Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project

A partnership with Cowbird
This collection tells the story of life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, told by
the people of Pine Ridge in their own unedited words. Click here to explore their stories.

About the Project

It all started when an envelope full of letters arrived in my mailbox. They came from high school students at the Red Cloud Indian School after they had seen a photo story of mine on Pine Ridge in 2009. Their letters challenged me to see a different side of the Reservation.

As a photojournalist who has been working on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for the past 7 years, I’ve always struggled with how to share the incredibly complex story of this community. I’ve never been able to tell all the stories that I want to tell on Pine Ridge, and I’ve come to realize that even if I could, I can’t tell them the way the people want them told.

To solve this dilemma, I joined forces with web pioneer Jonathan Harris, the creator of cowbird.com—a visionary, embeddable, storytelling platform. Together we built this community storytelling project so that the people of Pine Ridge could author their own story. This new relationship between the story subject and the publication opens up a new kind of transparency and dialog rarely seen in mainstream journalism today.

This letter from Red Cloud Sophomore Charlie Cuny was particularly moving, and helped me to see that families like hers are rarely (if ever) included in articles, because their story lacks the sensationalism that drives most coverage of Reservation life.

This is a work in progress and a first in the journalism world. Check back in the coming months to see how it grows! If you are Oglala Lakota and would like to contribute a story, please email pineridge@cowbird.com for instructions.

This project was made possible in part by the Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University and a grant from the John and James L Knight Foundation.

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