- Standing with Standing Rock: Voices from the #NODAPL Movement ed. by Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon
In the Spring of 2016, a political resistance movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline made international news when the social media hashtag #NODAPL went viral. A showdown between American Indian activist and their supporters against the Dakota Access, LLC and the United States federal government was occurring on the northern Great Plains of the United States. The Dakota Access Pipeline would connect the oil rich Bakken formation in northwest North Dakota with an oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois, approximately 1,172 miles and costing about $3.8 billion. At the heart of the issue was the proposed path of the pipeline that would be constructed under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed several lawsuits to halt construction of the pipeline legitimately fearing the destruction of sacred sites and the poisoning of the tribe’s sole water supply. For the Standing Rock Sioux, Mnisose (the Missouri River) was life (56). The #NODAPL protesters who converged on the Standing Rock Reservation viewed the Dakota Access Pipeline as another act in the long history of colonialism in the name of corporate greed. Additionally, the resistance movement represented a recent increase of Indigenous decolonization activism of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The anthology, Standing With Standing Rock, edited by Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon, covers a lot of ground with twenty-nine individual chapters written by a wide variety of authors, including activists, journalists, scholars, and tribal officials. Each chapter is organized around six different sections: “Leading the Resistance,” “Living Histories,” “Legal and Sociopolitical Landscapes and State Violence,” “Environmental Colonization,” “Education and Critical Pedagogies,” and “Indigenous Organizing and Solidarity in Movement Building.” The intention of the editors of Standing with Standing Rock was to compile an anthology that provided “radical engagement with the political resistance at Standing Rock,” by also demonstrating the movement’s broader connection to “an anticolonial, Indigenous-led struggle for liberation from pervasive, ongoing colonial violence” (6). The wide spectrum of contributions in this anthology successfully presents the [End Page 199] magnitude and scope of global Indigenous decolonize politics that was present at the #NODAPL Movement.
At the heart of this anthology is the evils of colonization and the effects of capitalism’s greed against Indigenous peoples around the world. Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault shrewdly made the connection between colonization and capitalism by comparing the violence associated with nineteenth century gold rushes on tribal land to the construction of oil pipelines during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, commenting that the “tribes have always paid the price for America’s prosperity” (39). Much of the Standing Rock Sioux argument against the oil pipeline centered around their claim that the pipeline violated water rights granted in the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. However, US history is riddled with broken treaties, all under the auspices of “national interest.” The threw-line to these broken treaties is a legacy of financial injustices and economic inequalities in the name of profit. Michelle L. Cook, member of the Honagháahnii Clan of the Diné and human rights lawyer, accurately summarized that “banks have always financed colonialism,” and the #NODAPL Movement exposed the “interdependence between banks, states, and corporations” that led to the exploitation of Indigenous people (117 and 133).
For most Indigenous peoples what happened with the Dakota Access Pipeline was a part of a larger generational suppression of tribal rights. LaDonna Bravebull Allard captured this sentiment in an interview with Nick Estes by stating, “I can tell you my story, which is my grandmother’s story, which is my great-grandmother’s story” (47). The collective authors of Standing with Standing Rock viewed the anthology and the #NODAPL Movement as a way to engender intergenerational healing. This movement was bigger than the environmental concerns, as Andrew Curley, assistant professor of geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill concluded. Curley astutely concluded that the...