Estes chronicles centuries of Native resistance
"Our History is the Future"
Anyone who thinks the Dakota Access Pipeline protests of 2016 were merely a futile protest by current-day Native people should read “Our History is the Future” by Nick Estes.
Estes, who grew up in Chamberlain, S.D., and who is a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, chronicles centuries of Native resistance to colonial incursions on indigenous land and human rights.
Estes’ history is exhaustive. His research runs the gamut from the making – and breaking – of more than 500 treaties with Native people to the seizing of land for Missouri River dams to the present day.
It’s Estes’ own experience with being a Native person living in poverty, though that fuels his narrative. This is his story as much as anyone’s.
“I also knew Michael, a white kid from my small hometown of Chamberlain, South Dakota, along the Missouri River. I grew up in a single-parent, single-income household, in a mobile home literally on the wrong side of the tracks. Michael’s parents made ends meet by working at the Catholic-run Indian boarding school where my father and his siblings had their Lakota culture and language beaten from them.”
Another writer may have turned such a traumatic experience into a maudlin, self-absorbed narrative. But that’s not what Estes does. Estes documents hundreds of years of Native resistance and demands for self-governance as he reaches far back into Native history and culture to make his point that is as relevant today as it ever was.
“In the past, youth followed the guidance of Indigenous elders, the old ones. But in these prophetic times, it is the old ones who are following the leadership of the young, the youth leaders of the #NoDAPL movement.”
Estes also explains the Native sense of time – or rather timeliness – and how it helps sustain the Indian people.
“But Indigenous notions of time consider the present to be entirely structured by our past and by our ancestors. There is no separation between past and present meaning that an alternative future is also determined by our understanding of our past. Our history is the future.”
Estes shows how the seizure of Native lands for Missouri River dams paved the way for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Some may find Estes’ position controversial; however, he makes a solid case for the DAPL protests and why they’re just a moment in a long history of continual Native resistance.
(Michael Tidemann writes from Estherville. His author page is amazon.com/author/michaeltidemann.)