The well-meaning but inept documentary “Wounded Heart: Pine Ridge and the Sioux” traces the various crises facing today’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Deep poverty, rampant alcohol and drug abuse, wildly inefficient health care, abnormally high levels of domestic violence and charges of racism in dealings with the white society are cited by a handful of the Lakota people interviewed in the film.
What is not cited, however, is the absence of responsibility from anyone who has a degree of authority regarding Pine Ridge. Jim McDermott, a Congressman from Washington State, is interviewed extensively – but none of South Dakota’s elected officials are on camera. A few members of the Lakota community bemoan the breakdown of their society, but the tribal government leaders are conspicuously absent from the film. A young woman notes the ease of obtaining marijuana and cocaine on the reservation, but the tribal police are not grilled about how their law enforcement efforts are worthless against the local drug traffic.
And to be perfectly frank, the views of Lakota housing with garbage dumped on the lawns and interiors in advanced states of disrepair suggest a community where the people are too lazy to clean up after themselves. C’mon, folks, stop blaming Whitey for all of your problems!
But the most obnoxious aspect to this film is self-proclaimed Indian activist Russell Means, who sneers at how Hollywood continues to perpetrate negative imagery of the American Indian. Never mind that he’s profited from appearing in several Hollywood films. Means then insinuates he was personally thrilled to see the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. If Means can coherently explain how the thousands killed on 9/11 were responsible for the state of Pine Ridge today, I would love to hear it.