Movement, Containment, and Environmental Justice in the Black Hills

Authors: Julie Santella*, University of Minnesota - Minneapolis
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Native and Indigenous studies; Environmental justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Chairman's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Questions of movement and mobility are relevant to struggles over extractive projects in the Black Hills of western SD in a number of ways. Lakota dispossession from the region, which has disrupted historic patterns of Lakota movement across the land, has been closely intertwined with resource extraction since the 19th century Euro-American ‘discovery’ of gold. However, despite the material changes to land and displacement of people that followed, Lakota connections to place and across space persist, and it is precisely these connections which threaten future extraction. Evidence of historic Lakota patterns of mobility – petroglyphs, graves, and other ‘proof’ of Lakota worldviews inscribed in the landscape – stand perhaps the best chance, under existing regulatory frameworks, to get in the way of proposed extractive projects through appeals to cultural and historic relevance. At the same time, key scientific questions about mining in the region relate to containment: will waste water be contained safely, or will contamination move across natural or constructed barriers to pollute drinking water, as has happened with past and existing projects? Thus, in the Black Hills, Lakota connections and knowledges grounded in one kind of movement (historic patterns of mobility) have persisted despite another kind of movement (forced displacement and disruption of those patterns) to challenge a third kind of movement (removal of mineral resources and associated contamination). In this paper, I draw on the work of Barnd (2017), Simpson (2017), and Voyles (2017) to think through these dynamics of movement in Black Hills environmental justice struggles.

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