The Pine Ride Indian Reservation in South Dakota is home of the Lakota Sioux and has been called “ground zero” for Native American Issues.

The grim statistics on reservations like Pine Ridge today are the equivalent to that of a 3rd world country, revealing the legacy of colonization and treaty violations. Unemployment on the Reservation fluctuates between 80-90%. Many are homeless, and those with homes are packed into rotting buildings with up to 5 families. More than 90% of the population lives below the federal poverty line. The life expectancy for men is 47 years old — roughly the same as Afghanistan and Somalia.

Photojournalist Aaron Huey has spent the last six years uncovering the story of this relatively undocumented social injustice. We’re honored to have Huey attend this year’s festival as a special guest.

via TIME Magazine:

“When I first went to Pine Ridge,” says Huey, “the focus was on getting pictures of gangs, superficial violence, drugs and extreme circumstances.” It wasn’t until he was asked to present a TED talk that he pieced together the history–For the first time he saw the reality–how the land was stolen from the Lakota through a series of massacres disguised as battles, and the broken treaties that followed. “It was,” says Huey, “a calculated and systematic destruction of a people.”

Huey’s goal? To empower the Lakota and other tribes who fight for recognition of the past in order to help give them a chance to move forward. Collaborating with two artists, Ernesto Yerena and Shepard Fairey, (the latter is best known for his portrait for Obama’s “Hope” campaign), Huey is creating a nationwide billboard campaign to raise the visibility of these images by taking them straight to the public—to the sides of busses, subway tunnels, and billboards.

“I want people to think about prisoner of war camps in America on their commute to work. I want the message to be so loud that it cannot be ignored.”

All photos © Aaron Huey. Many more photos to check out on his website.

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