Sometime last year, the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota became not just a physical location but an iconic challenge to the national conscience. Like the Selma civil rights marches in 1965 or the Frank’s Landing tribal fishing-rights demonstrations in 1970, Standing Rock’s water protectors, as they call themselves, have transformed ideas of advocacy and resistance with nonviolent direct action and prayer. They have built coalitions across movements for tribal sovereignty, defense of natural resources, resistance to expanding energy infrastructure, and cultural survival. They have shown the world a culture grounded in stewardship and connection to Earth.
The resistance that persisted even through the cold and dark of the North Dakota winter, with ongoing injuries and arrests, shows how difficult, dangerous, and uncertain it can be to speak truth to power.
Now the spirit of Standing Rock is on the move.
Stephanie Woodard is an award-winning journalist who writes on human rights and culture with a focus on Native American issues. She is the author of American Apartheid: The Native American Struggle for Self-Determination and Inclusion.