Earlier today my friend Dawn (Lakota) and I (Nakoda) decided to address the infatuation of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, why so many people go there to live out their Indian fantasies, and why so many white people believe that they are our savior. We brought up Aaron Huey’s Honor The Treaties project as a perfect example. She told me that people were especially upset with him because he had taken and published photos of ceremony. I didn’t know this, and was absolutely mortified. As two people who are from the Great Plains, practice our traditions, speak our languages, dance at powwows, etc, Dawn and I felt extremely violated by the publishing of our sacred moments.
This conversation happened to take place on Twitter. We didn’t “@ mention” Aaron or even say things that were attacking him personally (please feel free to check both of our timelines to confirm this). The next thing we know, Aaron himself is full on at us and decided to completely bulldoze our feelings. After feeling that his tweets weren’t enough, he sent me an email (you know, to take me into private, and put me in my place) to tell me how he has every right to publish these photos and how dare I say otherwise on Twitter (and how dare I engage someone else in my public discourse of him). And this guy Rick he is referring to is a Lakota spiritual leader (as if Dawn and I are not familiar with him). He said Rick gave him permission to publish the photos so everything is basically totally A-OK, and so we should chill out. Whether that is true or not (it isn’t) that is not the point.
He has since deleted his tweets, but I decided to save them and share them with the world. White male saviorism doesn’t just happen in Dances With Wolves or Avatar, it’s alive and well in our current society. In fact, it may have been amplified since now you’re awarded, given National Geographic spreads, and Tedx Talks as your platform to spread your exploitative message.