PAIISWG Talk: Elizabeth Ellis

Wed, Apr 4, 2018, 4:30 pm
Jones Hall, Room 100
Program in American Studies


In 2015, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), announced plans to run an oil pipeline through the Standing Rock Sioux treaty lands. This pipeline would cross over sacred sites, gouge through burial grounds, and pass under Lake Oahe, the reservoir that provides this reservation’s primary source of drinking water. More importantly, this pipeline would be built against the wishes of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal government and in violation of treaties that the Sioux signed with the federal government. In early spring 2016, as ETP began, LaDonna Bravebull Allard, a tribal historian of the Standing Rock Sioux, invited supporters to camp on her lands along the Cannonball River and to stand with her and the Standing Rock Sioux as they placed their bodies and prayers in the path of the pipeline. Tens of thousands of people answered her call and traveled to Standing Rock Sioux territory. By late summer more than 10,000 people had journeyed to Standing Rock to support the fight against the pipeline, and thousands more came to the camps over the course of the fall. Donations poured in from around the globe. In New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver, and cities across the United States, local organizers staged solidarity actions to raise awareness, garner public support and collect funds and supplies to send to the front lines. Many more Americans called the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), wrote to President Barack Obama, and engaged in public debate about the rights of Native Americans to water and environmental resources. By the time that President Obama left office in January 2017, popular resistance had convinced his administration to order a halt of construction and a federal environmental review of the project. A coalition of Native and non-Native allies had compelled the federal government to take action to protect the rights of an Indigenous nation.


Estes, Nick, and Jaskiran Dhillon. Standing with Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019.

Elizabeth Ellis

Elizabeth Ellis is an assistant professor of history. Her current book project investigates the histories of Louisiana’s small, Native American polities during the eighteenth century. Her work analyzes the ways that these nations shaped European colonization efforts and influenced the lives of all of the inhabitants of the Lower Mississippi Valley. Unlike many of the larger Indian nations of the Southeast, these “petites nations” did not coalesce or confederate into larger polities during the eighteenth century. Rather, these nations sought alternative military, diplomatic, and economic strategies that would allow them to simultaneously preserve their autonomy while wielding sufficient regional influence to protect their communities. Her work examines the interactions among these petites nations, including the Chitimachas, Tunicas, Bayagoulas, Houmas, Ofogoulas, Tensas, and Biloxis, and their relationships with larger Native polities and the French, Spanish, British, American, and African peoples who settled in Louisiana. Her recent publications include an article on the Tunicas in the Journal of Louisiana History and a book chapter in Routledge’s The World of Colonial America.

Prior to joining NYU, she was the Barra Postdoctoral Fellow and a visiting assistant professor at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She has received awards and fellowships from the Newberry Library, the New Orleans Center for the Study of the Gulf South, the Huntington Library and Archives, the University of North Carolina, and Tulane University.