Among the great plains of the United States lies the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. In 1868 the Fort Laramie treaty was drafted to give the Native Americans all of present day South Dakota west of the Missouri River. This area was known as the Great Sioux Nation. In 1877, less than ten years later congress removed the Black Hills from the reservation and in March of 1889 divided the Great Sioux Nation into six separate reservations including the Standing Rock Reservation. This act greatly reduced the size of the reservation and opened it up to settlement by non-Native Americans.
Today the Standing Rock Tribe lies under attack again. This time it’s the reservation’s water supply that is being threatened. Texas based oil company Energy Transfer Partners is building a pipeline on the original Great Sioux Nation land. The pipeline is planned to go underneath Lake Oahe and the Missouri river just outside of the present Standing Rock Reservation. Should a leak occur, millions of people’s drinking water could be affected.
Thousands of people of all ethnicities and backgrounds have traveled to Standing Rock since mid summer. They call themselves water protectors and have built a peaceful prayer camp called Oceti Sakowin near the drill site. The camp says that it will not leave the site until Energy Transfer Partners has packed up and gone home. The controversial project has created the largest pipeline protest in the world and has been the subject of much scrutiny from environmentalists and humanitarians alike. Although the Army Corps of Engineers denied the easement needed to finish the pipeline on December 4th Energy Transfer Partners has said they intend to finish the project. Today there still well over 1,000 people camping in the harsh Dakota winter as excavators continue to illegally dig on stolen land.
Patricia Richards is a seventy one year old half Chinese and half Italian woman. She likes to say that she is from the rainbow tribe and sees herself serving as a bridge to bring all people together.
Patricia was one of the warmest people I met in camp and after spending a little time with her I could see why people call her grandma Patricia. She says that when people come together we will heal, the water will heal, and the earth will heal. Going on she explained how we are in the end of an era of greed. "It is time to share and live in community"
Beautiful horses whose heritage can be traced back to early spanish explorers freely roam in camp.
"The Frontlines are Everywhere"
Lynnette Haozous is a young Apache woman who was camping at the small Rosebud camp just across the river from Oceti Sakowin. Rosebud is a community of about three hundred people who mostly live in army tents, and tipis. She wants people to know that the people of Standing Rock are not the only ones being disenfranchised. Other battles are being waged across the country. Her people are battling a copper mine in Oak Flat Arizona while Native American heritage site and National historic park Chaco Canyon is under direct threat from fracking.
"Construction in the Snow"
Work needs to happen not matter what the weather is like. These two men are hurrying to finish a shelter in a snowstorm before it gets filled with too much snow.