Defending the Sacred


As winter looms, over 200 native tribes from across the Americas and their non-native allies press on.

As hundreds of water protectors leave the Oceti Sakowin encampment and prepare for direct action early on the morning of November 15, an eagle soars overhead. 


Indigenous women, traditionally matriarchs across native cultures, lead prayer in honor of disappeared and murdered indigenous women on November 15. 


At one point, law enforcement from seven different jurisdictions had a presence at Standing Rock. By the start of winter, over 600 water protectors were arrested in clashes with police and state troopers. 


Non-native—particularly white—allies of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe were often called upon and offered themselves as buffers at the front lines of prayers and direct action.


Later on November 15, around 250 water protectors rallied at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in Bismarck, ND. There, they confronted local and state authorities, presenting letters that proposed mutual understanding between law enforcement and water protectors. 


Water protectors claim continued victory after disrupting operations that day, first at a heavy equipment dispatch site in Mandan, ND, and here, later in the day at the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters.


Just two days after the series of actions in Mandan and adjacent Bismarck, ND, law enforcement again prepare to defend private property held by entities responsible for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. About 400 water protectors marched through the streets of Bismarck, disrupting traffic in the city's main thoroughfares. Wells Fargo has provided about $120 million in capital for the $2.5 billion project.


An Oglala Lakota family pitches their tipi on November 16, just says ahead of the first winter storm of the season.

The Oceti Sakowin encampment, less than a mile south of the Dakota Access Pipeline and bordering contested treaty lands, had for months been preparing for the changing of seasons. Pitching tipis and constructing other semi-permanent structures was just one of many ways that native and non-native water protectors prepared.