By Nicole Willis
The Standing Rock movement was a unique uprising in many ways. It had many facets and moving parts, each with a voice of its own. It must be remembered though that at the heart of the movement was a sovereign government refusing to acquiesce to the dismissive tactics of another. It was a boiling point: Indian tribes throughout the country are subjected to such disregard by American governments daily. But we were at a tipping point in 2016, teeming with growing unrest and incredulity at what was happening nationally. Through faith and in prayer, Standing Rock rose.
There are many things that happened at the government-to-government level that were never reported or covered. There were daily communications with numerous agencies in the federal government, and a large number of folks working tirelessly in Washington DC to help the tribe find a path forward, to begin to right history. There was also a lot of political strategy deployed in the tribe’s words and actions. Due to its unique relationship with the federal government and tense ties to the state, a high level of calculation was necessary to both advance the tribe’s goals and to protect the tribe and all its guests. It was for sure a complex exercise in diplomacy and navigating uncharted territory with an administration in which natives had enjoyed an unprecedented amount of access.
There was significant victory, and obviously significant setbacks. But we see the power of what is possible now. And perhaps most importantly, we have carved out a unique space for Indigenous issues on social media, and really began to train the mainstream media as to our continued existence, resistance, and most importantly, how to talk about us. For perhaps the first time in history, natives got to set and control their own narrative at the government and grassroots level.