rights
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    in the surrounding states.
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    We promise that the Powder River country
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    will henceforth be closed to all whites.
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    The treaty seemed to be a complete victory
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    for Red Cloud and the Sioux.
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    In fact, this is the only war
    in American history
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    in which the government negotiated a peace
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    by conceding everything
    demanded by the enemy.
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    1869: The Transcontinental
    Railroad was completed.
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    It began carrying, among other things,
    large numbers of hunters,
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    who began the wholesale
    killing of buffalo,
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    eliminating a source of food,
    clothing and shelter for the Sioux.
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    1871:
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    The Indian Appropriation Act
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    makes all Indians
    wards of the federal government.
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    In addition, the military issued orders
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    forbidding western Indians
    from leaving reservations.
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    All western Indians at that point in time
    were now prisoners of war.
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    Also in 1871,
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    we ended the time of treaty-making.
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    The problem with treaties is they allow
    tribes to exist as sovereign nations,
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    and we can't have that.
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    We had plans.
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    1874:
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    General George Custer announced
    the discovery of gold in Lakota territory,
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    specifically the Black Hills.
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    The news of gold creates
    a massive influx of white settlers
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    into Lakota Nation.
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    Custer recommends that Congress find a way
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    to end the treaties with the Lakota
    as soon as possible.
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    1875: The Lakota war begins
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    over the violation
    of the Fort Laramie Treaty.
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    1876:
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    On July 26th,
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    on its way to attack a Lakota village,
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    Custer's 7th Cavalry was crushed
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    at the battle of Little Big Horn.
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    1877:
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    The great Lakota warrior
    and chief named Crazy Horse
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    surrendered at Fort Robinson.
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    He was later killed while in custody.
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    1877 is also the year we found a way
    to get around the Fort Laramie Treaties.
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    A new agreement was presented
    to Sioux chiefs and their leading men,
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    under a campaign known
    as "Sell or Starve" --
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    sign the paper, or no food for your tribe.
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    Only 10 percent of the adult
    male population signed.
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    The Fort Laramie Treaty called
    for at least three-quarters of the tribe
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    to sign away land.
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    That clause was obviously ignored.
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    1887: The Dawes Act.
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    Communal ownership
    of reservation lands ends.
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    Reservations are cut up
    into 160-acre sections,
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    and distributed to individual Indians
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    with the surplus disposed of.
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    Tribes lost millions of acres.
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    The American dream
    of individual land ownership
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    turned out to be a very clever way
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    to divide the reservation
    until nothing was left.
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    The move destroyed the reservations,
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    making it easier
    to further subdivide and to sell
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    with every passing generation.
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    Most of the surplus land
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    and many of the plots
    within reservation boundaries
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    are now in the hands of white ranchers.
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    Once again, the fat of the land
    goes to wasichu.
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    1890: A date I believe to be
    the most important in this slide show.
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    This is the year
    of the Wounded Knee Massacre.
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    On December 29,
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    US troops surrounded a Sioux
    encampment at Wounded Knee Creek,
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    and massacred Chief Big Foot
    and 300 prisoners of war,
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    using a new rapid-fire weapon
    that fired exploding shells,
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    called a Hotchkiss gun.
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    For this so-called "battle,"
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    20 Congressional Medals of Honor for Valor
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    were given to the 7th Cavalry.
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    To this day,
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    this is the most Medals of Honor
    ever awarded for a single battle.
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    More Medals of Honor were given
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    for the indiscriminate slaughter
    of women and children
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    than for any battle in World War One,
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    World War Two,
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    Korea, Vietnam,
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    Iraq or Afghanistan.
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    The Wounded Knee Massacre
    is considered the end of the Indian wars.
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    Whenever I visit the site
    of the mass grave at Wounded Knee,
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    I see it not just as a grave
    for the Lakota or for the Sioux,
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    but as a grave for all indigenous peoples.
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    The holy man Black Elk, said,
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    "I did not know then how much was ended.
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    When I look back now
    from this high hill of my old age,
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    I can still see
    the butchered women and children
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    lying heaped and scattered
    all along the crooked gulch,
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    as plain as when I saw them
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    with eyes still young.
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    And I can see that something else
    died there in the bloody mud
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    and was buried in the blizzard.
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    A people's dream died there.
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    And it was a beautiful dream."
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    With this event,
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    a new era in Native American
    history began.
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    Everything can be measured
    before Wounded Knee and after,
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    because it was in this moment,
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    with the fingers on the triggers
    of the Hotchkiss guns,
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    that the US government openly
    declared its position on Native rights.
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    They were tired of treaties.
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    They were tired of sacred hills.
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    They were tired of ghost dances.
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    And they were tired of all
    the inconveniences of the Sioux.
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    So they brought out their cannons.
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    "You want to be an Indian now?" they said,
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    finger on the trigger.
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    1900:
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    the US Indian population
    reached its low point --
