Books for changing the world
Our History Is the Future
Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance


One Book South Dakota Common Read, South Dakota Humanities Council, 2022.
PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, PEN America, 2020.
One Book One Tribe Book Award, First Nations Development Institute, 2020.
Finalist, Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize, 2019.
Shortlist, Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize, 2019.
Winner of the Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities from the Council of Graduate Schools.

Our History Is the Future
 is at once a work of history, a personal story, and a manifesto. 

Now available in paperback on the fifth anniversary of its original publication, Our History Is the Future features a new afterword by Nick Estes about the rising indigenous campaigns to protect our environment from extractive industries and to shape new ways of relating to one another and the world.

In this award-winning book, Estes traces traditions of Indigenous resistance leading to the present campaigns against fossil fuel pipelines, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests, from the days of the Missouri River trading forts through the Indian Wars, the Pick-Sloan dams, the American Indian Movement, and the campaign for Indigenous rights at the United Nations.

In 2016, a small protest encampment at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, initially established to block construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, grew to be the largest Indigenous protest movement in the twenty-first century, attracting tens of thousands of Indigenous and non-Native allies from around the world. Its slogan “Mni Wiconi”—Water Is Life—was about more than just a pipeline. Water Protectors knew this battle for Native sovereignty had already been fought many times before, and that, even with the encampment gone, their anti-colonial struggle would continue.

While a historian by trade, Estes draws on observations from the encampments and from growing up as a citizen of the Oceti Sakowin (the Nation of the Seven Council Fires) and his own family’s rich history of struggle.

  • “Nick Estes is a forceful writer whose work reflects the defiant spirit of the #NoDAPL movement. Our History Is the Future braids together strands of history, theory, manifesto and memoir into a unique and compelling whole that will provoke activists, scholars, and readers alike to think deeper, consider broader possibilities, and mobilize for action on stolen land.” —Julian Brave Noisecat,

    “Embedded in the centuries-long struggle for Indigenous liberation resides our best hope for a safe and just future for everyone on this planet. Few events embody that truth as clearly as the resistance at Standing Rock, and the many deep currents that converged there. In this powerful blend of personal and historical narrative, Nick Estes skillfully weaves together transformative stories of resistance from these front lines, never losing sight of their enormous stakes. A major contribution.”  —Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything

    “In Our History Is the Future, historian Nick Estes tells a spellbinding story of the ten-month Indigenous resistance at Standing Rock in 2016, animating the lives and characters of the leaders and organizers, emphasizing the powerful leadership of the women. Alone this would be a brilliant analysis of one of the most significant social movements of this century. But embedded in the story and inseparable from it is the centuries-long history of the Oceti Sakowin’ resistance to the United States’ genocidal wars and colonial institutions. And woven into these entwined stories of Indigenous resistance is the true history of the United States as a colonialist state and a global history of European colonialism. This book is a jewel—history and analysis that reads like the best poetry—certain to be a classic work as well as a study guide for continued and accelerated resistance.” —Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

    “When state violence against peaceful protest at Standing Rock became part of the national consciousness, many noticed Native people for the first time—again. Our History Is the Future is necessary reading, documenting how Native resistance is met with settler erasure: an outcome shaped by land, resources, and the juggernaut of capitalism. Estes has written a powerful history of Seven Fires resolve that demonstrates how Standing Rock is the outcome of history and the beginning of the future.”  —Louise Erdrich, author of the National Book Award winner The Round House

    “With scrupulous research and urgent prose, [Nick Estes] declares the DAPL protest a flowering of indigenous resistance with roots deep in history and Native sacred land … A powerful work, Estes’s condemnation of the United States government is clear and resonant.”  Publishers Weekly

    “A touching and necessary manifesto and history featuring firsthand accounts of the recent Indigenous uprising against powerful oil companies … With an urgent voice, Estes reminds us that the greed of private corporations must never be allowed to endanger the health of the majority. An important read about Indigenous protesters fighting to protect their ancestral land and uphold their historic values of clean land and water for all humans.” Kirkus

    “Activist, scholar, and Lower Brule Sioux citizen Estes challenges the power systems that have attacked and disenfranchised Indigenous peoples for centuries with both the story of northern Plains peoples as well as a political philosophy of Indigenous empowerment. The author provides context for contemporary struggles against the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines.”  Library Journal

    “This book is a must read for anyone interested in the #NoDAPL movement. It works as an introduction—and a fearless analysis of—one of the biggest social movements of our times.” —Fiorella Lecoutteux, Peace News

    Our History Is The Future traces not just an Indigenous politics of opposition, but a vibrant and omnipresent theory of decolonisation that strives to create and preserve as well as resist … Perhaps the most powerful argument of the book is the conceptualisation of Indigenous resistance as an omnipresent process that runs throughout the course of American history.”  —Shelley Angelie Saggar, Hong Kong Review of Books

    “Nick Estes gives voice to the new wave of indigenous environmental mobilization.” —Neha Shah, Guardian

    Our History Is the Future should be on the reading lists of historians, social scientists, and members of the public interested in grasping the interconnections and continuity among the many efforts of Indigenous resistance to settler colonialism and corporate encroachments onto their lands, waters, and natural resources.”  —Simone Poliandri, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

    “The story of Indigenous resistance—its history, goals, forms, successes, and failures—is the book’s backbone, which allows Estes to range broadly, illuminating how racism, colonialism, capitalism, genocidal policies, religious and cultural persecution, and vile stereotyping have marginalized, dispossessed, and impoverished Indigenous societies over the centuries.” —Pekka Hämäläinen, New Mexico Historical Review


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