They are not protestors. In fact, they make sure you understand that they do not like to be referred to as “protestors”. They see themselves as “protectors.” Protectors of the human right to clean water because: “Water is Life.”
Spearheaded by the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, more than 125 Native American tribes and various supporters have gathered in a camp of peace and prayer or the Oceti Sakowin Camp, to prevent the further construction of the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL), the destruction of their sacred burial grounds and sites, and to protect their river and underground water from inevitable seepage that will occur once the “Black Snake” is allowed to continue its destructive way across the Land.
DAPL will transport millions of gallons of crude oil across 50 counties and 4 States (North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois) in 1171 miles of pipe at a cost of $3.8 Billion. The Pipeline crossing the Missouri and Cannonball River cuts through land that is sacred to the Sioux of the Standing Rock Reservation. Once they put out a call for help, tribes from all over the United States responded, sometimes putting aside long standing rivalries, and came to show their support in a historic gathering. There has not been such a gathering of Tribes in close to 100 years.
Aside from the threat to sacred land, the pipeline also threatens the environment. When (and not if - if history of pipelines is of any lesson) the pipeline breaks or leaks, the drinking water from the Missouri River would be immediately contaminated.
As of this writing, the Army Corps of Engineers has denied the easement necessary for DAPL to dig and cross under the Missouri river. A victory the Native Tribes take with a grain of salt. With Donald Trump winning the Presidential Elections, the chance of having an ally in the White House is zero. If Mr. Trump's statements are any indication and the Protectors are now prepared for a long and hard battles to come. This is not over. This stand off is one of the most important stories of the past several decades as it touches many sensitive subjects: the oil industry, the environment, climate change, Native American life and sovereignty, and federal laws and treaties.
In anticipation of the Court ruling on the Temporary Injunction filed by the Sioux, riders rode their horses for the two mile stretch of the Road separating the camp with the construction site.
Three water protectors, who refused to identify themselves, stood on a hill while the veterans marched and made their presence known during a December blizzard.
A teepee under the timid morning sun in December 2016.
During a heavy December blizzard, a man speaks on his phone on top of the hill better known as "Facebook Hill," where cell phone connection is at its best.
A group of riders gather around near a police stand-off on the Thanksgiving Day 2016.
Water Protectors gather around the river by the Camp to welcome new tribes who have come for show their support on their canoes.
Protectors chant and pray during a stand off with law enforcement during the Thanksgiving day. The law enforcement is comprised of the Federal Police, the State Police, the local police, and the National Guard; all of whom are helped by the local fire department.
Aristeo Montasdioga (left), from Southern Arizona, and Timothy Jason-Reed (right), from Santa Monica, CA, chop wood for the community fire. The Army Corps of Engineers halted the Dakota Access Pipeline by denying the easement sought by the oil company to drill under the Missouri River.
A police line on top of Turtle Hill, which the Sioux consider sacred ground, watch the Water Protectors below.
A Protector family waits out the rain in their car with their children.
A dog watches the photographer's every move while his owner prepares his camp for the coming blizzard.
A view at dusk of the camp from the adjacent hill known as "Facebook Hill" which is the only place where cell phone connection is strongest.
A heavily decorated bus is used to transport new arrivals to the Camp in December 2016; shortly before the Army Core of Engeneers announced it had denied DAPL authorization to drill under the Missouri River.
Inside a typical teepee made out of tree branches and a wood burning heater in the back. These communal teepees are used for gatherings, meditation, and sleeping.
People gathered around the Sacred Fire spend their time in peaceful prayer throughout the night. The Army Corps of Engineers halted the Dakota Access Pipeline by denying the easement sought by the oil company to drill under the Missouri River.
The kitchen at the Oceti Sakowin Camp serves at least three meals a day to anyone who wants to eat. It is run entirely by volunteers and donated food.
A man moved a chair with the US flag pattern which glows from the burning fire.
Drummers warm their instruments over the Sacred Fire at the Center Camp to help deepen the sound during the nightly songs and dances.
During the frigid November night the smoke from the teepees wood burning heater is appearant.
A human chain made out of Veterans and members of the Camp surrounded the Camp shortly before the news came down that the Corps of Engineers had denied the easement to drill under the Missouri River. The Army Corps of Engineers halted the Dakota Access Pipeline by denying the easement sought by the oil company to drill under the Missouri River.
A man looks at the Missouri River where it meets with the Cannonball River. The pipeline threatens the safety of drinking water of the nearby Reservations.
November 24, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: Jason George, from the Coalville Indian Reservation in Washington State, has been in the camp for a few days but he says he will "stay until this is over."
November 24, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: Aubrey Hart aka Hope, a new camp member, burns sage during the Thanksgiving day. Burning sage is for the cleansing of the body and the place surrounding it.
November 24, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: David Cook is a supporter of the Oceti Sakowin Camp.
November 24, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: Chanse Adams Zavalla, of California, arrived four months ago and is prepared to stay until the end.
November 24, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: Christina Oliver-Schuckenbrock, of greater Seattle area, is a descendant of Emmett Oliver who in 1989 started the Canoe Journey Paddle to Quinault tradition. Canoe Journey is an event that takes place every year, where different native American coastal tribes travel by canoe from their reservations to the host reservation where they celebrate for one week sharing songs, stories, food, and gifts.
November 24, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: William G. aka Coda flies his drones over the camp and over the law enforcement to survey the going ons in and around the camp. The Law Enforcement in particular does not like to see his drones over their area.
November 25, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: A camp member takes a break and smokes a hand rolled cigarette after breakfast in the community Mess Hall.
September 8, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: Chief Arvol Looking Horse responds to the request to come ashore by newcomers on their canoe and welcomes them to the Camp.
September 8, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: Catcher Cuts the Rope, from Hays, Montana, wore his war bonnet given to him after he returned from Iraq War where he was wounded in the Battle of Fallujah.
September 8, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: Red Bear from Santa Rosa, CA came to support the NoDAPL movement along with his cousins. His tattoo of Indian Power took more than two days to finish.
September 8, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: A supporter of the NoDAPL movement in the Oceti Sakowin Camp.
September 9, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: John Swiftbird from Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and his daughter stand in front of their tippie-he will remain at the Oceti Sakowin Camp until the work on the pipeline is stopped forever.
September 9, 2016 - Cannon Ball, North Dakota, United States: An 86 year old elder from the Sioux Tribe came to the gathering on her wheelchair after the Court's ruling denying the requested TRO.
Sargent Roger Hintson, a Marine Core veteran from San Francisco, CA, holds the US Flag in distress because while he served his country under the correct flag, "I believe America is now in distress." Sgt. Hinston is part of an estimated 2000 veterans who traveled to the camp to provide protection for the Water Protectors against the law enforcement whose methods he considers excessive.
Dazey Stephens, from Topeka, KS, does not believe that the Dakota Access Pipe Line will stop work even with the Army Core of Engineers denying the permit necessery to drill under the Missouri River.
Heather Feather from Wisconsin burns sage and offers its cleansing capabilities to anyone who asks to be cleansed by its smoke.
Hunwtokono from San Diego, CA, is at the Camp to make sure the pipeline gets moved away from the river.. He sleeps in his small car even with the snow and the cold North Dakota temperatures.