Professor Lacy Warner
The image of the Native Americans in the North Dakota Pipeline protest is controversial because it shows how history is repeating itself as the Native Americans have to fight for what is theirs. Social media is used at times to create awareness of many controversial events. Images that show up in social media draw attention to certain things that are going on in the world at the moment. Currently in social media one can find images and articles about the North Dakota Pipeline situation which has created tension between Native Americans and Americans. This event is trending not only because of the fact that once again history repeats itself where Native Americans are trying to stand their ground and protect the little land they have left from American industrial change, but also because it is affecting the way of life of a minority group. Many images go viral due to their importance of what it is portraying and the message they send to the viewer.
The North Dakota Pipeline protest took place because the US government decided to create a pipeline that would transport crude oil and would go through the states, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, and Iowa. One of its flaws that caused controversy was that it went through Native American territory. That was not the only reason several Native Americans and others protested against its creation, they were concerned about how it would damage their way of life. If the pipeline were to ever leak, then it could contaminate their water supply and damage their lands. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe attempted twice to stop the pipeline creation and fight for their rights which they have won but, both times they were turned down without consultation. Native Americans were kept out of the process as the pipeline was being designed and created.
In the image you can see how a barrier of white uniformed men are trying to keep out Native Americans from something that seems to interest them very much which connects to separation and isolation. They have tried to keep their distance for a very long time. Native Americans are on what seems like their traditional horses approaching the barrier created by the white men and are trying to get through to the other side. The white uniformed men don’t show much of a facial expression or concern to what is going on compared to the Native Americans which are trying to get through the barrier of white men with force if needed since they are using their horses as their “gun”. None of the men that are separating the Native Americans are men of color, all are Caucasian men, some holding guns and wearing vests. At the beginning of the separation line, there is a man with his phone out looking as if he is taking picture or recording something, possibly other Native Americans or just the scenery in front of him and the others. There is a double line behind the first one presumably in case the Native Americans have the slightest possibility of getting through the first one. Only two Native Americans are going towards the line of white men.
Looking at an image for the first time one can infer of different possibilities of what could be going on in the image. With the two Native Americans going toward a line of men separating them from the other side, one can infer that the Native Americans are trying to get through to solve a problem that is concerning them deeply enough to approach a barrier of men with guns while on their horses. The white men don’t look as concerned as the Native Americans because they seem to not care about what the Native Americans are concerned about, they only have one job which seems to be, to keep out the Native Americans from reaching something that could be from the government. The white men could be trying to keep out the Native Americans from their own land or natural resources as they have done before or they could be working on something that the Native Americans do not agree on and could be trying to stop it because it could be doing something to their homeland. The uniformed men who don’t look the slightest bit concerned about what they are keeping the Native Americans out of, which could be harmful not only for the Naïve Americans but to others nearby as well.
The fact that there are only all white men creating a line separating what is behind them and the Native Americans in front of them, it may remind some of how it seems familiar that Native Americans have to fight once again for what is rightfully theirs. This image is not the first time that we have seen images of Native Americans struggling to be treated equally as others. They have been forced to do things that they may have not wanted to do and now they are trying to defend what is theirs this time and will not take no for an answer. They are aware of what they are fighting for even though those looking at the image may not get it at first glance but once they look at the image again, it begins to connect together. Looking at the image, the first thing that comes to mind is how history has the chance of not repeating itself again since, the Native Americans are finally being able to fight for what rightfully belongs to them.
When an image goes viral the viewers feel many different emotions when they first see the picture. At first glance you don’t notice all of the details as when you look at the image more closely and with depth. The second time you look at the image you begin to notice all the things you didn’t notice at first. Once you look at the image it makes you feel a certain type of way, it makes you wonder if you could do something more then, just hit a button and like or comment on the picture as if you are truly doing something. If you were there in the moment when the image was taken you could have done or experienced the things you thought of or wish you did when you took your first glance. When someone who was there and experienced it, it could make them feel more empowered as to what they did which had more of an impact then they thought ever would. Not only does images going viral have an effect on how people see and experience the situation, it also has an effect on the understanding of the image.
The popularity of an image can go in different directions. When someone looks at an image they could understand immediately what is going on in the image or they could be confused and misinterpret what the image is really trying to say. The North Dakota Pipeline image is an example, when you first look at it you don’t really understand what really is going on all you see is men standing in a line and a pair of Native Americans trying to get through. Once you look closely, you question why the men are creating barrier and not letting the Native Americans go through. When you dig deeper you find the true meaning of the image and realize that they are trying to defend what is theirs and not let history repeat itself.