On Friday, October 14th, the ABC television network aired “Hidden America: Children of the Plains,” an episode of 20/20 hosted by Diane Sawyer that highlighted the lives of Native youth living on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
The stars of the program were its young subjects: Twelve year-old Louise Clifford, a girl who loves to write and study math and does well in school yet struggles living in a home affected by alcohol abuse; six-year-old pow-wow dancer Tashina Iron Horse; 18-year-old actress and singer Alaina Clifford; and 12-year-old quarterback and student council president Robert Looks Twice.
According to the ABC News website, Tashina Iron Horse, wants Justin Bieber to be her boyfriend and would ask President Obama for “Fresh water, bubble gum…and a backpack.” She wants to grow up to be a police officer, a career choice inspired by her mother Bobbie, who works long hours as a security guard. Clifford, who was chosen to sing the national anthem at a South Dakota state boys basketball championship felt saddened when she was not selected by American Idol. Her life became more difficult when she became pregnant while still in high school. Looks Twice, lauded as a youth who hasn’t forgotten his Native Roots, keeps his hair long and remains close to tradition. He hopes to be the first Native American president.
In Sawyer’s documentary, many of the American public learned for perhaps the first time about the poverty and living conditions typical of many Native American reservations. The program showed adults struggling with alcoholism and obesity, and children packed into crumbling government housing with no heat, crumbling ceilings, black mold and floors looking as though they might collapse at any moment. According to many comments online, Sawyer’s coverage only scratched the surface of the world of the Pine Ridge reservation.
Tanka Bar, a company on Pine Ridge that was highlighted in the special, remarked on Twitter that its website had crashed.
Tweeters watching the show used the hashtag #HiddenAmerica to trade comments, and hundreds of tweets poured forth expressing shock, dismay, and most of all appreciation for the reporting of Diane Sawyer.
Examples from native and non-native people on Twitter included:
selis88: Reservations = concentration camps!
ToryJohnson: Unimaginable in our backyard. Must watch.
Hundreds of Facebook users left comments on Indian Country Today Media Network’s Facebook page:
Adam Gonzales Robert Looks Twice has my vote for President!!!
Marina Gray I thought it was very well done. I love Diane Sawyer. I wish more journalists would do programs like this so people would understand more about what is going on in Indian Country NOW instead of looking at Native Americans only in the context of past history.
Ronnie Smith If i hd all the money n the world i wuld help the ppl of pine ridge,cos it duzn’t matter wat tribe ur frm wr still all one tribe and one nation and yes we do nd a native american president,but thats gonna hpn 1 day and thats the truth.
Eli Redman Well done, but think this needs to be even longer as there are so many complex issues and challenges. More education of mainstream America needs to happen and this was a tiny start. Diane Sawyer please keep going with this…it could have been ..say a 4 to 6 part documentary.
Randy Harvey I watched this and had tears in my eyes several times. Our government will spend billions sending aid to other countries but they can’t take care of our own. I say it is time to make them stand up and honor their treaties and take care of the indigenous people. The government needs to walk the Good Red Road for a change.
Coree Sabaque Was a very good documentary for those who don’t know what life’s like on a reservation any reservation for that matter. So much needs to be done an the new generation is where it needs to start. I’d like to say I want to be one of the changes and after finishing my education I’d like to go back and help my tribe bring hope to the youth.
For more information and to watch clips from the show, go to abcnews.go.com/2020.
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