Museum of New Mexico Media Center Press Release

Beyond Standing Rock: The Past, Present, and Future of the Water Protectors

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

January 22, 2019


 (Santa Fe, New Mexico) – The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture (MIAC)  is pleased to present its latest exhibition opening in Feb. 23 to Oct. 27, 2019, Beyond Standing Rock. The exhibition takes a look at one of the most widespread grassroots movements in recent history, highlighting works created at the protest by Native and non-Native artists. From early 2016 to early 2017, the Sioux Nation (Očhéthi Šakówiŋ) of Standing Rock Reservation protested corporate abuses of Native sovereignty and welfare. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) planned construction through Standing Rock reservation, violating the 1851 Fort Laramie treaty and compromising the Sioux Nation’s access to clean water. As the movement grew, more than one hundred Native nations and allies gathered together to preserve the land through peaceful protest. The protest gained international attention through images, videos, and posters.

Zoe Urness features her Heard Fair award-winning photo, Dec. 6, 2015: No Spiritual Surrender, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography by World Literature Today. Urness, a member of the Tlingit Tribe, provides a look through the protestors’, or water protectors’, lens as veteran allies joined the movement. The photo captures the winter conditions water protectors endured as local authorities opposed action.

Painter as well as Onondaga and Nez Perce tribe member, Frank Buffalo Hyde debuts his newest work titled Snow Globe—Welcome to Native America Now Go Home. Buffalo Hyde, who draws on his lived experiences while commenting on unconscious observation, confronts Native response to corporate and legally sanctioned trespasses in his painting. The piece documents the very source of the Beyond Standing Rock’s curatorial concept: Advocacy in art.

Navajo photographer and multimedia documentarian, Pamela J. Peters, specializes in representing contemporary urban Indians. Several of her works presented in the exhibit highlight the words of water protectors presented on Standing Rock Reservation land. Along the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline construction site, water protectors created signs of dissent. Her photography documents a singular, focused message. Native land is sacred and compromising the Nation’s water supply is inhumane.

Christi Belcourt, a Métis visual artist, born to a politically and artistically inclined family, brings her print to Santa Fe. Among the many photos distributed on social media, visual artists used their talents to raise awareness. Belcourt was among the many printmakers creating posters which were shared on Twitter and Facebook. Belcourt’s featured poster, Water is Life, uses a minimalist color scheme to great impact, accenting the circular way the environment creates and supports life.

C. L. Kieffer Nail and Devorah Romanek curated Beyond Standing Rock exhibit’s predecessor Entering Standing Rock: The Protest Against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The original exhibit sourced material from social media platforms to help water protectors stoke political urgency in the absence of major media coverage. Through sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the Standing Rock movement raised awareness and organized action, emphasizing art as advocacy.

The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture’s exhibit expansion features pieces that record events leading up to the movement as well as related events. The additions include photographs and sculptures inspired by similar violations while looking at environmental consequences.

Kieffer Nail discussed this aspect of the expansion. “Although the protests at Standing Rock are over, there are many themes of what happened there that have a history of occurring and we continue to see happening on Native lands. Because these themes persist, it is important to highlight in detail one or more current events and draw parallels to other events.”

Two years after the last water protectors were evicted from the construction site, the impact of their message comes through in their artwork. Beyond Standing Rock blends artistic tradition and action as it evokes a future of advocacy for Native rights.

The exhibition Beyond Standing Rock is organized by C. L. Kieffer Nail and The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. The original exhibition, Entering Standing Rock: The Protest Against the Dakota Access Pipeline, was organized by the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. 


About the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture:   As the 19th century closed, one of the Southwest’s major "attractions" was its vibrant Native American cultures. In response to unsystematic collecting by Eastern museums, anthropologist Edgar Lee Hewett founded the Museum of New Mexico in 1909 with a mission to collect and preserve Southwest Native American material culture. Several years later, in 1927, John D. Rockefeller founded the renowned Laboratory of Anthropology with a mission to study the Southwest’s indigenous cultures. In 1947 the two institutions merged, bringing together the most inclusive and systematically acquired collection of New Mexican and Southwestern anthropological artifacts in the country. The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, May through October; closed Mondays November through April, closed Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. 710 Camino Lejo off Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87504, Phone: (505) 476-1269. Events, news releases, and images about activities at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and other in divisions of the Department of Cultural Affairs can be accessed at


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