Powerful Photos of Resistance at Standing Rock
Activists lock arms in protest by the Missouri River.

Powerful Photos of Resistance at Standing Rock

Avery L. White's dramatic photographs of people in the thick of the Standing Rock protests.
November 1, 2016, 7:30pm

Last Thursday, I arrived in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, almost immediately after police closed in on activists protesting construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. I heard stories about cops—in military-style vehicles, dressed in riot gear—shooting protestors with rubber pellets, pepper-spraying people in the face, and more. At least 141 people were reported arrested that day, and one protester was charged with attempted murder after firing rounds in the vicinity of police, though no one was hit and most activists have remained peaceful.


During an open meeting with UN officials, I listened to the stories of people who said they were held in dog kennels for hours prior to being transferred to jail. And about 20 minutes after my arrival at the protests, I myself witnessed an undercover DAPL security officer's truck get set on fire after he was discovered by protestors with an AR-15 rifle.

I've spent the past five days at the Oceti Sakowin resistance camp, which sits on land that protesters say belongs to Native Americans under the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie. From all corners of the camp, activists some call Water Defenders—fearful that the proposed pipeline would poison local water—now have a clear view of construction. These protests kicked off way back in April, though, and the Defenders are clearly feeling it as the weather grows colder.

Here are some moments I've captured in my time with these self-styled stewards of the water.

All photos by Avery L. White

Protestor makes hand gesture in reference to Spartan warriors from the film '300.'

A protestor says he fell down and severely cut his hand after being maced in the eyes by police officers while praying at the protest front lines.

A Water Defender digs a hole for camp compost.

Protestors scramble to move nearby vehicles out of the line of fire from the burning pickup truck of an undercover DAPL security officer.

Shakes the Spear prays by the Missouri River.

Protestors watch the burning pickup truck of an undercover DAPL security officer

A Water Defender gifting medicinal plants to fellow protestors

A Water Protector on his way to the front lines

Young protestors ride back to camp from the front lines.

A young Water Defender watches a burning truck from afar.

Young Water Defenders watch elders discuss the day's protest plan.

Water Protectors wait by the front lines on a cold rainy day.

A Water Protector stands peacefully at front lines.

A Young Dakota man walking among the protestors with burning sage.

Protestors gather materials for roadblock.

Young Dakota women wear masks and eyewear to protect themselves in case they're pepper-sprayed in the face by police.