Last month ABC’s 20/20 aired a special they called “Children of the Plains,” that portrayed the Lakota Indian reservation as a place that only dealt with crime, unemployment, alcoholism, overcrowded trailers and crumbling schools.
On Monday, young Native American students from Rosebud, South Dakota released a short video that challenged the claims made by “Children of the plains.”
“I know what you probably think of us…we saw the special too. Maybe you saw a picture, or read an article. But we want you to know, we’re more than that…We have so much more than poverty.”
“The stories are manipulative to the point of tears—literally,” wrote Rob Schmidt on Indian Country about the show. “A boy cries because his mother is an alcoholic. A girl cries because she tried to commit suicide. The school principal, an old lady in a motorized chair, cries because her work is so difficult.”
Schmidt argues the ABC documentary was little more than poverty porn because it didn’t offer any historical context or the causes of poverty for many Native American reservations.
“Are the Lakota responsible for their own plight, or is someone—the government or big business—causing it?,” Schmidt continued.
Sawyer glossed over broken treaties, stolen land and disinvestment by the end of the show, but by then it’s too little, too late. “The ‘poverty porn’ feeling predominates,” Schmidt said.