listen first, y’all

Dear white allies writing about Standing Rock,

Another white person’s perspective isn’t really that important. Please stop.

Yeah, I went to Standing Rock. Being the token “activist” in a variety of friend circles meant that folks asked me to take donations to camp on their behalf. They wanted to help. That, and I personally really wanted to help out with the wifi situation, see if I could learn some new things about implementing mesh networks in the process, and support the frontline water protectors in any way possible. My dear friend Drew and I were happy to oblige.

But the world doesn’t need to know I went

I haven’t written about my experience at Standing Rock because my feeds are peppered daily with accounts of camp written by white people. You’d have to be living in another decade to not have seen a single “What I learned at Standing Rock” post somewhere on the internet. And while I think it’s important to be building alliances, expressing solidarity, and mending deep fractures, I find it deeply disturbing that there are so many white people returning back from such an important experience without actually embodying the lessons learned.

If you went to Standing Rock and you didn’t learn that listening is at the very top of the white ally’s to-do list, you didn’t go to the same camp as me.

White people are the colonizers. White people have written the histories. White people have the privilege to travel to a frontline community and (generally speaking) return back to their lives unharmed…and then write the history of that experience…from a white perspective.

Is this not history repeating itself? Is this not just a perpetuation of a white cultural narrative?

Learning as we go

I’m not foolish. I realize that white people have a lot of work to do. We’re trying, we really are. And I also realize that sometimes white people need to hear things from a white perspective to get on board. It’s uncomfortable to bear the weight of injustices committed by your ancestors, especially if you’re used to being comfortable ~97% of the time. Some of these white first-hand accounts need to exist for these reasons.

On top of that, there are a lot of indigenous and native voices that are being heard. And that’s a big step in the right direction.

I’d like to see more white people recounting the stories that were told to them by frontline community members. I’d like to see more white people building deep, meaningful relationships with those same people. And I’d like to see us using our privilege to uplift the voices that aren’t being heard in these “white circles”…because those are the voices that need to be heard, not ours. We take up enough space as it is.

With that in mind…

Here’s a small—but dense—sample of the people and organizations I’ve been relying on for information regarding Standing Rock and indigenous/native news. Let me know if you have any to add.

Four Winds American Indian Council

Indigenous Environmental Network

Dallas Goldtooth

Ruth Hopkins

Unicorn Riot

In solidarity,