Standing Rock has been the center of attention for a large section of society in light of the events that have transpired there in the recent months. While most Americans were happily celebrating Thanksgiving in the comfort of their homes and surrounded by family, protesters at Standing Rock worked diligently to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from being built through their sacred burial ground. There were swirling rumors that militarized police units were going to raid the protest camps, but those rumors ultimately passed without incident.
The Sioux Nation that is indigenous to the Standing Rock area have been supported by fellow Native Americans communities from nearby, and thousands of non-related protesters joined them at the site. It might seem as if such a huge issue is one that president-elect Trump might want to publicly address, but when a president is elected who has previously invested in the company that owns the Dakota Access Pipeline, it should come as no surprise when he remains silent about the issue. Trump’s silence, along with the virtual silence from the national media, has not stopped the issue from reaching the public thanks to social media.
One of the most ardent supporters of the NoDAPL movement is a woman by the named of Tremeka Greenhouse. Her daughter, Nyemah, recently told her mother about a Thanksgiving assignment the students had to complete. The assignment was to ‘dress like an Indian’. Presumably the teacher who gave the assignment meant for the children to dress as Native American indigenous peoples and not as literal Indians from the country of India, but Tremeka decided to use the opportunity as a way to draw more attention to an issue that needed it. She and her daughter started working on an outfit that would not only satisfy the assignment, but would also show their solidarity with the protesters at Standing Rock.
The mother’s initial reaction to the strange assignment was to skip it altogether, especially since it has been widely accepted that calling Native Americans ‘Indians’ is not only disrespectful and entirely inaccurate, but it is also appropriative and racist to dress up in what is presumed to be Native American garments and styles. However, Greenhouse knew that the most prominent experience of the Native American culture in the current landscape of society was the battle over the water at Standing Rock, so she decided to make an example of the assignment to show how something so unusual could be used for good.
Greenhouse explained to her daughter that the protesters at Standing Rock were fighting for their own land, and that their struggle was symbolic of all peoples struggle against the oppression of the government. Her daughter got really excited to learn the truth, and it was a good moment for both the mother and daughter to learn a bit about the world.
The mother and daughter used an old pillowcase to create the tattered dress and vest she would wear for the assignment, and they wrote a message on the vest that portrayed the vitality of clean water along the standard NoDAPL tagline. She also sported a headband to complete the look. The outfit was received quite well at the school, and there was no negative feedback for the mother or daughter from anyone involved.
Nyemah’s older sister tweeted a photo of the young girl in her outfit, and it quickly started to go viral. Greenhouse probably didn’t expect such a widespread message when she first came up with this idea, but she is certainly happy to get more attention to the issue at Standing Rock and the people protecting the water and the land.