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Native Sun News: National Geographic will feature Oglala stories
Friday, June 15, 2012
Filed Under: National | Technology
More on: internet, media, native sun news, oglala sioux, south dakota
The following story was written and reported by Evelyn Red Lodge, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA –– Countless times the Lakota people have said they are misrepresented in the mainstream media. For the Oglala Lakota of the Pine Ridge Reservation, that is about to change.

The online version of National Geographic magazine will publish the unedited stories of any Oglala Lakota living on the Pine Ridge Reservation who is at least 13 years old. The date of publication is July 15.

International photojournalist Aaron Huey has been working for the last seven years to give the Oglala people a voice.

Huey contacted Native Sun News to help spread the word that this is the Oglala people’s chance to tell their stories in mainstream media – and without focusing on poverty, violence and alcoholism as seen in past mainstream media representations.

“I don’t want a story about me; I want to get people to tell their stories about their life and identity – what it is to be Oglala Lakota living on the Pine Ridge Reservation,” Huey said in a telephone interview. “If people don’t tell their stories, someone else will tell it for them.”

Huey said he was able to collaborate with the Cowbird website to store the stories. From the revolutionary Cowbird site, the stories will be uploaded to the National Geographic site.

He also said there is no limit for the amount of stories that can be published and that he is hoping there will be hundreds.

“This is a once in a lifetime chance to publish unedited Lakota voices on a website that reaches 40 million people around the world,” Huey said in an email to NSN. There are currently 60 stories on the site.

From family stories about turtles to paintings to warriors, Huey said this is an opportunity to educate others. He also noted that there has to be a connection between the stories, and “the stories have to be about identity or your family or what it means to live on Pine Ridge.”

Huey said any Oglala meeting the criteria above who wants to publish a story must first email him at to obtain an invitation from the Cowbird site. Next, he said you will need to have a photograph of yourself to upload. However, some stories with photographs of places or old family photographs have been uploaded to the Cowbird website.

Finally, the last step is to create a author account.

Huey provided NSN with other links to illustrate the extraordinary opportunity this project provides.

After several years, Huey – a seasoned journalist covering wars and communities around the world – humbly admitted he did not feel he could tell the story of the Oglala on Pine Ridge right because he could not tell each individual’s story in a media publication.

He explained on the website,, the solution he found to this dilemma: “I collaborated with Jonathan Harris and his editorial director, Annie Correal. Jonathan is the creator of many influential Internet projects. The most recent is the online community called Cowbird.”

“Together we plan to connect collections of community-generated stories to mainstream media publications through A visionary storytelling platform that can be customized and embedded in big media websites. The key word here is ‘embedded.’”

“This project is not about designing a digital platform,” Huey continued, “this is about redesigning a relationship between communities and big media. Community-generated story sites already exist, but none thus far are designed to plug directly into multiple big media websites.”

“That relationship has not been established, and that’s where we stand out,” he said. “We plan to create networks of local storytellers on Cowbird and connect them to powerful, popular idea-makers, starting with National Geographic and moving on to other news and media publications. This pairing can be started with the inception of a story.”

“Our first test case is the story about the Oglala Lakota on Pine Ridge. National Geographic has been a visionary in allowing us to co-launch a community collection on their website.”

“Imagine the power of involving the communities in telling their own stories,” Huey said, “and giving them the platform to publish their own unedited voices alongside a story done by a journalist.”

“That new relationship between those formerly known as the subject and the publication will open a new kind of transparency and dialogue rarely seen in mainstream journalism – you have something truly revolutionary.”

To view the types of stories in the National Geographic collection, go to

(Contact Evelyn Red Lodge at

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