Newspapers as a Form of Settler Colonialism: An Examination of the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest and American Indian Representation in Indigenous, State, and National News
Beckermann, Kay Marie
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Settler colonial history underlies much of contemporary industry, including the extraction and transportation of crude oil. It presents itself in a variety of contexts; however, this disquisition applies a traditional Marxist perspective to examine how settler colonialism is present in news media representation of American Indian activists during the Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Rather than focus on the benefit of using colonized labor for financial gain, this disquisition pushes Marxism into settler colonialism in which the goal is to eliminate the Indigenous and continue to widen the gap between social classes. This research is important for two reasons. First, the media are powerful, making it the perfect vehicle to disseminate inaccurate representations of American Indians. These incorrect representations come in the form of media frames that created an altered reality for news audiences. Second, the term settler colonialism, in particular its relationship with American Indian protest, has been little studied in the American field of communication. A comparative qualitative content analysis was applied to media artifacts from the protest that occurred in North Dakota. Artifacts were discovered using a constructed week approach of two online versions of print publications—the Bismarck (ND) Tribune and the New York Times—and one digital only news site, Indian Country Today. One hundred twenty four artifacts were examined in total. Five dominant frames emerged from the analysis: blame, cultural value, water, American Indian stereotypes, and confrontation. These frames were considered dominant due to the number of coded excerpts that appeared in at least 20% of the artifacts. The frames either contribute to or resist settler colonialism based on the publication in which it appears. The Bismarck Tribune contributed the most to settler colonialism; the New York Times neither rejected nor acknowledged it while Indian Country Today resisted through recognition of America’s settler colonial past, sovereignty, and government-directed violence. The implication of this research is that elimination of the American Indian is ubiquitous in American news media. The mainstream media contributes to widening the gap between social classes, ensuring the dominant class stays in power and Indigenous issues are ignored.