You are on page 1of 7

Learn More: Discussion Guide for

Standing Rock
A digital-short video series of vignettes about politically engaged voters that invites
dialogue and deconstructs stereotypes

Thank you for your interest in Humanizing America. This discussion guide provides
information about the series, as well as tools to help you plan your own screening or
civic engagement event and take action in your community.
The Futuro Media Group creates multimedia content for and about the new American
mainstream in the service of empowering people to navigate the complexities of an
increasingly diverse and connected world. Humanizing America is one such product – a
series of documentary shorts presenting underreported human stories from the
American electorate.
Led by award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa and her editorial team, Humanizing
America investigates how the nation’s changing demographics are impacting the 2016
election with character-driven storytelling, cutting-edge info-graphics, a strong sense of
community and the immersive first-person reporting style of Maria Hinojosa.
Every episode of Humanizing America uses the power of an individual voice and a
personal story as a vehicle for positive action – making our republic more responsive to
public interests. Through Humanizing America, we hope to engage diverse
communities and perspectives across America – informing audiences about people
coming together to effect change.
In addition to making these stories available through multiple distribution sources and
online, the Futuro Media Group is also deeply committed to community engagement
and using our programs and content to foster dialogue. This Humanizing America
discussion guide is intended to inspire greater political participation by providing a
space to share ideas, experiences and perspectives for change-making and by
highlighting what individuals and communities can do to help reinvent our civic
reality, and create a more representative and responsive democracy.

Watch our Humanizing America episode about Standing Rock:

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota is the site of a grassroots
resistance movement focused on opposing the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL).
On Tuesday, July 26, 2016, the US Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE”) approved the
water crossing permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline, proposed to carry fracked oil
from the Bakken fields in North Dakota 1,172 miles to Patoka, Illinois. In response, a
coalition supporting lawsuits against the Dakota Access oil pipeline stated the
“We are a grassroots coalition of tribal members, landowners, and environmental
organizations. We stand in solidarity with the four tribal nations filing lawsuits against
these permits, and with the communities from North Dakota to Illinois facing devastation
from this pipeline and fighting to defend themselves, future generations, and Mother
Earth. We call for a full halt to all construction activities and repeal of all USACE
permits until formal tribal consultation and environmental review are properly and
adequately conducted.”

Background on the Protests
Protests began shortly after Dakota Access received approval and started work on the
pipeline without consulting with Sioux Reservation leaders or their representatives.
Members of the affected communities said they decided to protest to express their
concerns about environmental impact, as well as how the pipeline construction would
affect sacred cultural land. Some activists chained themselves to construction
equipment and engaged in other acts of peaceful, non-violent protest. Activists began
camping out on the site in April, in effect conducting a 24-hour neighborhood watch.
The demonstrations have received considerable press attention and people from all over
the country and the world have joined the protest efforts, as thousands have shown up
to walk with the people of Standing Rock. Some say they are motivated to help protect
indigenous cultural heritage, and others say their focus is stopping environmental
degradation. The many who have gathered to show their support for the Standing
Rock, Cheyenne River, Rosebud Sioux, and Yankton Sioux Tribes do have consensus on
protest strategies in that they say they are determined to stop the pipeline through
prayer and non-violent direct action.
Many Standing Rock activists call themselves Water Protectors, citing one of the issues
of importance they say this pipeline threatens -- clean water access. Water access is an
issue of importance to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation as the tribe has been
experiencing water scarcities and limited water resources, and its only access to water
intake valves is 1.5 miles downstream from the proposed pipeline path.


In addition to the impact on water access and water quality, members of the Standing
Rock Reservation and their supporters also assert that sacred burial grounds and other
significant culturally historic lands would be, and have already been, desecrated by
pipeline construction. The Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Rosebud Sioux, and
Yankton Sioux Tribes have asserted that their human rights, treaty rights, and sovereign
rights have been violated by pipeline construction permits. They have called for a
cessation of all construction activities and repeal of all USACE permits until formal
tribal consultation and environmental review have been conducted.

Tara Houska, a tribal rights attorney, national campaign director for Honor the Earth,
founding board member of Not Your Mascots, and advisor to the Bernie Sanders
campaign, is a leading voice of the Standing Rock movement, bringing national
exposure to the Dakota Access Pipeline issue. She says she became an advocate for
Native American rights when she was in law school.
I grew up with the version of history that a lot of kids grow up with still today, and felt
very marginalized and left out of the conversation. I grew up in a largely white
community in International Falls, Minnesota and my reserve was across the lake. I
struggled with being native for a very long time. It was during law school that I started
representing native families that were being torn apart and I saw how great the need was
for representation and I realized that’s what I had to do.
Speaking at a recent rally in Washington D.C. against the pipeline, Tara asked:
If America is the great nation we claim to be, how can we treat our indigenous people the
way that we are?
Presidential candidates don't even mention Native Americans in their speeches. We’re
not even a thought. In order to get our conversation on the table, in order to be a part of
it, we need to actually engage and get out and vote.
Tara states the resistance movement has been amplified through social media.
I think this is really a historic moment; it’s incredible. A tribal member put out a call and
asked for help. And we all came. I never thought that there would be this coming together
of hundreds of indigenous nations to protest a single pipeline. What we have definitely
seen is the power of social media. The ability to connect to one another; it’s changed the
conversation, it’s changed the game. We can now reach out to one another over the
Internet and share our struggles.

