In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Solidarity in Standing Rock
  • Josué Rivas (bio)

Click for larger view
View full resolution

Water Protectors stand in prayer at the Backwater Bridge. Oceti Sakowin Camp, North Dakota. November 2016.

[End Page 63]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Water Protectors hold a prayer at North Dakota’s state capitol in Bismarck. November 2016.

[End Page 64]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

A Water Protector stands near the Dakota Access Pipeline. Oceti Sakowin Camp, North Dakota. November 2016.

I see the gathering at Standing Rock as the beginning of a new chapter for humanity, a dance between the modern and the ancestral. From August 2016 to February 2017 I lived at the Oceti Sakowin Camp near the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, photographing opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. In the middle of Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota territory, thousands of tribal nation members and allies gathered in peaceful prayer and created a powerful movement. They labeled themselves the Water Protectors, an idea rooted in the fact that we are more connected to water than we think. I was told by a Lakota elder that women are traditionally the guardians of mni wiconi (water of life) because they carry the sacred liquid of life during pregnancy, while men are the guardians of fire, the energy that destroys and renews. After that conversation my perspective shifted: I started to understand that what was happening was more than a protest against another oil extraction project.

Back in 2015 my uncle Doug, a Lakota medicine man from Standing Rock, told me that in the future his people would be facing a Black Snake, referring to a prophecy among the Northern Plains tribes that a black snake would come from the north to poison their water. We were at a conference in San Rafael, California, where he was giving [End Page 65] a presentation on some of the Native treatments he provides for veterans dealing with PTSD and addiction. At the time not many people knew about the Dakota Access Pipeline or were involved with the movement. My uncle told me to get ready for a spiritual battle, and to prepare me, he taught me about mitakuye oyasin a Lakota term meaning “all my relations.” He explained that every human and animal, element and living thing are related, and that I must always bear this in mind.


Click for larger view
View full resolution

A Lakota traditional dancer stands for a portrait. Oceti Sakowin Camp, North Dakota. September 2016.


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Water Protectors build a bridge on “Thanksgiving Day.” Oceti Sakowin Camp, North Dakota. November 2016.

[End Page 66]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

A Water Protector receives treatment after getting maced. Oceti Sakowin Camp, North Dakota. November 2016.


Click for larger view
View full resolution

A traditional Lakota hand drum. Oceti Sakowin Camp, North Dakota. November 2016.

[End Page 67]

Through these ceremonies I learned how to be mindful when approaching Indigenous peoples, because creating an image is an intimate act. I learned to offer people tobacco before asking them to make an image with me. Most importantly, I learned how to respect and honor my relations and their sacred spaces. I learned not to photograph the sacred fire during ceremonies, or to romanticize feathers and teepes, or to photograph children without parental consent. These basic practices allowed me to give back more than I took.

During the first couple of weeks at Standing Rock I slowly started to document the evolution of the camps from the inside out. I was more focused on digging into the spirit of the moment and less worried about capturing the conflict with law enforcement. At first the mainstream media didn’t cover the story, but as the clashes escalated hundreds of journalists


Click for larger view
View full resolution

A young man races his horse. Oceti Sakowin Camp, North Dakota. September 2016.

[End Page 68]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Water Protectors hold a prayer at North Dakota’s state capitol building in Bismarck. November 2016.


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Water Protectors have breakfast the day after Donald Trump wins the...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1936-0924
Print ISSN
0740-2775
Pages
pp. 62-75
Launched on MUSE
2018-02-19
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.