These girls are the future.
On Feb. 19, 2010, six girls from Santee Reservation High School spent an afternoon talking about their lives. Without any inhibition, the girls shared their hopes, wants, dreams and sadness during candid video interviews. The girls smiled as they talked about loved ones, their hopes and things they like to do. But just as quick as they were to smile, they shed tears as they talked about loss and the problems of the reservation.
This project allows you to interact with the girls, ask questions and explore their lives.
Take part in the interactive interview by clicking a portrait above or picking a name below.
Jordon Whipple walks down a quiet road on the Santee Reservation with her friends after school. Classmates walk ahead in the distance, turning the curve to come into town. Even though the roads seem to stretch forever, they don't seem to lead anywhere. Or maybe they lead to another reservation where another group of girls are walking to nowhere. Or maybe they lead to cities with strip malls, universities and white people with their lack of understanding and alien ways and experiences. Some people Jordon knows have traveled down those roads, some for longer, extended stints to get degrees or just to have adventures, others just for Chinese food over in Yankton, S.D., with their grandmas, but it seems that everyone comes back to the rez sooner or later.
Jordon's gossiping with her friends as they walk towards home. Smiling her bright troublemaker smile. They talk about teenage girl drama. Boys, music, clothes, sports, gossip and - when they feel brave - their dreams.
A packed car cruises by and someone - some upperclassman - shouts an insult at the group. It's not directed at anyone in particular. Just mean to be mean. She coolly -- almost naturally -- shouts back at the car. She's not smiling anymore. She could have almost called the girl a friend when they were young, but that was a long time ago. She's tough as hell. Tougher than most freshman girls in America. Tougher than most non-rez people ever dream of being. People called her tough when she stole her auntie's car with a girlfriend and drove two hours to Macy, to another rez, to see a boy. The cops had to bring her home. Earlier today, she smiled her bright, troublemaker smile when she recalled that weekend. She caught hell for running away, her auntie refusing to talk to her for months, but her mom didn't say much, and her dad's never around and doesn't even know about it. Something in her smile that says she might do it again. For longer and further this time.
When she's brave enough to talk about her future, she talks about going to college in Miami to become a nurse and returning to heal her broken family. She's seen enough of her friends and family - people Jordan thinks of as tougher than she would ever be capable of being - lose sight of their dreams to know this won't be easy. The odds are against her, but she sets her jaw tight and looks down the road that winds through the hills of Santee, past the houses and the gas station, past the other girls and the suicides of her friends and family, past it all and to what lies just past the horizon.
Now, she's not smiling. Her friends have already moved past the catcalls and are talking about cute boys or cell phones. Tears well in Jordon's eyes and she sets her jaw tight.
"I want to get out of here," she finally says.
Matt Buxton: Interviews, photography and web design
Molly Young: Interviews, audio