In this case study we inspect cultural divide as it relates to the 2016 presidential election. Taking a look at inclusion and exclusion, as the cultural gap between politicians and their voters has grown to a greater level. We will examine the growing distance that exists between the marginalized and elite as it relates to the Dakota Pipeline Access controversy. The use of social media has brought the disdain of the Native culture to the populous, attracting support around the globe including celebrities.


What is the Dakota Access Pipeline? The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,172 mile long underground oil pipeline project in the United States. The route beings in the Bakken shale oil fields in Northwest North Dakota and travels in a more or less straight line South-East, through South Dakota and Iowa, at the oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline is currently under construction by Dakota Access. This project was planned for delivery by January 1st, 2017. On November 26th, 2016 the project was reported to be 87% completed (Wikipedia, 2017).

The Dakota Pipeline was suspended due to months of protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters. They argued that the project would contaminate drinking water and damage sacred burial sites. The US Army corps of engineers suspended the project last year, but in February, 2017 said it planned to grand final easement for the remaining section of the project (BBC, 2017). During this controversie many Native Americans were upset. They accused the Government of not consulting them before going ahead with the construction, which would be required seeing as it was on their land. Later in the article on BBC website it was stated that the pipeline construction was a little to the right of their land. Donald Trump backing the Dakota pipeline created many problems with the Native Americans and environmentalists. Within days of taking office, he signed the memoranda supporting the Dakota pipeline–telling the Army to review it. Trump stated he believes finishing the pipeline will “serve the national interest” and ordered an “expedited” review. He also ordered the Army to “consider” withdrawing its December memo, which effectively passed the project. The Dakota pipeline project will resume (BBC, 2017).

Science and environmental health network reject the pipeline. Conservation groups worry about safety, air, water, wildlife, and farming because of the risk of pipeline disruption (Wikipedia, 2017). Whenever there is a project being done things can go wrong. When you are creating something like this by putting this big of a pipeline in the group full of oil there is always room for error. In the event of a leak or spill drinking water and irrigation water would be contaminated creating a disaster for those whom live in these areas. This is a situation where the pros and cons really need to be taken into consideration. This could really harm a lot of people in these areas.

Theoretical Analysis

Standpoint theory is a feminist critical theory of relations between knowledge and power. To express difference in treatment in America, there is a study in Arizona that shows the likelihood of Native Americans being searched in traffic stops is 3.25 times greater than whites. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, North (25.0% of overall caseload) and South Dakota (57.5%) are both in the top 5 districts of Native American federal offenders in the United States. Aaron Labaree concludes that “Native Americans still face discrimination and racism across the Dakotas” in his article titled NoDAPL: Standing Rock and the ‘Deep North’, a cleverly labeled parallel of the discrimination faced by Native Americans in the north. The Native Americans are the minority and Trump is the majority in power. In the United States, the Natives are the “other” in the periphery and the ruling class, The Trump administration, is in the center and in charge of policy.

The idea of standpoint theory is to utilize the standpoint of the marginalized groups to provide a less false knowledge or more complete knowledge-based ideology than the non marginalized center. The Standing Rock reservation has protested against the Dakota Pipeline passionately. The pictures and video shared to social media, particularly Facebook, spurred assistance from around the globe. Winona LaDuke, longtime Native American activist, feels like “the Standing Rock switchboard” on Facebook, getting many questions on where to send supplies such as coats and where to they go. Celebrities even joined the protest. Actor Mark Ruffalo tweeted a photo of himself standing with one of the protesters that said “Peaceful resistance. #NoDAPL #StandingRock”, actor Chris Hemsworth posted a photo on Instagram stating he was “Standing with those who are fighting to protect their sacred land and water” (Gallager).

On January 4, 2017 President Donald Trump signed executive actions to advance approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines despite the wishes of the citizens, supporting celebrities, and previous administration (United States first President of color, Barack Obama) (Jones, et al). This was a showcase of majority power in the purest form. Denying the opinion and wishes of those on the periphery in order to fulfil the wishes of the oil companies and executives. The president of NextGen Climate, accused the Trump administration of putting “corporate interests ahead of American interests” (CNN).

Student Analysis

Public policy and organization management can learn from Standpoint Theory and use the knowledge to produce better lives for the American people as a whole.  Adler call’s out that “We live in a world of immense and unnecessary suffering and destruction…Facing this human-made misery, a posture of quiet acceptance would mean tacit endorsement” (Adler, p941). Wow! A pretty bold statement… “a posture of quiet acceptance would mean tacit endorsement”. Sounds very familiar when thinking about the direction our politics have gone recently with the horrid gap between the rich and the basically no longer existing middle class in America. So as far as policy, we believe Standing Point Theory can be helpful in taking a look at what’s going on with the “other” if “we begin the research process by formulating questions from these alternative standpoints and then examine the reality of management and organizations from these perspectives” (Adler, p943). Since management scholarship already has public policy implications, it may

provide actionable knowledge for the exploited and their advocates…in this way, it can promote more just and more democratic public policy debate (Adler, p 943).

The issue is larger than that of the pipeline which Standing Rock Natives opposed. The issue is the threatened rights of the American citizens who are not in positions of power. Those on the periphery are starting to come together and support each other through means of social media communication, yet the battle is far from over. As we saw in this case, the people’s wishes were not granted even though there were many supporting the Natives. If those in power, the one’s creating these policies were to consider the views of the “minority”, it may lead to a superior, more knowledgeable approach.



ACLU. (2008). Driving While Black or Brown: An analysis of racial profiling in Arizona. Retrieved from https://www.acluaz.org/sites/default/files/documents/DrivingWhileBlackorBrown.pdf

Adler, P., & Jermier, J. (2005). Developing A Field With More Soul: Standpoint Theory And Public Policy Research For Management Scholars. Academy of Management Journal, 48(6), 941-944. doi:10.5465/amj.2005.19573091

GALLAGHER, J. (2016, October 28). Celebrities Throw Their Weight Behind North Dakota Protesters. Retrieved March 07, 2017, from http://abcnews.go.com/US/celebrities-throw-weight-north-dakota-protesters/story?id=43124843

Harding, S. (2008). How Standpoint Methodology Informs Philosophy of Social Science. The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 291-310. doi:10.1002/9780470756485.ch12

Native American Activist Winona LaDuke at Standing Rock: It’s Time to Move On from Fossil Fuels. (2016, September 12). Retrieved March 07, 2017, from https://www.democracynow.org/2016/9/12/native_american_activist_winona_laduke_at

Trump advances controversial oil pipelines with executive action. (2017, January 24). Retrieved March 07, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/24/politics/trump-keystone-xl-dakota-access-pipelines-executive-actions/

United States Sentencing Commission. (2013). Quick Facts: Native Americans in the Federal Offender Population. Retrieved from http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/quick-facts/Quick_Facts_Native_American_Offenders.pdf