Standing Rock Religion(s)

Ceremonies, Social Media, and Music Videos

In: Numen
Greg Johnson University of Colorado

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Siv Ellen Kraft UIT – The Arctic University of Norway

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This article addresses emergent religious formations at protest scenes in the broader context of indigenous organization and identity-building. Our central example is the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota, 2016–2017, a local encampment-based event that quickly expanded into an international indigenous peoples’ movement. We argue that religion was a key register in the camps, during direct actions, and in solidarity actions around the world, primarily expressed through a limited selection of key terms: water is sacred, water is life, Mother Earth, and ceremony. We argue, moreover, that these terms, and “ceremony” in particular, were a crucial medium of inter-group and up-scaled cultural translations, allowing local identities to come forth as a unified front. Invoking Standing Rock religion(s) as an instance of the broader category indigenous religion(s), we suggest that these identity formations belong to a globalizing indigenous religious formation, anchored in, yet distinct from, discrete indigenous religions, and today performed and mediated in diverse arenas, crisscrossing and connecting indigenous worlds. We are concerned with the translations and comparisons at play, and with the sentiments and moodiness of religion in this particular case, fueled by the cause (a planned pipeline on ancestral lands), the brutality of police encounters, and the sharing of ceremonies, food, and fires at the camps.

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