Facebook check-ins are usually a way to make your friends jealous about your trip to Hawaii or an awesome Halloween party. But today, people around the world are checking in at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota for an entirely different reason: an expression of solidarity with the Sioux Indians who reside there. The Sioux Tribe and environmental activists have been fighting the building of the Dakota Access pipeline. The New York Times reports that if completed, the pipeline would damage burial grounds, cultural landmarks, and water safety. Protests against construction have turned violent. As our timelines have filled with Standing Rock check-ins (there are currently 4,637 visits listed on Facebook), some are speculating that the motivation behind them goes beyond a sign of support. Many people have pasted the following message along with their check-in: "The Morton County Sheriff's Department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at Standing Rock in order to target them in attempts to disrupt the prayer camps. SO Water Protecters are calling on EVERYONE to check-in at Standing Rock, ND, to overwhelm and confuse them. This is concrete action that can protect people putting their bodies and well-beings on the line that we can do without leaving our homes." The veracity of the assertion that the sheriff's department has been using Facebook check-ins to their advantage has been questioned. Authorities took to Facebook to deny using statuses as geolocation tools.
Snopes also reports that Sacred Stone Camp, which is located on the reservation, has denied creating the message, but expressed appreciation for those who have shown support through it. Across Twitter, #NoDAPL (no Dakota Access Pipeline) has spread, turning the protest into a global social movement.
Of course, checking in at Standing Rock or sharing a hashtag aren't substitutes for in-person shows of solidarity and action. But if our social networks can help increase awareness and make the voices of those who actually are there a little louder, that's a step in the right direction.