Standing Rock and the eternal fight for decolonization and freedom across the world.


Standing Rock marked a turning point for Indigenous resistance on Turtle Island. And although the camps had been forcefully evicted by police two weeks after Donald Trump took office, the struggle continues.

While temperatures rise worldwide and the rightward global authoritarian turn intensifies, there are signs of hope. In the short span since we first assembled this collection to now, Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland became the first Native American women elected to Congress, making history not once but twice. In February of this year, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat who started her successful bid for Congress the day after Trump’s election while she was at the Standing Rock camps, introduced the Green New Deal, the far-reaching, comprehensive legislation that has become the clarion call for climate justice. Some Indigenous movements are pushing Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed legislation even further, offering their own visions of a decolonized, post-fossil fuel world. None of this would have been possible without the Indigenous-led movement at Standing Rock.

While electoral politics may somewhat reflect a repudiation of the authoritarian turn, they are not the end goal for many still struggling against ongoing colonial violence and occupation. Let’s not forget that the Dakota Access Pipeline was largely built under the watch of Obama’s Democratic administration. And Standing Rock was a bright shining star in a constellation of struggles, stars that still burn in our hearts and minds today: Unist’ot’en Camp (2010), Keystone XL (2011), Idle No More (2012), Trans Mountain (2013), Enbridge Line 3 (2014), Save Oak Flat (2015), Protect Mauna Kea (2015), Nihígaal Bee Iiná (2015), and Bayou Bridge (2017), and many others. In fact, many of the contributors to this volume were participants in these struggles before and after Standing Rock.

This volume is also a story of the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota nations. As Lewis Grassrope points out, the Oceti Sakowin—the Nation of the Seven Council Fires—united in the nineteenth century and again in the twenty-first century at Standing Rock to resist settler encroachment. For Phyllis Young, the name Hunkpapa, for the people of Standing Rock, “means horn of the buffalo” or, in her words, “protectors of our nation of Oceti Sakowin.” “I’m still here,” Ladonna Bravebull Allard, the founder of Sacred Stone Camp, the first camp, says in this volume. “I have not quit fighting. I still live here.” Perhaps the most prophetic voice, however, comes from the youth. “This fight has become my entire life,” says Zaysha Grinnell, a youth leader from Fort Berthold. For her, Standing Rock “is just the beginning of the revolution.”

There are many stories to tell, and you can feel the weight of these stories in your hands. Those close to these accounts may share the tears, laughter, camaraderie, and profound sense of freedom we as editors re-lived while compiling this volume. It is as much a window into history as it is a book of emotions and community strength, with all the ups and downs, that was Standing Rock and is the eternal fight for decolonization and freedom across the globe.

No doubt, the Water Protector and the phrase “water is life” are the icons of this generation of climate revolutionaries—Indigenous and allied comrades alike. We are forever grateful for the continued sacrifices of Water Protectors and Land Defenders throughout the world. Without them, we wouldn’t be here today. This book would not have been possible.


Nick Estes is Kul Wicasa, a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. He is assistant professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico; cofounder of The Red Nation, an organization dedicated to Indigenous liberation; and author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance.

Jaskiran Dhillon is a first-generation anticolonial scholar and organizer who grew up on Treaty Six Cree Territory in Saskatchewan, Canada. She is associate professor of global studies and anthropology at The New School and author of Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization, and the Politics of Intervention.

Leave a Reply