In 2016, thousands gathered near the Standing Rock Reservation, protesting the construction of a pipeline that would carry oil between North Dakota and Illinois.
The “black snake” (used in direct correlation between Plains Indian religious beliefs and the crude black oil traveling through the pipeline) would cross into the Sioux Nation (the overall name given to the many reservations in the area that share similar linguistic roots). The protest was just as much about environmental concerns as it was about Native sovereignty.
Social media was an incredibly important part to the protest, as it allowed for protestors to share their support and spread the word. By looking at the social media tag “#NoDAPL,” I would be drawing conclusions about the usefulness of social media in the protest as a digital presence of the protest. Additionally, I will be considered what people are posting under the tag, what they are trying to get across through that post, and how others interact with the post.
Using social media as a basis for research comes with its problems. It’s definitely not a traditional history archive, but it can provide us with tons of information since social media is so much part of our lives in the twenty-first century currently. We use it to tell others what we are doing in our lives. We use it to leave a digital signature that we existed. We use it to talk with others, stretching our voices across the air in ways we could not do in the centuries past. Of course, we must consider the biases of these posts, taking into consideration who is posting it, the motives these individuals had for being a part of the digital presence of the protest.
I’ll be using these following social media websites to look at the use of the hashtag:
- Facebook (+16,000 posts)
- Instagram (+550,000 posts)
- Twitter (unknown exactly — explains more here)
Just looking at these numbers, it would be an absolute adventure going through every single post, but considering the amount of time I have to work on this– I will only be looking at the ones at the very top of the pages. Most social media sites use an algorithm that pushes the popular posts to the top of the page. This will help me to see what most people are seeing and talking about. By also looking at the most popular, it will give me a better idea as to what the face of the digital presence of the protest looks like.
Lastly, it may be interesting to also consider the legacy of the protest in the digital world. It has been several years since the protest, with only recently there being a pause to the construction. The “black snake” however continues to slither through the Sioux Nation.