What's Happening in Standing Rock?
Last week, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota emerged as climate change heroes when, with little political clout or media spotlight, they halted construction of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline. After tribal chairman David Archambault II and others were arrested for pushing past barricades to block excavating machinery, Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted that he was inspired, and Bill McKibben touted Native Americans as the “the vanguard of the movement.” As the tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop crews from burrowing beneath the Missouri River immediately upstream from their land, the homely, unpronounceable hashtag #NoDAPL surged—short for No Dakota Access Pipeline.
Meanwhile, the defiance evoked America’s ugly racial past—and present. “It feels like 1875 because Natives are still fighting for our land,” tweeted Native American writer Sherman Alexie. Archambault could have been describing Ferguson or Baltimore when, in the New York Times, he decried racial profiling and claimed that “the state has militarized my reservation.” In a touch of epic derp that would be funny if it didn’t actually reveal how people of color are assumed to be violent, when the Lakota invited relatives to pack their peace pipes and gather with them in solidarity, the (white) county sheriff thought they meant pipe bombs.