Collecting the Standing Rock protest and why it’s important

A protest movement you might have heard about, which I’ve been following closely, is the protest occupation against the North Dakota pipeline at Standing Rock in the United States.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (represented online by the hashtag #NODAPL No Dakota Access Pipeline) has prompted protests across the United States as well as expressions of solidarity from other countries, culminating in an occupation in North Dakota by numerous indigenous tribes to peacefully protest the construction of the pipeline.

The Guardian reported:

‘The Standing Rock camps first emerged in April and have since drawn thousands of Native Americans and climate change activists from across North America and beyond to rally against the $3.7bn oil pipeline, which would carry crude oil from the Bakken oil field to a refinery near Chicago.

Despite the 22 October arrests of more than 120 people, activists set up new camps on the sites where construction is planned, not far from the river that they fear could be contaminated by the pipeline.’

Read the full story

The Native American protestors at the North Dakota protest site have extensively used social media to promote their cause and have reached out to indigenous people across the world to share posts, film haka, and promote the #NoDAPL movement in support.

To support the protest action, there have been a number of Māori who have fundraised to travel to North Dakota to visit the protest site, as well as many different powerful expressions of solidarity shared via online platforms, such as haka filmed by groups to be shared over social media to show Māori support.


After months of occupation with violent clashes against State forces, the BBC reported that the protestors at Standing Rock, called the Water Protectors, were finally told of some good news that ‘Army Corps of Engineers announced it will suspend work on the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and consider rerouting the project.’

Read the full story

So at this point continued construction into native traditional lands has been halted and the dispute now in front of the courts.

Why collect protest?

Protest is an important part of a democratic system.

As a process, it allows individuals and groups to have their voice(s) heard on issues that matter to them.

By recording protest movements both in New Zealand and overseas through the collection of material associated with protest, it creates a tangible history of issues that motivated New Zealanders get up and have their voice heard.

So recording protest and resistance movements in Te Papa’s collection is something that a number of curators have tried to focus on and build over the last few years, and this is complemented by other collections across the country.

Most of the protest material the museum manages to collect is ephemera, tee-shirts, protest banners, material that has been developed quickly and cheaply to respond to a particular moment.

In recent years, the museum has collected across different disciplines to record protests such as Free West Papua, Mauna Kea, and Tūhoe Mana Motuhake Remember October 15th.

Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe t-shirt ’Remember October 15th’, 2008, Wellington, by Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe. Gift of Tame Iti, 2012. Te Papa (ME024097)

Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe t-shirt ’Remember October 15th’, 2008, Wellington, by Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe. Gift of Tame Iti, 2012. Te Papa (ME024097)


One piece that is being considered for acquisition at the moment is a tee-shirt created by a Māori group in Aotearoa called Toka Tū (Standing Rock in Te Reo Māori) who developed a series of tee-shirts to show solidarity for the Standing Rock protest.

There are numerous other protests that are also being considered, such as the protest in South Auckland against the development of Ihumatao, as one example.

"Something just arrived in the mail for Puawai Cairns, Senior Curator Māori Culture... — at Standing Rock Indian Reservation." Photographed by Amanda Rogers, November 2017. Copyright Te Papa.

“Something just arrived in the mail for Puawai Cairns, Senior Curator Māori Culture… — at Standing Rock Indian Reservation.” Photographed by Amanda Rogers, November 2017. Copyright Te Papa.


I’d be very interested to listen to any kōrero about the museum collecting protest and where (or even if) you think Te Papa should be collecting in this area.

In case you were interested, browse some of the material across our different collection areas that feature protest.

Stephanie Gibson (Curator History) and I are working on a book that records a material record of protest and resistance, and we are also interested in hearing any suggestions about items in private or public collections that you think should be included.


2 Responses

  1. Ian Free

    Hi Puawai

    Absolutely delighted to see Te Papa supporting the native peoples at Hanging Rock.
    I have been responding to emails from overseas on this issue, and encouraging others to do the same. I was in the vicinity this year and feel a strong affinity with the Stop the Pipeline cause.

    Kia kaha!


  2. Vicki

    Kia ora Puawai

    Two movements in the Deep South (both close to my heart) that you might consider for the collection: Oil Free Otago (, and Paua to the People ( Both groups have used social media to publicise their causes, and recruit support, to great effect.

    Mauri ora!
    Nā Vicki


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