In Defense of Our Relatives



Groups often act against threats to their kin, but what if one group denies the very existence of another’s relatives? Among the people of Oceti Sakowin, what it means to care for 'relatives' starkly contrasts conventional non-Native ways of reckoning with water, land, and other beings. If, according to an indigenous view, sacred places are relatives, then words like 'emergency' or 'crisis' are apt to describe Indigenous people’s feelings about clashes such as what recently occurred around Standing Rock, North Dakota. There, the matter of what counts as kin was a central ingredient to collective protests that, even if labeled as a one-off defeat, may empower those who have been historically disempowered. Led by a well-coordinated and social media-savvy Indigenous youth movement, the struggle to protect a relative—a river, in this case—may indicate a renewed sense of efficacy among Indigenous peoples, perhaps especially among those who had not previously identified as activists.

Keywords: Sacred space, Social media, Protest camps, Standing Rock Indian Reservation (N.D. and S.D.), Dakota Indians, Lakota Indians, Youth protest movements

How to Cite: Wells, M. (2017) “In Defense of Our Relatives”, Studies in Arts and Humanities. 3(2). doi: