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