Standing Rock is About More than Just A Pipeline

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.

2 thoughts on “Standing Rock is About More than Just A Pipeline”

  1. Good comments, Jeremy. To me, this is why archaeology belongs in anthropology departments. Sociocultural anthropology has debated the pros and cons of “activist” anthropologists, but they regardless of the debate activism is an undeniable aspect of many anthropologists’ work. Issues like Standing Rock highlight the way that archaeology has a major role to play in the negotiation of power between minority/indigenous communities and the nation at large. Frankly, since archaeological work is a common and persistent presence in many indigenous communities (moreso than in most of Euroamerican communities), it might be archaeology that serves as the constant reminder of structural injustice in the U.S.

  2. I wish I could believe that this would be what most folks do but I fear that as usual they will move onto the next sexy crisis, I’ve been trying to make the case here in Nebraska and Iowa to pipeline fighters that we need to focus on the bigger issue of how as long as the only way we have to value places is by their commercial value that rural places will continue to be used as sacrifice zones but so far to no avail.
    If folks have any resources to spend on/with an issue (or just a twitter account or facebook page, etc to spread the word) that will take much longer to fight please take a look at the ongoing nightmare of continuing genocide by slow violence in Whiteclay Nebraska and help elders like Frank LaMere to end this tragic injustice:

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