“A very great vision is needed, and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky.” –Crazy Horse


The encampment at Standing Rock was originally formed to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). During the time I spent there during the latter half of 2016, I watched it evolve from a site of resistance into a lived model of a world beyond what it was resisting. In other words, it became an experiment in living outside systems that necessitate pipelines. Tribes and other groups stepped up to provide services the government usually administers, including schooling and security. It even took steps towards energy independence.


The camps raise the possibility of an indigenous-led, multicultural society independent from fossil fuels and corporate power–a society that holds our relationship to the land and our fellow beings as sacred.

During a direct action meant to take back "Turtle Mountain," a Lakota burial site, water protectors pray out loud towards the riot police and armed DAPL security personnel across the river from them on that same mountain. Prayer is often integral to indigenous-led nonviolent direct actions such as this one. Police have nonetheless responded to peaceful prayer gatherings at Standing Rock with violence force and mass arrests.

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“Wild Bill” chops firewood near the Sacred Stone Camp kitchen while a young girl at camp helps haul it to the woodpile. The wood, which is gathered locally, is used for cooking and maintaining the sacred fire in the center of the camp.

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Wiyaka Eagleman from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, who’s been camped at Sacred Stone since it started on April 1st, wraps rope around the poles of the teepee he’s helping to set up. Teepees–the traditional dwelling of Sioux peoples indigenous to the area–provide warm refuge from the land’s harsh winters and cool shelter in the summer.

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A young girl comes up for air while swimming in the Missouri River, which is at risk of devastating oil spills if the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is completed. The river is already polluted with fracking wastewater from other projects. A spill from the DAPL could further jeopardize the drinking water of millions of Americans and devastate the river’s ecosystem. The rallying cry, “mni wiconi”–Lakota for “water is life”–alludes to this risk.

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Men butcher a cow donated by the Cheyenne River chapter of the American Indian Movement. The meat is then stored in an improvised root cellar and cooked for camp dinners.

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Dion Americanhorse from Standing Rock scans the sky to look for a plane that flew overhead twice in a row. Low-flying drones, helicopters, and planes, piloted by law enforcement and private security firms such as TigerSwan, are a common sight at camp.

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Locals and people from the Sacred Stone Camp take a break from organizing and camp maintenance work to watch 4th of July fireworks in the Native American town of Little Eagle, South Dakota.

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Dion Americanhorse from Standing Rock holds his newborn niece outside the kitchen at Sacred Stone Camp.

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“Mild Bill” works on fixing a truck that hauls wood, water, and other supplies for Sacred Stone Camp. Most of the supplies, such as walkie-talkies for security and construction materials for building shelters, are either donated or purchased with donated money.

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People play poker into the early hours of the morning in the Sacred Stone kitchen tent.

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On a dare, Ronald from Standing Rock careens down one of Sacred Stone’s rocky hills on a bike.

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Months before #noDAPL became a trending hashtag, campers spray painted the shared camp car with “No D.A.P. = Save the Water” and “Protector."

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Cheryl bears the weight of the July 26th announcement that the Army Corps of Engineers has granted Dakota Access permission to construct the pipeline on Army Corps land, despite not having conducted environmental impact assessments or consulted with affected tribes.

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An unarmed water protector calls on the line of riot police and armored vehicles to stand down during a direct action on Highway 1806, which runs alongside the camps.
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Native American veterans prepare to march on North Dakota Highway 1806 in honor of Veteran’s Day.

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Food storage tents near the Oceti Sakowin Camp kitchen are covered with tarps to keep out rain during a downpour. The food has been donated from groups and individuals across the country. Volunteers run the kitchen, which serves three hot meals every day to thousands of water protectors camped at Oceti Sakowin.

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A water protector keeps a log of what they observe during their nighttime security shift. All the camps at Standing Rock maintain security outposts run by volunteers who handle security issues as they arise.

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A man carries an American Indian Movement flag across the Veterans Memorial Bridge Bridge in Bismark, ND during a demonstration against the pipeline.

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Native people on horseback ride into the Oceti Sakowin camp to pray on August 24th, the day a federal judge was supposed to rule on Standing Rock’s injunction against Dakota Access. Instead, the judge delayed his decision until September 9th.

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A woman from Standing Rock tends a campfire near her teepee.

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A woman holds moccasins during a gathering of women who are singing for peace at the Oceti Sakowin camp. Native women started the original Sacred Stone camp and have plaid a central leadership role throughout.

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Jasilyn Charger from the International Indigenous Youth Council rides a horse around Oceti Sakowin camp as the sun sets.

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First Nations men carry flags while marching into the Oceti Sakowin camp for a prayer ceremony. During the ceremony, one of the elders told the group, “People that have done you wrong, you pray for them too.”

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A couple from Standing Rock shares a moment as the sun sets on the Camp of the Sacred Stone.

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Phil Little Thunder Sr. from the Brulé Lakota tribe in South Dakota dances around one of the camp’s sacred fires while other men drum and sing traditional songs.

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