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
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • WYOMING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS COORDINATOR
    The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is seeking Coordinator to implement public education and advocacy campaigns in the Cowboy State to unite and amplify hunter, angler,...
  • ASSISTANT TOWN ATTORNEY
    Town of Jackson, Wyoming, $66,700 - $88,000 DOQ, full benefits. Law Degree Required. Rental housing options available. For a complete job description and to apply,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...