Standing Rock

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.

"Bury my heart at Standing Rock"

Tropix Knight is a Navajo Native American as well as an eight year Marine Corps veteran. She traveled from Hard Rock Arizona with her teenage daughter to stand with the veterans fighting for clean water and Native American rights.

More than 2,000 veterans showed up at the Oceti Sakowin camp in early December to show their support and to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. 

Here a Veteran walks through a blizzard on December 5th.

"Preparing for Winter" 

Wood stoves are the primary source of heat at Standing Rock. Most of the donations come in the form of large logs that need to be sawed and chopped. The camp is a functioning community where its citizens work long hours to sustain themselves.

"Moving In" 

A line of vehicles pull into Oceti Sakowin on December 5th, the same day that the government called for a forced evacuation of the camp. The evacuation never happened proving to be what many saw as a scare tactic by the government to dissuade people from joining the movement.

Joshua Fishman traveled to North Dakota from Vermont. He says that he came to Standing Rock because we need to change the narrative of our past in addition to protecting the future for our children not forgetting to leave out that he would like to be grandpa one day.

"It's you and me doing this. It's up to every one of us and we have to do our very best. Start by doing little things. Start questioning things. If we start questioning things we might be able to find and answer for tomorrow but first we have to start questioning today." We have to talk to each other about this. We can't figure it out on our own."


"Escaping the Storm"

A line of water protectors wait to heat up in blizzard like conditions near the center of the Oceti Sakowin camp on December 5th. Despite the severe weather, spirits remained high in camp.


"We are Unarmed" 

On numerous occasions police have used excessive force against the peaceful resistance. Police dogs have bitten demonstrators, water canons have been used in freezing temperatures, and one water protector has lost her arm due to injuries inflicted by the police. A banner that states, “we are unarmed” hangs in front of the camp to remind the police that they are the ones creating a hostile environment, not the water protectors.

"Bunk House"

Old US Army tents provide excellent shelter on the cold and windy plains of North Dakota. This tent was furnished with two wood burning stoves and used as a communal sleeping space. dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Dan Nanamkin is part of the Nez Perce Tribe in Washington state. Here he is seen in his traditional people's dress after a prayer ceremony that took place in the Oceti Sakowin camp on December 11th.


"Building Community" 

The sense of community is strong at Standing Rock. People go out of their way to help one another. I found this man working in sub zero temperatures doing his best to help his neighbor Patricia winterize her tipi.

"Grandma Patricia" 

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"

"Community Dome"

This dome was constructed to serve as a community center where water protectors would meet to discuss information related to camp, weather, and the DAPL. It was heated with a wood burning stove and doubled as a communal sleeping space at night for those who were not prepared for the elements. Winter weather is often harsh with daytime highs that are in the negatives and wind gusts that can easily reach over fifty miles per hour.

"Walking to Prayer" 

A Caucasian man speaks with a Native American elder on his way to a prayer ceremony. Even though a storm brought about harsh conditions people went about their daily lives at camp.

"You gotta Stand for Something"

Warren Ghant Jr. is a kind, honest and well informed man. He flew in from Tampa Florida with his friend Nick. He made the decision to go to Standing Rock after seeing a video clip online where the police force used attack dogs on peaceful water protectors. He says the imagery just melted his heart. 

He is a three year Army veteran who lost a well paying job installing industrial pipe insulation after having a seizure while at work. Warren is in a unique situation because he has to lie about his medical conditions in order to get hired and if he has an episode while working he immediately loses his job. After being denied disability, Warren is forced to work low paying jobs to make ends meet. By the time he pays for rent, food, and phone he has very little left to spare. 

A heartfelt note is fastened to a jacket that was donated to the Oceti Sakowin. Note like this one are common in the boxes of mail that come into the camp daily.

A mother and daughter find warmth and comfort within the Cannonball community center a few miles outside of Oceti Sakowin. They drove to Standing Rock from Tallahassee Florida in their newly purchased bus. Upon trying to escape the cold they found it impossible to turn over the engine. After an unsuccessful day of trying to fix the bus they decided to take shelter indoors choosing to leave the vehicle behind until the weather warms up. They helped out in the community center sorting donations for a few days as they made new travel arrangements back home.


"Panorama of Oceti Sakowin"

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.

"Sledding his Troubles Away"

An indigenous man catches some air from a makeshift ramp built out of a card table. Even though most of the days are filled with hard work, meetings and prayer, some folks decided to take advantage of a snow storm and have a little fun.

"Praying for Awakening"

A statue of a man praying overlooks the valley that is home to the Sacred

Stone, Rosebud, and Oceti Sakowin camps. In the distance police vehicles can be seen on the hill guarding the land where Energy Transfer Partners is illegally drilling.

"Do no Harm"

Evan Anderson drove to North Dakota with his childhood friend from Portland Oregon. They made the trip to Standing Rock because they are concerned about the militarized police tactics as well as the new wave of anti environmentalism that is being spread by the Trump Administration.

Evan is thankful for the Army Corps's denial of the easement needed to finish the pipeline but he believes that the Army Corps has imposed too small of a fine on Energy Transfer Partners and claims that full sanctions are needed in order to stop the pipeline.


Beautifully decorated Tipis echoed of a past way of life, when Natives thrived in the vast plains region.

"Tent in the Wind"

Wind is fierce on the great plains of the the Dakotas. Tarps and tents crack like whips in the gusts. Only the most diehard of water protectors have chosen to stay through the winter.

"Windy Struggle"

A woman wrapped in many layers battles her way through the Dakota wind.

"Mess Hall"

A mess hall near the center of camp gives people the opportunity to sit down and have a meal in a moderately warm Army tent. 

"Protect the Land, Defend the Water"

Rayman King Fisher of the Northern Cheyenne Nation holds a simple sign with a powerful message in front of an american flag with an image of a Native american on it.

"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.

"Finding Camp"

Flags flap in the snowy wind as one man shows another to his campsite.

"End Deep Injection Mining"

A member of the Oglala Lakota Nation demands an end to deep injection mining.

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