In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Rewriting and Rerighting Indigenous Histories
  • Andrew H. Fisher (bio)
Nick Estes, Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. London and New York: Verso, 2019. x + 310 pp. Illustrations, maps, notes, and index. $26.95.
David Treuer, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present. New York: Riverhead Books, 2019. 512 pp. Notes and index. $28.00.

In Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (second edition 2012), Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith posed a provocative question: “Is History Important for Indigenous Peoples?” Her answer was ambivalent but affirmed the need for “a critique of how we, as the Other, have been represented or excluded from various accounts. Every issue has been approached by indigenous peoples with a view to rewriting and rerighting our position in history. Indigenous peoples want to tell our own stories, write our own versions, in our own ways, for our own purposes” (p. 29). Over the past twenty years, dozens of Native American authors and scholars have turned to that task, yet the process of decolonizing the academy and the larger society has only just begun. The books considered in this review strike two more blows against the intellectual structure of settler colonialism and its logic of elimination, which seeks to destroy Indigenous cultures in order to replace them.

Although they differ considerably in style and tone, Our History Is the Future and The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee share Smith’s commitment to “rewriting and rerighting” the position of Indigenous peoples in both the past and the present. Nick Estes (Kul Wicasa/Lower Brule) and David Treuer (Ojibwe) write to counter a historical tradition that Estes calls “distorted” and “deeply disempowering” (p. 16). Their interest in doing so is not historiographical but unabashedly presentist, as they seek to change the terms under which Native communities live today. “There is no separation between past and present,” argues Estes, “meaning that an alternative future is also determined by our understanding of our past. Our history is the future” (pp. 10–11). The history of Indigenous peoples is also, they insist, integral to the history of modern America and the world. [End Page 63]

Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance emerged directly from the confrontation noted in its subtitle. Estes, a professor of American Studies and a Lakota citizen of the Oceti Sakowin (People of the Seven Council Fires, or Sioux Nation), was among the “Water Protectors” who stood up against Energy Transfer Partners and its government backers in 2016–17. For more than six months, a coalition of tribal members, environmental activists, and Indigenous allies from around the world staged peaceful protests to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from carrying crude oil beneath the Missouri River (Mni Sose) just upstream from the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota. Their movement drew both international media attention and militarized police, dispatched from multiple agencies and jurisdictions to clear the pipeline’s path by force. In the ugly crackdown that followed, law enforcement deployed anti-riot gear, armored vehicles, pepper spray, tear gas, water cannons, LRAD acoustic weapons, and counterinsurgency techniques against people armed only with drums and prayer feathers. Ultimately, the Water Protectors failed to stop the “Black Snake” (Zuzeca Sapa) from crossing the Missouri, but Estes found hope in the “meaningful solidarities” (p. 7) that had formed among activists from many walks of life. He also found inspiration for a book. Less than two years later, he published Our History Is the Future in order to “chart a historical road map for collective liberation” (p. 22).

Estes’s book places the #NoDAPL movement in the larger context of Oceti Sakowin resistance to the entwined powers of settler colonialism and corporate capitalism. Since the early nineteenth century, when Lewis and Clark described the Sioux as the “vilest miscreants of the savage race” (p. 74), the tribes have generally been regarded as obstacles to American expansion and economic development on the Great Plains. Their heroic defiance of U.S. hegemony has made the Lakotas especially a favored subject among scholars...