Friday, August 26, 2011


It is no surprise to me that the US now encourages a policy of open humiliation of smokers and forcing them into dangerous places. I would not allow myself to become a second class citizen in a country that has squeezed tax from my product of choice since I was 8 years old. I don't know why these smokers hang their heads in such shame and apologise for their very existence.

Of course America is used to treating people less than human if they don't fit the American dream. The Native American Indian tribes have been shafted for years

The American Govt has refused to honour treaties after stealing land that was not their's to take and now a photographer Aaron Huey is raising awareness of how these people have been forced effectively to live on Prisoner of War camps in abject poverty.

Some members of The Lakota Tribe of Sioux Indians don't like the portrayal of their culture as one of such social depravity for the consumption of White Americans but recognise the importance of getting word out that they have been continually ignored and sidelined and their treaties dishonoured. They say :

Huey’s photographs depict high unemployment, broken families, alcohol abuse and life expectancy lower than that in Afghanistan. The statistics are shocking.

But more than that, Huey’s photographs show the legacy of the lies and broken treaties of the US government stretching back over a century. If the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) had been observed, then the Lakota and associated Sioux tribes would own land stretching across five states.

To refer to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as a prisoner of war camp may seem incendiary to some, but this is how many of the Lakota see their existence. The Black Hills have been stolen and the Lakota live on the most infertile land fenced in on all sides by an encroaching dominant culture that they’ve predominantly experienced as oppressing and damaging. The solutions are not simple, but awareness and a will to action is.

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is prisoner of war camp #344.

In the same way that suggesting smokers are a group that is being openly discriminated against, mistreated, abused, humiliated and even dismissed when they complain about newspapers openly calling for violence against them is somehow "offensive", so too are the Native Americans fearful of the incendiary suggestion that natives defeated by the US are forced to live in disgusting PoW camps in case that might offend too.

Truth hurts it seems but rather than take it on board and face the fact that something needs to be redressed, the US - like too many other western countries today - cling to their prejudices and throw money at them to ensure the underprivileged and unpopular stay oppressed and silent.

Even when the majority of Americans agree the Indians should have some autonomy, the US state still wants to get its grubby hands on the Indian tobacco so they can tax it to the hilt and steal that money from its rightful owners.

It appears that in the US if you are a member of a native tribe or a smoker then you are worth nothing but the time spent on working out how to exclude, humiliate and treat you less than human. All that matters is money - not health or well being or happiness. Or as the president of the Seneca Nation put it :

"New York State government officials don't get it. They are willing to ignore those treaties and the will of the people of New York in their endless quest to generate new revenues to balance their budget..."

Shame they did not ignore the alleged "will of the people" in hounding smokers out of existence. It seems that Govts only support those who support what Govts want - or in the case of smoker restrictions - listening the prejudice of self interest groups that pretend to be charities and pretend to speak for smokers when in reality they speak for no one but themselves.