Living in a Liminal Space: Standing Rock and Storytelling as a Tool of Activism

Janelle Cronin, Purdue University


To recall on the past through oral tradition is a source of strength, so why not study the stories and actions of female Native leaders today by analyzing the stories and artifacts they leave behind. With the current political climate, it has become opportunistic and necessary to redefine identity, to challenge the dominant narrative, to question history and plan for the future through critical engagement of the present. This research will provide other Native women leaders, writers, poets and storytellers inspiration and confidence in their current actions and skills, as they are tools in resisting and surviving the various systems meant to exclude and terminate their voice and identity. Although there are many different approaches to understanding the use of storytelling as a tool of activism when occupying a liminal space, I focus on these three areas: the liminal spaces Native people occupy force us to constantly negotiate our identity and voice as a Native person, the use of a modern movement like Standing Rock as liminal space platform, and the application of storytelling a tool of activism. I was drawn to using Standing Rock as a platform for study of liminal space for the complex yet inclusive nature that drew in activists like myself from all walks of life. What I was most interested in were my fellow Native sisters, the female leaders in Indian Country that were present at Standing Rock using their statues and platforms to discuss issues otherwise forgotten through their strengths of storytelling. I want to know how they used storytelling as a tool of activism, how they connected to their perceived audiences and created an urgency to act and if there were any issues of the past resolved in the efforts of the present found within their writings. The communication strategies of storytelling within a liminal space like Standing Rock, provides an opportunity for the reclaiming of Native identity by Native people, as seen with the recognition of the Water Protector identity, and the engagement of new ideas and possibilities in solving complex socio-political, environmental-cultural issues.




Zywicki, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Multicultural Education|Native American studies

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