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 commonly referred to alternatively as The Camp of the Sacred Stone, 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 Sacred Stone 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.