I arrived at Sacred Stone Camp on Labor Day, so no one was working. It was the day after the dogs were sicced on people at the front lines of the Dakota Access Pipeline including women and children. When I heard about the dogs, I was relieved I had missed that as my own dog was with me and I didn't want to imagine what could have happened to him.
Although I had not wanted to go to the frontline on an active day, I decided I wanted to see what was happening on a quiet day. My new friend Robin and I drove up together. She brought prayer flags. When we got up there, I was shocked to see what had happened to the grave sites. I was given permission to take the photograph above, which shows the path of the destruction. To the left of this image is where the graves were desecrated. I was told that the company, Energy Transfer Partners, plowed through the graves as quickly as possible after they were alerted to their existence. Many at the site were murmuring that if something like this happened at Arlington Cemetery, people would end up behind bars.
While we were there, I met this Nation of Islam Brother who had also come to see what was happening with his own eyes and offer support. Perhaps what is most frightening to the existing power structure is that the Standing Rock protest is not only bringing historic numbers of tribes together for the first time since Little Bighorn (approximately 200 while I was there), it is also bringing together many diverse groups of people who are standing up for the injustices against water and human beings. Before we went back down to the main camp, Robin and I smoked a peace pipe with those holding vigil by the site of the most recent digging. I remembered a member of the Lummi tribe telling us in Sandpoint that the pipe bombs people were accused of having in the camps were actually peace pipes. I felt very honored to be included in this ceremony and I can attest that all I ever saw were peace pipes.
The White Stone Hill Massacre was led by General Sully, who wanted to locate and punish Dakota who the US believed participated in the "Dakota Uprising" of 1862. It took place in a peaceful camp and many women and children were killed. The sign right behind where the ceremony took place said "Protectors not Protestors." I was not able to photograph that as it was in a sacred area. It seemed very profound to me and likely has something to do with why there are elders, women, and children at the camp. Every being can and has a responsibility to be a protector of the elements in their culture. It is a mindset that the western world would do well to adopt before it is too late and all our waterways are irreparably harmed.
Every day I was there, more tribes and more people poured in. The sense of unity was so empowering. If we have any hope of standing up and stopping what is happening to our water supplies around the country (and world), we have to join together. Standing Rock is leading the way. When this many people come together to bring about change, their voices begin to be listened to and there is hope.
This was the first site of the digging. Many banners from the tribes line the fence. While I stopped to take photographs, a person who looked military and was wearing armor beneath his t-shirt appeared with a drone to photograph the area, possibly to look for new areas to dig. Where the power line is to the left is the intended route of the pipeline.
Below are more banners. Every time I saw the banners and flags, it was a visual reminder of unity.
The proposed route of the pipeline goes less than one half a mile from the Standing Rock Reservation and crosses ancestral and traditional land as well as the Missouri River at the confluence of the Cannonball River. . The Missouri River is the longest river in the United States at 2,540 miles. A breach in the pipeline could clearly have far reaching impacts.
The image below is looking back at camp from the banks of the Cannonball River. The sand was wet and deep and my feet sunk about three to four inches with every step I took. It was difficult walking to say the least, and yet there are footprints everywhere showing people's ties to the river. Every morning people went down to the riverbank for ceremonies.
Below are more images of the camp. I wish I could be there through the seasons to document what unfolds here. Time seemed to pass differently there. It seemed to go by so quickly and before I knew it five days was over.