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    less than 250,000,
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    compared to an estimated
    eight million in 1492.
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    Fast-forward.
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    1980:
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    The longest-running
    court case in US history,
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    the Sioux Nation versus the United States,
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    was ruled upon by the US Supreme Court.
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    The court determined that when the Sioux
    were resettled onto reservations
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    and seven million acres
    of their land were opened up
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    to prospectors and homesteaders,
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    the terms of the second
    Fort Laramie Treaty
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    had been violated.
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    The court stated that the Black Hills
    were illegally taken,
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    and that the initial
    offering price, plus interest,
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    should be paid to the Sioux Nation.
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    As payment for the Black Hills,
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    the court awarded only 106 million dollars
    to the Sioux Nation.
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    The Sioux refused the money
    with the rallying cry,
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    "The Black Hills are not for sale."
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    2010:
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    Statistics about Native population today,
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    more than a century
    after the massacre at Wounded Knee,
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    reveal the legacy of colonization,
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    forced migration
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    and treaty violations.
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    Unemployment on the Pine Ridge
    Indian Reservation
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    fluctuates between 85 and 90 percent.
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    The housing office is unable
    to build new structures,
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    and existing structures are falling apart.
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    Many are homeless,
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    and those with homes
    are packed into rotting buildings
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    with up to five families.
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    Thirty-nine percent of homes on Pine Ridge
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    have no electricity.
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    At least 60 percent
    of the homes on the reservation
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    are infested with black mold.
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    More than 90 percent of the population
    lives below the federal poverty line.
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    The tuberculosis rate on Pine Ridge
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    is approximately eight times higher
    than the US national average.
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    The infant mortality rate
    is the highest on this continent,
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    and is about three times higher
    than the US national average.
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    Cervical cancer is five times higher
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    than the US national average.
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    The school dropout rate
    is up to 70 percent.
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    Teacher turnover is eight times higher
    than the US national average.
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    Frequently, grandparents
    are raising their grandchildren
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    because parents, due to alcoholism,
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    domestic violence and general apathy,
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    cannot raise them.
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    Fifty percent of the population
    over the age of 40
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    suffers from diabetes.
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    The life expectancy for men
    is between 46 and 48 years old --
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    roughly the same
    as in Afghanistan and Somalia.
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    The last chapter
    in any successful genocide
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    is the one in which the oppressor
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    can remove their hands and say,
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    "My god -- what are these people
    doing to themselves?
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    They're killing each other.
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    They're killing themselves
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    while we watch them die."
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    This is how we came to own
    these United States.
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    This is the legacy
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    of Manifest Destiny.
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    Prisoners are still born
    into prisoner of war camps,
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    long after the guards are gone.
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    These are the bones
    left after the best meat has been taken.
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    A long time ago,
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    a series of events was set in motion
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    by a people who look like me, by wasichu,
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    eager to take the land and the water
    and the gold in the hills.
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    Those events led to a domino effect
    that has yet to end.
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    As removed as we,
    the dominant society, may feel
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    from a massacre in 1890,
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    or a series of broken
    treaties 150 years ago,
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    I still have to ask you the question:
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    How should you feel
    about the statistics of today?
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    What is the connection
    between these images of suffering
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    and the history that I just read to you?
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    And how much of this history
    do you need to own, even?
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    Is any of this your responsibility today?
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    I have been told that there must be
    something we can do.
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    There must be some call to action.
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    Because for so long,
    I've been standing on the sidelines,
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    content to be a witness,
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    just taking photographs.
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    Because the solutions
    seem so far in the past,
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    I needed nothing short
    of a time machine to access them.
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    The suffering of indigenous peoples
    is not a simple issue to fix.
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    It's not something everyone can get behind
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    the way they get behind helping Haiti,
  • 14:11 - 14:13
    or ending AIDS, or fighting a famine.
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    The "fix," as it's called,
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    may be much more difficult
    for the dominant society
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    than, say, a $50 check
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    or a church trip to paint
    some graffiti-covered houses,
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    or a suburban family
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    donating a box of clothes
    they don't even want anymore.
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    So where does that leave us?
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    Shrugging our shoulders in the dark?
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    The United States continues
    on a daily basis to violate the terms
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    of the 1851 and 1868
    Fort Laramie Treaties with the Lakota.
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    The call to action I offer today --
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    my TED wish -- is this:
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    Honor the treaties.
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    Give back the Black Hills.
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    It's not your business
    what they do with them.
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    (Applause)
Title:
America's native prisoners of war
Speaker:
Aaron Huey
Description:

Aaron Huey's effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people -- appalling, and largely ignored -- compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson in this bold, courageous talk from TEDxDU.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
15:07
  • The English transcript was updated on 10/5/2016.

  • 5:24 - 5:26 On July 26th

    Should be "JUNE" 26th.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Little_Bighorn

    Thanks!

English subtitles

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