Nick Estes, Jaskiran Dhillon, eds. Standing with Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement. Indigenous Americas Series. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019. Illustrations. ix + 420 pp. $100.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-5179-0535-4; $24.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-5179-0536-1.
Reviewed by Nevcihan Ozbilge (McMaster University)
Published on H-Environment (June, 2020)
Commissioned by Daniella McCahey (Texas Tech University)
Review of Standing with Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement
Standing with Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement, edited by Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon, shows how the #NoDAPL (No Dakota Access Pipeline) movement contributed to the collective vision for the future of continued Indigenous resistance against ongoing settler colonialism through the examination of different elements of the movement within a broad context. Each of the six sections of the book revisits the meaning of the movement from a different perspective. The contributors address the #NoDAPL in the context of such topics as Indigenous liberation, Indigenous political sovereignty, place-based resistance, resurgence of Indigenous unity, challenges to corporate-state collaboration, refusal of environmental colonialism, treaty rights reclamation, colonial violence, and disruption of heteropatriarchy.
The contributions of Indigenous scholars and non-academic Indigenous peoples to this volume are not just a refusal of “academic publishing standards” but also an expression of the movement as an Indigenous manifesto (p. 7). They challenge the mainstream historiography which highlights the traumas experienced by Indigenous peoples since the colonial period and ignores Indigenous decolonization practices. As a rejection of this dominant historiography, the volume demonstrates that the #NoDAPL is a legacy of ongoing Indigenous resistance and not a failure. In this context, the authors voice the refusal of the idea that “Indigenous peoples were dying out” (p. 185).
The book consists of twenty-nine chapters arranged into six core parts. Some sections represent Indigenous voices by using oral histories, letters, poems, or interviews. The first part, titled “Leading the Resistance,” starts with an essay by Kim TallBear, in which she argues that Oceti Sakowin calls for Indigenous treaty rights at movement camps were not separate from defending the earth. TallBear points out that as movements like Idle No More and Standing Rock show, protection of Indigenous bodies from oppression is entwined with protection of nature. Together, the other sections of the first part—a poem by an Indigenous poet; an essay by the former chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe David Archambault II; and interviews with Zaysha Grinnell, an Indigenous youth activist, and Lewis Grassrope, a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe—emphasize that the #NoDAPL movement was inherited from the legacy of Indigenous resistance to protect the future of Indigenous peoples by the reunification of different types of nations and the maintenance of Indigenous kinship with other-than-human relatives.
In the second part, “Living Histories,” the contributors point out the significance of the land as a place where the natural world has rights, on which Indigenous life depends, and where resistance to colonial exploitation happens. In an interview, LaDonna Bravebull Allard explains how the Indigenous way of life resurged in the movement camps. According to Edward Valandra, resistance in the camps challenged the DAPL by protecting the rights of the natural world. The other contributors in this part, Craig Howe and Tyler Young, demonstrate how understanding the history of the treaty process and the history of Oceti Sakowin confederacy and its philosophies are crucial for the future of Indigenous resistance. Howe and Young argue that the #NoDAPL movement was an opportunity to educate Indigenous youth about treaty rights and Indigenous unity.
In the third part, “Legal and Sociopolitical Landscapes and State Violence,” Michelle L. Cook’s essay is notable for its comprehensive contribution by showing the crucial role of divestment as a direct action to stop financial support to the DAPL. Cook highlights that Indigenous women struggled to decolonize financial structures and tried to promote racial justice and economic democracy by engaging with divestment. The essays of Andrew Curley and Elizabeth Ellis bring a different perspective regarding the meaning of the #NoDAPL movement. They point out that the movement was political and its meaning is more than the protection of the natural world. According to Curley, the movement resisted against ongoing colonialism to preserve the rights for self-determination and territorial independence. He criticizes reducing the resistance to solely an environmental movement by characterizing Indigenous people as inherent environmentalists. Through a similar perspective, Ellis argues that the movement transformed national attention about Indigenous peoples to a political one by discussing treaty rights and Indigenous sovereignty. The final essay in this section discusses how public-private security partnership tried to legitimate the ongoing colonial violence on the movement camps by portraying protectors as terrorists.
Jaskiran Dhillon, in the fourth part, “Environmental Colonization,” mentions that the Indigenous struggle for environmental justice aims to stop colonial violence targeting Indigenous women especially. Similar to the ideas of TallBear in the first part, Dhillon discusses the relation between Indigenous bodies and environmental devastation. Beyond this perspective, she also argues that the resistance to environmental colonialism was rooted in Indigenous political practices for “the reinstatement of Indigenous authority and sovereignty” (p. 237). Dhillon follows the arguments of Curley and Ellis, which describe the #NoDAPL movement through a political context. Another essay shows how Indigenous resistance during the movement challenged the capitalist value regime. The Indigenous jurisdiction interrupted the continental oil industry by Indigenous sovereignty practices. The co-authors emphasize that the construction of the DAPL is a continental issue. As an interview with Unist’ot’en spokesperson Freda Huson demonstrates, Indigenous resistance to this continental interest of oil industries is not limited to the #NoDAPL movement. Huson argues that “Indigenous resurgence” depends on reconnecting to the land and receiving healing from it (p. 211).
Collectively the contributors of the fifth part, “Education and Critical Pedagogies,” discuss how Indigenous ethics, land-based practices, traditional ceremonies, the discipline of natural law, original methods of governing, and a community learning model were revitalized during the #NoDAPL movement as a consequence of the return of Indigenous peoples to community land. Resistance camps showed the interconnection between the defense of Indigenous bodies, maintenance of cultural practices, refusal of Indigenous erasure, and land-based education of Indigenous peoples. The contributors point out that Indigenous resistance and decolonization process are empowered by raising awareness through community-based education practices.
According to some contributors of the last part, “Indigenous Organizing and Solidarity in Movement Building,” the decolonization process depends on developing solidarity and building relationships; therefore, they argue that Indigenous struggle was related to the liberation of other oppressed groups. Solidarity between the movement for Black Lives, Indigenous sovereignty struggles, and Palestinian decolonization resistance is illustrated in these works using different approaches. Kevin Bruyneel’s critical contribution, for example, demonstrates that settler memory is “narrowing the scope of collaborative possibilities” and the liberal political movements empowered by this memory are aiming to absorb Indigenous resistance and undermine Indigenous struggle (p. 324). His critique stimulates readers to think about the meaning of solidarity. The last section ends with a comprehensive analysis of the continental pipeline infrastructures. Through this analysis, the essay shows that while colonial threats and land exploitation depend on continental networks, responses and resistance to these threats are also empowered by transnational tactics.
In this collective volume, the historiography of the #NoDAPL movement emerges as Indigenous resistance to the mainstream historical narratives that overlook Indigenous decolonization efforts and eliminates Indigenous thought. Future work on this topic can build on this edited volume as part of a collective vision for the continuation of Indigenous resistance.
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Nevcihan Ozbilge. Review of Estes, Nick; Dhillon, Jaskiran, eds., Standing with Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement.
H-Environment, H-Net Reviews.
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