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#NoDAPL Movement Brings Native Voices to the Forefront on Social Media

Sarah Steimer

The #NoDAPL movement may not have successfully stopped a pipeline, but it brought Native American voices and issues to the top of social media feeds

The camera is focused on 13-year-old Tokata Iron Eyes. The sun is bouncing off her cheek as her eyes beam and she tells the audience, “I feel like I got my future back.” As if on cue, she begins to cry.

There were, of course, no cues from a director—no producer who plucked this young Native American from a pile of headshots. It’s unscripted and it aired in real time, with almost 2 million views on the Facebook Live video to date. The clip is of Iron Eyes celebrating a since-overturned decision by the Army Corps of Engineers not to grant an easement to allow construction of the 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline, designed to carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The video captures the youth of the anti-pipeline movement, a group that helped propel its messaging across the U.S. and beyond using some of the simplest (and cheapest) of marketing tools: social media.

The movement—known via hashtags that include #NoDAPL#WaterIsLife and #StandWithStandingRock—did something still relatively new in storytelling. Not only did it tell its story in real time, but it opened that voice up to anyone who would listen. Brands with some of the greatest expertise, manpower and editing skills still haven’t quite mastered the art of live storytelling, and they certainly wouldn’t give that power to just any average web user, free to attach the movement’s name to whatever is produced.


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Sarah Steimer is a writer, editor, podcast producer, and yoga teacher living in Chicago. She has written for Marketing News, Chicago magazine, Culture magazine, the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette, and other outlets.