July 11, 2012

Life on the Rez reviewed

After the dubious Children of the Plains special on 20/20, people were curious how Oprah's network would cover the same ground. The answer seems to be: pretty well.

"Life on the Rez" Depicts the Good, Bad & Ugly of Life on Two South Dakota Reservations

By Levi RickertLast night's "Life on the Rez" segment on "Our America with Lisa Ling" on the OWN channel provided a glimpse of the good, bad and ugly on two American Indian reservations: the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the Yankton Sioux Reservation.

The good was the positive steps people on these reservations do on an ongoing basis to do provide hope for American Indian children, who are constantly surrounded the bad and ugliness of severe poverty, alcoholism, and suicide.

It should be noted those who are making the positive steps are alcohol-free. Somehow they overcame the self-destructiveness of drinking.

Lisa Ling tells the ugly fact that 80 percent of the people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are unemployed with no decent grocery stores with reasonable prices or healthy food to shop or industry to provide much needed jobs.

The positive steps were shown in stories, such as when 13 year old Misun Mills scores big in a powwow and is living a life of hope by embracing his Lakota culture; Eileen Janis working the phone to help save precious lives from suicide; 24 year Joe Mesteth finds solace in discovering skate boarding and 8th grade teacher Kip Spotted Eagle teaching a group of youth to deer hunt so that they may eat healthier foods, other than the USDA processed meats.
Natives React to OWN’s ‘Our America: Life on the Rez’As the report came relatively soon after Diane Sawyer’s 20/20 show on the same topic, anticipation was high among viewers in Indian country — would Lisa Ling strike the same dire tone as Sawyer had? Would the portrayal be accurate? Natives took to the great forum of our day—Twitter—to discuss the show in real time. Here are some highlights:

Alfred Walking Bull ‏@awalkingbull: Prologue of #OurAmerica a little more hopeful than Diane Sawyer’s piece. Let’s see if the theme holds up.

Cory True ‏@corytrue: Glad to see #OurAmerica started with alcohol abuse, but quickly turned to a success story. Important to show progress and positive, too!

Alfred Walking Bull ‏@awalkingbull: Minute 20 and we’re still on the negative. Oh dear. #OurAmerica #LifeOnTheRez

Cory True ‏@corytrue: This is good, fair storytelling. Thank you to @lisaling and #OurAmerica for not sensationalizing the truth of #PineRidge.

Re-Member ‏@ReMemberREZ: Great depth of coverage by @lisaling and #OurAmerica. Coupling sad reality of alcoholism with Lakota traditions in the sweat lodge ceremony.

Jerrolyn Doyebi ‏@JerrolynD: I’m watching #OurAmerica on OWN! @lisaling -We are a Strong People, thank you for showcasing OUR beauty!

Laina ‏@LainaV52: Such a gud outside look this documentary is doin on Natives frum tha Pine Ridge rez!! Im proud to b Native American!! #OurAmerica

S.whitetail ‏@SassyMae80: #OurAmerica #lifeontherez the ending was the best! I love to hear our youth speak about their future!

Alfred Walking Bull ‏@awalkingbull: “One thing is clear: they are tired of being part of a sad story … ” #LifeOnTheRez #OurAmerica well said!

Rachael German ‏@Mrs_Cab: Watching #OurAmerica haha and that’s exactly how it’s like on the rez, nothing was exaggerated or made up…glad to be #native though :)

Summer John ‏@sjune23: Great to see a show about Life on the Rez with a positive light instead of a negative one. We are here & proud of who we are #OurAmerica

William Kie ‏@WilliamKie1: #OurAmerica it was nice…but didnt dig deep. Left a lot of questions unanswered but its only an hour long program. Lot better than Sawyers

kelly anderson ‏@KellyKaliopi: @OWNCanada #OurAmerica Life on the Rez was great and aimed for the positive despite the harsh realities. I am so tired of the negative angle

Annette Brown ‏@ndnjd: @lisaling Thank You for NOT calling us 1st “Americans!” We were the last in 1924. #OurAmerica

Save Wįyąbi Project ‏@SaveWiyabi: Did you watch “Life on the Rez” tonight? We think @lisaling did a great job of showing the beauty and strength of Natives. #OurAmerica
Comment:  I don't get OWN, so I didn't see this special myself. But everyone seems to think it was better than Children of the Plains.

This addresses one point I heard after my criticism of Children of the Plains: that there wasn't enough time to include more positive notes. Of course there's time if you want to make time. You subtract some bad stuff and add some good stuff...simple.

For more on the subject, see Trimble Defends Children of the Plains and Video Response to Children of the Plains.

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