American Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2017


From April 2016 to February 2017, Indigenous women and youth led a historic struggle to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing Mni Sose, the Missouri River, and threatening the drinking water of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and millions downstream. Rallied under the banner Mni Wiconi, a Lakota assertion meaning “water is life,” centuries of history converged during the protests. It was about more than an oil pipeline. It was struggle over the meaning of history, the defense of land and water, and the rights of Indigenous peoples to determine their own future. When land and water are taken or destroyed, the past is lost with them and so too is the possibility of a livable future. In this dissertation, I situate multiple archival sources and oral histories to document two centuries of Indigenous resistance against the trespass of settlers, dams, and oil pipelines across the Mni Sose. I develop an alternative intellectual history of the Oceti Sakowin, the Nation of the Seven Council Fires, the Lakota-, Dakota-, and Nakota-speaking peoples, from the nineteenth century to the present. This story begins with the trespass of Lewis and Clark in 1804 and the arrival of the US on the Missouri. I document the drastic changes brought to the land, the water, and the people during mid-nineteenth century Indian wars and the mid-twentieth century


damming of the Missouri by the Army Corps of Engineers. I also tell the story of Indigenous resistance, Red Power, the rise of Indigenous internationalism, and the creation of the International Indian Treaty Council at Standing Rock in 1974 to bring world attention to these issues. It was at Standing Rock where histories of resistance converged against the Dakota Access Pipeline and gained international appeal. Clearly, Oceti Sakowin history resonates with the international community today. Such resonance, I argue, has broader implications than what could be considered just “Indigenous” issues and has universal appeal, while also remaining firmly grounded in history and place.




Oceti Sakowin, Sioux People, Dakota Access Pipeline, Pick-Sloan Dams, Indigenous Resistance, Red Power

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Jennifer Nez Denetdale

Second Committee Member

David Correia

Third Committee Member

Alyosha Goldstein

Fourth Committee Member

Christina Heatherton