Earlier this month, actress and activist Shailene Woodley was arrested for peacefully protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Woodley spent her summer shedding light on the the construction of the $3.8 billion, 1,1000 mile pipeline and how it would disrupt the area, especially regarding the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sacred grounds, and threaten their clean drinking water. Woodley was charged with criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot, to which she pled not guilty. She has since written an essay for Time about her experiences and why she feels so passionately about this issue, entitled “The Truth About My Arrest.” In it, Woodley opened up about how she sees rampant cultural appropriation, but little actual concern for Native Americans.
We wear their heritage, their sacred totems, as decoration and in fashion trends, failing to honor their culture. Headdresses, feathers, arrows. Moccasins, sage, beadwork. You know what I’m talking about, Coachella. Walking around the flea market this weekend, I can’t even tell you how many native references I saw being used in a way that feeds our western narrative.
We grow up romanticizing native culture, native art, native history… without knowing native reality.
Somehow, we’ve allowed 200-plus years to go by without questioning the western truth we have been told to believe about Native Americans.
Before you write off Woodley as the latest white ingenue with a cause, it’s important to note that while she is grateful that her position brought publicity to the plight of these people, she is frustrated that it wasn’t initially taken seriously.
Treaties are broken. Land is stolen. Dams are built. Reservations are flooded. People are displaced.
Yet we fail to notice. We fail to acknowledge. We fail to act.
So much so that it took me, a white non-native woman being arrested on Oct 10th in North Dakota, on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, to bring this cause to many people’s attention. And to the forefront of news publications around the world.
While many speak out without much action, Woodley is clearly one who walks the walk. Her whole essay is worth a look; it might even make you a fan. Either way, there is no denying that Woodley is one of the few who is actually using her platform for good.