If We’re Going to Preserve the History of #NoDAPL, How About We Document All of It?


Protest organizer Kristen Kelsch hold a sign and chants across the street from the State Capitol in Bismarck on Thursday. A line of police prevented Kelsch and others from hold the protest to the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Capitol grounds

News is that the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is going to preserve an 11.5-foot-tall mile-marker post made by Hickory Edwards which was displayed at one of the #NoDAPL camps during the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Here’s a photo of it:

That’s just fine and dandy. The protests were a major historical event, and artifacts from it are worth preserving. But it sure seems like organizations like the Smithsonian are really only interested in preserving one side of that history.

There’s another side of the #NoDAPL protests which were very, very dark. Where some saw activists working to protect the environment and tribal sovereignty others saw violent zealots who attacked law enforcement, destroyed property, and harassed citizens.

You cannot tell the story of the #NoDAPL protests accurately without noting that at least a faction of the movement was made up of extremists with few compunctions about using violence and intimidation to perpetrate their political activities.

It would be nice if the Smithsonian, alongside this memento of the protests, also preserved some of the weapons law enforcement took from protesters during the arrests they were forced to make. I’m sure, once those things are no longer of use in the legal proceedings against the protests, that North Dakota’s law enforcement community would be glad to donate them.

History is complicated, and too often those who say they’re preserving it are really shaping it so that what is remembered is only that which fits their particular narrative.