Introduction: Governmentality, discourses and struggles over imaginaries and water knowledge

Tom Perreault, Rutgerd Boelens, Jeroen Vos

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter


Standing Rock The protesters called themselves “water protectors.” They came from all corners of the US and Canada, and included members of over 100 Native American tribes and their non-indigenous allies. At the peak of the protest, in early autumn 2016, they numbered in the thousands, but by late February, when the Governor sent some 200 police officers to clear the encampment, only a few dozen remained. Those who left burned their temporary shelters in an act of defiance, and the embers were still smoldering when the police moved in and arrested the few who stayed behind (Smith and Blinder, 2017). For a brief period, it seemed the protesters might have won: the Obama administration halted construction of the Dakota Access pipeline and asked the US Army Corps of Engineers, which was overseeing the project, to find an alternate route. But then the political winds shifted. A right-wing populist was elected President and the winter cold brought with it a form of revanchist politics that had little patience for Native Americans and their atavistic attachments to land and water (Healy and Fandos, 2016; Smith, 2017). The protesters had gathered on the banks of the Cannonball River, near its confluence with the Missouri, where the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners planned to build the last section of the pipeline. Construction was nearly complete, and all that remained was a short stretch to be built under the Missouri River. The pipeline route consisted entirely of private land, but because it had to cross a navigable waterway, it required the approval of the US Army Corps of Engineers (New York Times, 2016a). Despite opposition from the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US State Department and the Sioux Nation’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office, the Army Corps seemed determined to fast-track the pipeline’s approval. Contrary to federal requirements, it approved construction without meaningful consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux, whose lands and waters the pipeline would impact (Archambault, 2016; Sammon, 2016). Although the pipeline would not cross the Standing Rock reservation, instead passing half a mile north of the reservation boundary, tribal members argued that it crossed land they considered sacred (and which had formerly been part of Sioux territory, of which they were dispossessed in the 1870s when they were confined to the reservation).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWater Justice
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781316831847
ISBN (Print)9781107179080
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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