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Social Media Counterpublics and the Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride

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Abstract

The annual Chief Big Foot Memorial Ride represents the longest continuous example of Lakota memorial and resistance rides in contemporary Lakota activism. First held in 1986, this commemoration of the journey of Chief Big Foot’s band of Lakotas and the subsequent Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 now reaches beyond the confines of the ride itself through the use of social media profiles that serve to both publicize and document the ride. This project seeks to understand the way that photographs from the rides influence the types and amount of engagement these online communities receive. Using a qualitative and quantitative approach, 304 images and their associated engagements from the 2018 ride were analyzed using content analysis and a grounded theory approach. This revealed that certain characteristics gave rise to the construction of a counterpublic around this ride. Findings suggest that both the content of photos and types of authors for posts influenced the number and types of engagements received by certain photographs. Given the relative isolation of many indigenous communities in the Americas, these findings suggest that certain strategies for social media posts by indigenous social movements can overcome these barriers to spread their message to a wider audience.

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2021-10-28