William Plews-Ogan is a 4th-year undergraduate at the College of William & Mary. His academic focus in sociology and Hispanic Studies has involved independent honors thesis research on restorative justice in California, Spain, and Australia. In Australia, his ethnographic work specifically involves indigenous justice systems that operate in conjunction with federal and state law. William will move onto a job in human resources consulting in the summer, but hopes to pursue further journalistic and academic work in the future.
New Justice Center: A Beacon of Hope for Oglala Sioux Amid Complex Challenges
In the dead of a relatively warm winter, snow still clutters the crevassed plains here on Oglala Sioux lands, darkening into grainy slush as it nears the modest center of Pine Ridge. Trailer homes line the road into this tiny town, their feeble tin sheet roofs held fast by old tires. A steady stream of walkers shuffle down the shoulders of Route 18. Some are disabled and in wheelchairs; some are walking to Whiteclay, Nebraska, where alcohol is legal.
Pine Ridge, South Dakota, seems not to be a sleepy town, but a tired town—tired of poverty, tired of crime, tired of early mortality, and tired being the token counter-example to the thriving Native American nation. The reservation lies in one of the two poorest counties in the United States. The average life expectancy on Pine Ridge is decades lower than in surrounding states.
But there is a new beacon of hope in this bleak landscape—a sign of progress for many who have grappled with the many entrenched challenges facing the town and the Oglala Sioux overall.
Read the rest of William's article here.