A coalition of support: Over 300 different tribes spanning three countries have
gathered to support the indigenous nations at Standing Rock. A growing coalition of
other groups and environmental activists have also expressed their opposition to the
Dakota Access pipeline. In addition, public figures such as actors Shailene Woodley and
Robert Redford, and Democratic Presidential contender Bernie Sanders, have given


their support to blocking the pipeline. All these efforts have led to a temporary order to
stop pipeline construction, and a joint statement issued from the Departments of Justice,
the Army, and the Interior, and backed by the Obama administration, refusing to
authorize construction in the Lake Oahe area. As a result, Dakota Access has ceased
construction within 20 miles of the region until it can be determined if pipeline
construction is in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Standing Rock movement promotes peaceful protest tactics:

The Standing Rock movement utilizes non-violent direct action. Protestors are
praying over the pipeline and performing prayer sessions on the Reservation.
Protesters are standing arm-in-arm in front of bulldozers and construction
machinery to prevent construction.
The Standing Rock movement identifies supporters as “Water Protectors” to
emphasize and acknowledge their role as stewards and protectors of the earth and
natural resources.
The Standing Rock movement proposes alternative solutions to pursue energy
independence, such as solar power, to minimize dependence on the fossil fuels that
the DAPL would generate.

The Standing Rock movement conducts outreach through the Internet:

The Standing Rock movement organizes social media campaigns and social media to
distribute calls for action, especially through Twitter and Facebook.
The Standing Rock movement produces multimedia products such as videos,
interviews, etc. to be shared across multiple communications platforms and social
The Standing Rock movement and its allies are documenting their interactions with
police and government officials to expose injustice, if or when it occurs.

The Standing Rock movement organizes on multiple fronts:


The Standing Rock movement is inclusive, inviting all potential allies to support
their efforts and share information about the protests and impact of the Dakota
Access Pipeline.
The Standing Rock movement has identified its cause as a human rights issue and
expanded its outreach to other indigenous and non-Native American activist
movements, including national and international environmental justice
organizations and social justice organizations.
The Standing Rock movement raises awareness about indigenous perspectives and
the issues that Native people face.
The Standing Rock movement reaches out to and works with government agencies
through supporters and organizations that have experience in government and law.


The Standing Rock movement has utilized multiple tactics including social media
networking, media outreach, and lobbying government officials – demonstrating that
there are many strategies you can employ to push for change. For example:
You can hold a media briefing or press conference.
You can write to elected officials or go to their offices to meet them or their staffs.
You can request and participate in a public hearing.
You can lobby for creation and passage of a referendum.
You can register voters.
You can organize a petition and get signatures.
You can organize a protest, strike or boycott.
You can initiate legal action.
You can engage in digital advocacy utilizing social media.

Before you decide to take action:
Explore what causes spark your interest.
Research to make sure you have all the facts.
Set clear goals and keep a personal journal to keep track of your progress.
Utilize the power of social media: exert your agency through a personal blog,
Youtube channel, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
Recruit volunteers.
Do outreach to other communities or groups of people with similar experiences
and common interests such as student organizations, student government,
community-based organizations, national organizations, etc., and ask for
Run for local boards and community-based elected office.
Support the campaigns and candidates that share your views.

Ted Talk: How to turn protest into powerful change - Eric Liu |
Community Tool Box: How to Organize Public Demonstrations:
Tools for Change Tips on How to Organize Rallies and Marches:
How to Organize a Protest using Twitter:
Share resources in support of human rights causes: Ask for advice
or volunteer:



1. What representations of Native Americans can you identify in mainstream culture
today? (in fashion, film, art, etc.) Do you consider them to be negative or positive? How
have these representations changed over time, if at all?
2. What actions do you think should be implemented to preserve and spread
understanding about cultures in ways that honor diverse traditions and preserve
3. Native Americans, the first citizens of this country, are now about 2% of the
population. Tara and other Native American advocates say that despite treaties with the
U.S. government, Native Americans are often dismissed, not seen or heard. What
experiences have you had in your life that made you feel you were not fully seen or
4. Tara uses the term “environmental racism” to describe the impact of the Dakota
Access Pipeline. Please research and discuss what environmental racism is, and how it
may be manifested in your local community or state. What efforts have been
undertaken to address environmental racism?
5. Please share your ideas about how protest can be leveraged into policy change
around issues that matter in your community.

To Find out more about events at Standing Rock:
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe website:
Honor The Earth website:
Not Your Mascots website:
Stay updated with Tara’s Twitter: @zhaabowekwe
Bring inclusion into the vote:




Humanizing America is part of The Pluribus Project's Narrative Collaboratory.
The Narrative Collaboratory is providing witness to the reality that many Americans in
communities across the country are finding ways to come together to create real change.
The Narrative Collaboratory is a platform for generating and propagating new
narratives of citizen voice and efficacy, coupled with the tools of power and action that
others can use. This Humanizing America discussion guide is one such tool for citizen
empowerment, so that Americans can envision that change is possible and how to
become a part of it.

To find out more about the work of the Narrative Collaboratory:
Questions About the Humanizing America Series?
Contact us at:
The Futuro Media Group
361 West 125th Street
Sixth Floor
New York, NY 10027