SYLVIA HORWITZ photography
LAND. WATER. LIFE.
In August I drove west to an encampment on the Cannonball River as it enters the wide Missouri. Oceti Sakowin (Water is Sacred) camp was located about 50 miles south of Bismarck, North Dakota, on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation, territory reduced over the years by broken treaty agreements.
A powerful movement had been forming with peaceful resistance, and events of active protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline project. Native Americans from many nations and supporters were united in an effort to protect the disruption of sacred tribal land and prevent the construction of an oil pipeline under the river. A leak could contaminate drinking water.
I went back to Oceti Sakowin in September to photograph and to bring donated warm clothing. Soon there would be demonstrations, resulting in harsh treatment and hundreds of arrests.
The beauty of the place, the flags of over 300 participating tribes, and the spirit of the water protectors had reached me deeply. I returned to the camp in late October. The weather had turned cold, but nobody spoke of leaving. Hundreds of veterans joined tribal members at the resistance camp in early December.
The day before the government land occupied by the northern camp was to be evacuated, the Army Corps of Engineers denied easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline. This ruling essentially halted construction of the oil pipeline just above the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
The claims of moral and legal rights of indigenous people to their sacred land and water will continue in the courts. And there will be more protests.
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