I’m not Native American, and I won’t pretend to understand the importance of the DAPL issue for indigenous people in North Dakota and throughout the country. However, I have a quick thought about how people like myself – white, liberal, and concerned about indigenous issues and settler colonialism in the US and around the world. I have a busy weekend ahead, so I’m kind of in a rush, but I wanted to say this while the issue is still fresh in people’s minds. So, briefly, what I want to say is that Standing Rock is about more than just a pipeline, it’s about a broader context of settler colonialism and systemic violence in the US.
It is often easy for us (white, liberals like myself) to feel impassioned about an issue at a moment of crisis, when the omnipresent reality of structural violence rears its ugly head and when those who fight back everyday join together and take a stand. It’s also easy when the issue at hand fits in with other issues that concern us like historic preservation or environmental sustainability. But it is also important for us to remember that this same exact thing is going on all of the time in places other than Standing Rock, places that are less visible, and less dramatic, but no less violent.
So, while we’re enraged and upset about this particular issue, let’s take some time to learn and become impassioned about the deeper concerns facing indigenous peoples here and abroad. Read some Vine Deloria, some Winona Laduke. Look around for other contested pipelines or development projects. Learn about symbolic violence like cultural appropriation and native mascots, and how these affect indigenous communities. Just as the Black Lives Matter movement has brought systemic racism into our everyday lives (just like it is a part of their everyday lives), let us start paying attention to the everyday presence of the systemic violence of settler colonialism. The warriors at Standing Rock have done an amazing job bringing these issues to our attention, and there is hope that they will win at the end of the day, but win or lose, let’s not turn away from the underlying problem and the always ongoing battle for decolonization.