Views from the Reservation

A New Edition

John Willis

Photographer John Willis has long been aware of the exploitation that can occur when photographers enter communities as outsiders. So, in 1992, when he first visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, he assured elders of the Oglala Lakota nation that he would not exhibit any of his images.
Date Published :
August 2019
Publisher :
George F Thompson Publishing
Contributor(s) :
Kent Nerburn
Illustration :
82 duotones by the author, 3 color and 31 black-and-white historic photographs, and 7 color ledger drawings
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781938086632
Pages : 192
Dimensions : 11 X 10 inches
Stock Status : In stock


Photographer John Willis has long been aware of the exploitation that can occur when photographers enter communities as outsiders. So, in 1992, when he first visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, he assured elders of the Oglala Lakota nation that he would not exhibit any of his images. Over time, however, Willis earned the respect and trust of the community, and the elders urged him to show his work and create this book so that others might better understand Lakota land and life.

Willis has returned to the reservation every year since 1992, and he has come to grasp and interpret this place as few others have. Views from the Reservation, first published to widespread acclaim in 2010 and now presented in an updated and expanded edition, remains a gift—a wopila—that is meant to open the minds, eyes, and hearts of outsiders to the life, culture, and conditions of the Oglala Lakota people.

Along with his insightful and accomplished images, Willis has enlisted other voices to offer a more complete story: Lakota elders and high school students from the Pine Ridge Reservation offer powerful poems; writer Kent Nerburn contributes an original essay; Emil Her Many Horses, a curator at the National Museum of the American Indian, tells his story of growing up on the rez; Kevin Gover, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian, apologizes for the government’s abuse of native people; Oglala Lakota artist Dwayne Wilcox shares his provocative ledger drawings; and members of the Reddest family present their amazing photo collection.

Views from the Reservation is a masterful book that has been praised by the Lakota people for its honesty, spirit, and depth. It offers the chance for native peoples and outsiders alike to appreciate and respect the Pine Ridge Reservation from contemporary and historical points of view, with art and storytelling leading the way.

About The Author

John Willis is Professor of Photography at Marlboro College and a co-founder of the In-Sight Photography Project ( and Exposures Cross Cultural Youth Photography Program ( He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fel-lowship in Photography after Views from the Reservation was first published in 2010. His photographs are in more than sixty collections, including the Amon Carter Museum, Center for Creative Photography, George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, J. Paul Getty Museum, Heard Museum, High Museum of Art, Library of Congress, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, National Gallery of Art, National Museum of the American Indian, Nelson-Adkins Museum of Art, Princeton University Art Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo Metropolitan Muse-um of Photography, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Yale University Gallery of Art. His other books are Recycled Realities, a collaborative effort with photographer Tom Young (Center for American Places, 2005) and Views from the Reservation: A New Edition (George F. Thompson Publishing, 2019). His Website is

Kent Nerburn is the author of fourteen books on spiritual values and American Indian themes, including Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder (New World Library, 1994), Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce: The Untold Story of an American Tragedy (HarperCollins, 2005), and The Wolf of Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows (New World Library, 2009). His Website is


Views from the Reservation goes well beyond what others have written about and discussed regarding the tribal people who live within the reservation’s boundaries. John Willis captures not only the day-to-day challenges of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, but more importantly the true pride of the people. He shows in vivid detail that the culture is truly being passed from one generation to another. As many elders have told me, ‘This is our life, and John Willis has captured it.’ As this book shows, the residents of Pine Ridge are truly mending the circle of life. Thank you, Mr. Willis, for your great gift. Views from the Reservation is a must-read for all ages.”

- Gerard Baker, retired Assistant Director for American Indian Relations at the National Park Service and retired Superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Monument

“This is a beautiful, painful book: a soulful reminder of a dark part of our past and present, an elegant road to a better future.”

- Ken Burns, Filmmaker

“John Willis’s book looks to redefine a special place—the Pine Ridge Reservation—and, in doing so, he offers a new model for tackling the issues of place, community, and history.”

- Linda Connor, Professor of Photography, San Francisco Art Institute

“The Lakota say that it is the white man’s gift to know how everything works. It is the Lakota’s gift to know how everything fits together. John Willis’s gift is to weave together many talents, observations, and works of art into a beautiful book.”

- Wendy Ewald, Senior Research Associate and Artist-in-Residence, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, and MacArthur Fellow

Views from the Reservation is amazing—incredible pictures and heartfelt stories perfectly told. Every photograph is a classic: carefully seen, lovingly captured, and painstakingly executed.”

- Henry Horenstein, Professor of Photography, Rhode Island School of Design

“With a powerful command of both image and word, John Willis weaves an insightful and richly textured portrait of contemporary Lakota life. Willis’s arresting imagery is more than mere documentation: Sobering and uplifting at once, it not only speaks to concerns of the Lakota tribe, which refuses to succumb to centuries of hardship and oppression, but also reveals the tenacity, indomitable will, and inherent spirituality of the people. For the serious student of art, history, and cultural traditions, this beautifully crafted book is a must-read that speaks to the human condition.”

- Zig Jackson, Professor of Photography, Savannah College of Art and Design

“People ask me, ‘Leonard, do you regret giving up your life for freedom, for your people, for your native nations?’ All I can say is: Read this book—its poetry, its essays—and look closely at its photography. Then look into a mirror and ask yourself, ‘What would you have done?’”

- Leonard Peltier, American Indian Movement Activist and Federal Prisoner #89637–132

Views from the Reservation is filled with spiritual power and insightful observations. […] The pictures are beautiful; the circumstances are not. This book is a wake-up call, for those who are unaware of or have not considered the historic and current issues of Indigenous Americans and the Oglala Lakota Tribe in particular.”  

- Zeke Magazine

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