On a Knife Edge

Photographs for the feature documentry On a Knife Edge, directed by Jeremy Williams.

Set against a background of rising tension and protest, a Lakota teenager learns firsthand what it means to lead a new generation and enter adulthood in a world where the odds are stacked against him.
The documentry On a Knife Edge follows George Dull Knife’s coming of age on the Pine Ridge Reservation over a five year period from thirteen to eighteen.

The Dull Knifes are a Lakota Sioux family renowned in Native American lore. Chief Dull Knife (George’s three-times great grandfather) fought alongside Crazy Horse at the battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, defeating Colonel Custer. By the end of the ‘Indian Wars’ after capture and persecution the Dull Knifes escaped to make a perilous journey towards their homelands in the North. Eventually they settled on what would come to be the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Taken during the last week of five years filming this series of photographs portray the events leading up to the 125th anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre. Wounded Knee is commemorated by Native Americans for two events. The first event came in 1890 with the horrific massacre of several hundred Lakotan people including 250 women and children by the U.S Army. The second event in 1973 was the 71 day occupation of Wounded Knee by activists and members of the American Indian Movement (A.I.M). The occupation was in response to corruption and abuse of powers by the then Tribal government and the failure of the U.S government to honour its treaties with the Native American people.

Seen as an emblem of both historic and contemporary injustice of the treatment of Native American people the anniversary of Wounded Knee is marked by a massed march and ceremony every year.

In the weeks prior to anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre, there were a series of protests and meetings as the result of a racist incident at a minor league hockey game in Rapid City. Children from a school in the Pine Ridge Reservation attended the game as a reward for academic achievement. At the game a group of white men seated in a corporate box above the children poured beer on them and shouted racial slurs. Protests incited by this incident are depicted in the series above.

On a Knife Edge can be seen here.