AWAKE, A Dream from Standing Rock


AWAKE, A Dream from Standing Rock premiered on Earth Day this year and as of August 2017 is currently available on Netflix. The documentary is split into three parts, and includes mostly home footage centering the experiences of indigenous people with community building, prayer and peaceful protest. Law enforcement was in the documentary as well, usually accompanied by mace, dog bites, water hoses sprayed at crowds at night in the dead of winter, rubber bullets.

A 911 call is made from the front lines,

“No one is armed here but the police. Who will protect us from the police?”

Mni Wiconi (Water is Life)

The film begins with a Native American prophesy of the “black snake.” It was said that the youth would rise, and the mothers would stand behind the youth, and the warriors would stand in the background in the fight against the black snake. The documentary draws connections between the oil pipelines being the black snakes, and the youth and women leading the movements against them. This is the 7th generation, and it is our responsibility, and destiny, to fight the black snake.

The proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, which is now currently being built, is a water source for 17 million people, and the only water source for the Native American community of Standing Rock. There have been thousands of oil spills in the past six years, and the movement of Standing Rock does not believe that the DAPL pipeline is immune to such spills.

Water Protectors

While the media called them protesters, the people who came to the Standing Rock camp last year called themselves “water protectors.” People came from all over the nation, and all over the world, forming an international indigenous movement of resistance to colonial forces of environmental destruction and violence toward the people who called that place home.

“We belong to all creation. It’s not the other way around. We’re all guests here on mother earth, and DAPL isn’t the only snake there is. There are hundreds more being proposed across the US right now,” a woman from the documentary states.

“Climate change is not just about the earth, but about how we treat each other and our relationship to one another.”

The film urge everyday people and journalists not just to get their cameras out and record, or their notebooks out and write, but to actually participate in the actions first.

Oceti Sakowin

One man comments that “reservations were concentration camps 100 years ago. We’re still just trying to heal.”

Standing Rock’s main resistance camp, Oceti Sakowin, was a place for water protectors to take action, but also a place for the native communities of the world to take back what they felt was taken from them by colonialism.

“If a man loses anything and goes back and looks carefully for it, he will find it,” Sitting Bull is quoted as saying.

The camp was a place to heal, and the reclaim identities and values that were lost. Surrounding it were flags from all the different indigenous nations and tribes participating in the movement.

“I’m not dreaming. I’m awake. Awakened by the spirit inside that demanded I open my eyes and see the world around me.”

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Originally published at on April 25, 2017.



midwestern librarian, writer, activist

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