Standing Rock and accountability

Standing Rock echoed violence of the past and, for many people, awoke desire for atonement.

 

Two years ago this month, protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline began. As with so many important things, this movement started small, with people slowly trickling toward the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on the Northern Great Plains. That trickle eventually became a torrent of protesters who stood together against the pipeline company, its private security and a contingent of militarized police. Many protesters were members of tribal nations from around the world. Others were not, and this issue’s cover story focuses on one such group.

It is not a happy story. It is a cautionary tale, deeply rooted in American conquest. As U.S. colonizers expanded westward, they erased the Indigenous people they encountered along the way, destroying entire towns, mutilating and murdering men, women and children, banning languages and customs, taking land. These now-United States, ever reaching for the horizon, were built this way, from the Ohio River Valley to the Pacific Ocean. This is a fact, and each of us who lives in this country, Native or non-, bears the psychic scars.

No wonder, then, that the protests at Standing Rock drew so much support. The standoff echoed the violence of the past and awoke in many people a desire for atonement. Among them was a group called Veterans Stand. This hastily assembled advocacy group was made up of well-intentioned military veterans, who came together to push back against the aggression faced by the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters. In a particularly iconic moment, the group staged a formal apology to tribal leaders for the past crimes of the U.S. military against Indigenous people. Veterans Stand raised $1.4 million — and then spectacularly imploded.

Editor-in-chief, Brian Calvert
Brooke Warren/High Country News
What happened to all of that money? Assistant Editor Paige Blankenbuehler and Contributing Editor Tristan Ahtone, a citizen of the Kiowa Tribe, spent the last nine months trying to account not just for the funds that went toward the group but for the millions and millions of dollars that were poured into the #NoDAPL movement as a whole. What they learned was that people have a much greater capacity for charity than they do for accountability. A lot of money has gone missing. Some of it went to good causes, but plenty was wasted. HCN’s investigation focuses on just one group, but we could have written a similar story about many others.

Ultimately, the protests failed to stop the pipeline, but their legacy will endure far into the future. Standing Rock re-ignited this magazine’s desire to tell better stories from Indian Country; we now have a desk dedicated to tribal affairs and more stories told through Native writers and editors. Good, bad and ugly, we all live in the West together, and it is my hope that the stories we tell can help us learn from our mistakes and be more accountable for our actions.

High Country News Classifieds
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Mountain Lion Foundation is seeking an Executive Director. Please see our website for further information - mountainlion.org/job-openings
  • WASHINGTON DC REPRESENTATIVE
    Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Washington, DC Position Reports to: Program Director The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) is seeking a Washington, DC Representative...
  • REGIONAL CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    Position Title: Regional Campaign Organizers (2 positions) Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Preferred Billings, MT; remote location within WORC's region (in or near Grand Junction...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Western Watersheds Project seeks a Tenth Circuit Staff Attorney to bring litigation in the interests of protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife, particularly focused...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    Position Title: Director of Development Status: Full-Time/Exempt Reports to: Executive Director Location: Remote (California preferred) About the Native American Land Conservancy As one of the...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....