mean to belittle it, but if they [Pine Ridge residents] had 10 percent unemployment, it would feel like they were in heaven. It’s more like 75 percent on the reservation. Pasa: You’re giving all your royalties from this book to radio station KILI? Willis: Yeah. The reservation radio station is very important, and it has the widest range of shows, from education and health, Lakota-language shows, political debates, announcements of what the local restaurants are serving, information about accidents on the roads and school cancellations, and also music — from traditional music to heavy metal and blues and jazz. On Sunday morning, they have local cowboys come in and do gospel country hour. Pasa: The way this book is structured is a bit different. You don’t see the publication information and the table of contents until 12 pages in. Willis: That’s the editor and me together wanting to invite the viewers into an experience with the subject as quickly as possible. Pasa: What kind of cameras did you use? Willis: It was done over a long period, and I didn’t start it out as a project, so there’s everything from 35 millimeter to 8x10, and there are a few photos in the book that were taken with digital. Pasa: How did you get the poems that are in the book? Willis: I did a lot to try to get community members to write or talk with me. A high-school teacher gave me the opportunity to read through three years’ worth of poems and helped me get permission from the students to use some of those. Some of the poems came from English classes and some were just the kids on their own. Pasa: The book comes with a CD with music you compiled, including sweat-lodge songs. Aren’t those ritual? Willis: Some would say they’re connected enough to ceremony that they should not be recorded or sold. But those are actually from a commercial CD, and the people who sang them have the viewpoint that the only way to help the young people to understand this aspect of their culture is to provide photographs and recordings.
Ellen Hollow Head’s sweat lodge ( inipi)