Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian to Show a Mile-Marker From the Standing Rock Protests

Showing the protest symbol is part of a recent push among museums to document history in the making.

People protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline march past San Francisco City Hall, (2016). Courtesy of Pax Ahimsa Gethen and Wikimedia Commons.
Anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protesters march past San Francisco City Hall in 2016. Courtesy of Pax Ahimsa Gethen and Wikimedia Commons.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian will unveil a timely new addition to its long-running show, “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations: An 11.5-foot-tall mile-marker post made by Hickory Edwards, one of the 12,000 activists who gathered at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline last September, will go on view starting October 24.

Mile-marker posts were constructed and set up in the camps to represent how far protesters had traveled. Some came from as near as the small city of Fort Buffalo, 50 yards away, and others as far as the Arctic, home of the Sami people, nearly 4,000 miles away.

“As the largest gathering of Native Americans in protest, it was truly a historic event and one that should be addressed in the National Museum of the American Indian,” museum director Kevin Gover said in a statement. “Nation to Nation” opened in September 2014 and runs through 2021.


I put this pole up to show how far we came and to show how far everyone came to get to standing rock it's growing fast…

Posted by Hickory Edwards on Thursday, September 22, 2016

The protests came after the pipeline was routed through the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s indigenous ancestral lands—without the approval of the people—even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had already rejected the pipeline’s original route for fear that an oil spill could contaminate the drinking water in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Thousands of protesters flocked to the site to stand with the Sioux, setting up camps in the process. After police shut down Edwards’s camp in 2017, he donated his mile-marker to the Smithsonian.

Museums have increasingly started collecting protest objects to document history in the making in the recent years. Other institutions have collected testimony, footage, and artifacts from the Charlottesville rally, the Ferguson protests, Freddie Gray’s funeral in Baltimore, and the Women’s March on Washington.

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