Pipelines, Protectors, and a Sense of Place: Media Representations of #NoDAPL

Authors: Katie Grote*, University of Kansas
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Indigenous Geography, Geographies of Representation, Content Analysis, Media, Protest - Dakota Access Pipeline
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Truman, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Indigenous resistance to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline garnered national and international media attention as thousands gathered near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in protest. Increased media attention spurs enquiry concerning the representation of the Indigenous peoples leading the movement. The majority of the U.S. population is ill-informed on historical and contemporary issues concerning Indigenous peoples; this limited understanding of Indigenous experience is manifest in news outlets and their audiences’ knowledge of current issues impacting Indigenous peoples. This research employs a qualitatively-based content analysis of 80 news articles reporting on the #NoDAPL movement. Each of these articles ranges in political bias and can be categorized in one of the following groups: Right Bias, Left Bias, Minimal Partisan Bias, Local News, and Indigenous News. Commonly occurring codes and themes are analyzed across each category. Word count and frequency of reporting are also considered to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the media representations as they develop through time. While the non-Indigenous led media commonly cites water security and destruction of sacred sites as the reasons for protest, the Indigenous led media also cites treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, economic vulnerability, climate change, and colonial history more frequently, indicating a more holistic understanding of the movement and the Indigenous experience. The mainstream of U.S. reporting on the Dakota Access Pipeline protests perpetuate settler ignorance concerning the daily struggles of Indigenous Americans by ignoring the associated political and economic realities of these communities.

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