Sunday Afternoon Video Chat Volume 1: #2

Our first session went off with such few hitches that we've decided to try it again.

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There will be time for "free range" mud wrestling as we renew acquaintances, match names to faces, and catch up with each other.

To provide some requested focus, we will be talking about indigenous resistance and "the vision of a better future": a human resistance fragmented by authoritarian (not sharing and not caring for naught except themselves) interests.


Nick Estes On Indigenous Resistance And The Vision Of A Better Future

Nick Estes is a historian and member of the Lower Brule branch of the Lakota people, one of the three tribes that make up the Great Sioux Nation. He grew up on the border of the reservation where his father’s family lived but was raised by his mother, an Irish Catholic teacher from North Carolina. He says his father gave him knowledge and his mother taught him compassion, both of which helped him through the poverty of his childhood.

Estes was seventeen in 2003 when he finished a shift at Pizza Hut and drove with a friend to Omaha, Nebraska, to participate in a demonstration against the second Iraq War. (He’d learned about political opposition to the war through his interest in punk rock.) That night was his first exposure to tear gas and pepper spray — and his introduction to activism. “After witnessing that,” he says, “there was no way I could go back.” He went on to attend the University of South Dakota, where he was one of seventeen Native American students in his freshman class, and the only one who would graduate.

Though he started out as an environmental-studies major, Estes switched to history after taking a class from a professor who made bigoted remarks about Native Americans. “Lakota people are some of the most written-about Indigenous people on the planet,” Estes says, “yet historians still don’t know who we are.” It wasn’t until he began reading about Native American activism and the Red Power movement that he discovered the tradition of resistance within his own family: his grandparents fought against the damming of the Missouri River by the Army Corps of Engineers. Their efforts were a predecessor to the Standing Rock protests that, for nearly a year in 2016 and 2017, halted progress on the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL. The pipeline, completed in May 2017, carries oil through the Dakotas and Iowa to Illinois, crossing the Missouri River and bringing the possibility of a spill that could contaminate the local water supply. Estes says opposition to the pipeline was about more than just protecting water quality; it was part of a long-term strategy to restore the river-basin ecosystem that supported Indigenous ways of life for centuries and an effort to reclaim Indigenous sovereignty after five hundred years of colonialism.

In his 2019 book Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance, Estes presents Native Americans as a future-oriented people, not a remnant of a dying culture. The Indigenous struggle for survival, he argues, is inextricably linked to the struggle to keep the planet habitable for human beings.

Estes, an assistant professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico, is also cofounder of the Albuquerque-based organization Red Nation, which has fought against fracking near sacred Indigenous sites, opposed child detention at the U.S.-Mexico border, and worked to end violence against Native people. Estes has been an American Democracy Fellow at Harvard University, received an award from the Native American Journalists Association, and coedited the book Standing with Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement ( “Indigenous history,” Estes says, “can teach us that capitalism is neither inevitable nor natural. It shows that there were noncapitalist societies, noncapitalist nations, noncapitalist civilizations that were knocked off their developmental trajectory by colonialism.”

In conversation Estes comes across as a revolutionary. For him, Indigenous movements offer a radical alternative to the status quo and “invite everybody to participate as comrades, relatives, and allies.” He says, “To be a good relative to the human and nonhuman world is the ultimate Lakota virtue.”

Please read the interview and share your insights with us. Feel free to enliven our conversation with poetry and other material related to the subject.


By Tracy Frischmay

Sadly, the story seems to never end:

South Dakota governor threatens legal action if Native American tribes don't remove coronavirus checkpoints
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) on Friday told the state's Native American tribes to take down their coronavirus checkpoints along state and U.S. highways within 48 hours or face legal action.

The Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes have put up traffic checkpoints to monitor highway traffic and contain the spread of COVID-19, according to South Dakota Public Radio (SDPR). The tribes closed their borders as soon as they detected their first case. ...

Leaders of both tribes told SDPR they do not plan to comply with the governor’s orders and said her requests lack legal merit.

We hope you can join us! Sunday, May 24th, @ 1 PM Louisville (Eastern) time.

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Raggedy Ann's picture

His office is around the corner from mine on the fourth floor of the Humanities Building at UNM. He is an awesome person.

I just tried to change my avatar to a real picture of me but it came out sideways, sigh, so I put the old one back. As for the conversation, I'll email you philly. I'll try and participate, but 2:00 (my time) on a Sunday afternoon is not great). Pleasantry

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"The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." Socrates (469-399 BC)