Catka Winyan, known by her friends as Dorothea Sun Bear, stands with her grandson in front of their thípi. Catka lives in what is now Wounded Knee, South Dakota, and is Oglala Lakota Sioux - the people of Chief Crazy Horse. She came to Standing Rock after her grandson showed her a video of an elderly woman being assaulted by a police officer and told me that she's very grateful for social media. She also spoke to me at great length and detail about what brought her to this point in time and space. From the defeat of Custer onward, how they used to be a nomadic people and how they fell on hard times after the buffalo population was decimated. She told me about the Wheeler-Howard Act, or Indian Reorganization Act, in 1934 that was forced on them. The Wounded Knee Massacre and the "allotments" of land “given” by the government. The eminent domain seizures thereafter. The establishment of the first international indigenous embassy on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Red Cloud tribal building takeover in 2000. How they were formally recognized by the UN in 1977, but still have their rights violated to this day.
Born Cha-O-Ha, "In The Wilderness" or "Among the Trees", Crazy Horse died in 1877, after being killed for leaving the reservation without permission. He once said, "My lands are where my dead lie buried." His last were, "My friend, I do not blame you for this. Had I listened to you this trouble would not have happened to me. I was not hostile to the white men... We preferred our own way of living. We were no expense to the government. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone... Our first impulse was to escape with our squaws and papooses, but we were so hemmed in that we had to fight. After that, I went up on the Tongue River with a few of my people and lived in peace. But the government would not let me alone. Finally, I came back to the Red Cloud Agency. Yet, I was not allowed to remain quiet. I was tired of fighting. I went to the Spotted Tail Agency and asked that chief and his agent to let me live there in peace. I came here with the agent Lee to talk with the Big White Chief but was not given a chance. They tried to confine me. I tried to escape, and a soldier ran his bayonet into me. I have spoken."
Even in death Crazy Horse refused to lie on a cot and insisted on being placed on the ground. Armed soldiers stood by until he died and when he breathed his last breath, Touch the Clouds - his seven-foot-tall Miniconjou friend - pointed to the chief's body and declared, "This is the Lodge of Crazy Horse".
Law enforcement agents stand along the ridge of Turtle Island, a Native American burial ground and sacred site, take aim at peaceful water protectors.
TigerSwan is a private military contractor who was hired by Dakota Access LLC. to provide "security consulting". Leaked situation and disinformation reports prepared by the company during the protest provided evidence of their aerial surveillance, radio eavesdropping, and the infiltration of camps and activist circles. The reports state that the movement "...generally followed the jihadist insurgency model while active, we can expect the individuals who fought for and supported it to follow a post-insurgency model after its collapse... While we can expect to see the continued spread of the anti-DAPL diaspora … aggressive intelligence preparation of the battlefield and active coordination between intelligence and security elements are now a proven method of defeating pipeline insurgencies."
In the months of peaceful protest, many altercations stood out to civil rights groups, as one where 26 people were hospitalized and 300 injured after water canons were used in below freezing conditions, in addition to the usual tear gas, non-lethal ammunition rounds, and concussion grenades.
President Donald Trump also holds between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in Energy Transfer Partners – down from $500,000 to $1 million in 2015 – in addition to $100,000 - $250,000 in Phillips 66. Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren also contributed $103,000 directly to the Trump campaign. Trump has said that he supports the completion of the pipeline project, but his transition team insists this position "has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans."
"I have heard talk and talk but nothing is done. Good words do not last long unless they amount to something. Words do not pay for my dead people. They do not pay for my country now overrun by white men. They do not protect my father's grave. They do not pay for my horses and cattle. Good words do not give me back my children. Good words will not make good the promise of your war chief. Good words will not give my people a home where they can live in peace and take care of themselves. I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises." - Chief Joseph, Washington D.C. 1879
A water protector prays with his gas masks by the river before swimming across.
Law enforcement agents ignore screams of agony and the plea of bystanders to remove this man's goggles, which are covered in pepper spray, to prevent them from digging further into his eyes as he is held down.
Grayson "Kash" Jackson, carrying an inverted flag as a symbol of distress in relation to American civil rights. Jackson is a U.S. Navy veteran who entered the naval service at the age of 17 and went on to serve for 20 years, receiving Navy & Marine Corps Commendation and Achievement Medals, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Meritorious Unit Citation, Navy Unit Citation, Military Outstanding Service Medal, and numerous others. He now serves as a libertarian political activist who founded the parents' rights organization Restoring Freedom, and since expanded its focus to other civil rights causes in the United States - such as advocating for the property rights of American indigenous people in relation to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Jackson is also campaigning as a candidate for Governor of Illinois in the 2018 gubernatorial election.
A man entrusted with the security of the Oceti Sakowin main camp wears a shirt with a portrait of Sitting Bull, which reads "Sure you can trust the government! Just ask an Indian!"
"What white man can say I ever stole his land or a penny of his money? Yet, they say I am a thief. What white woman, however lonely, was ever captive or insulted by me? Yet, they say I am a bad Indian. What white man has ever seen me drunk? Who has ever come to me hungry and left me unfed? Who has ever seen me beat my wives or abuse my children? What law have I broken? Is it wrong of me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am a Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?" - Sitting Bull
Water protectors risk their bodies as they board an active bulldozer to prevent construction of the pipeline.
“Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky”
A woman pours a mixture of milk of magnesia and water into her eyes to counteract the effects of tear gas
An elderly Lenape woman from Pennsylvania holding documentation of her arrest, when she was unjustly detained and forced to spend several nights on the floor of a jail cell. She was happy to have her portrait taken but suffered through a cold she contracted from her time in prison and could not get through the interview without coughing up blood.
2,000 people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in Lower Manhattan on the night of November 15th were met with a large police presence that made nearly 40 arrests.
Young women sing as they are arrested and forced into the back of a police van.
"The Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is a term we use to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.
Through its reach and impact, the PIC helps and maintains the authority of people who get their power through racial, economic and other privileges. There are many ways this power is collected and maintained through the PIC, including creating mass media images that keep alive stereotypes of people of color, poor people, queer people, immigrants, youth, and other oppressed communities as criminal, delinquent, or deviant. This power is also maintained by earning huge profits for private companies that deal with prisons and police forces; helping earn political gains for “tough on crime” politicians; increasing the influence of prison guard and police unions; and eliminating social and political dissent by oppressed communities that make demands for self-determination and reorganization of power in the US.
From where we are now, sometimes we can’t really imagine what abolition is going to look like. Abolition isn’t just about getting rid of buildings full of cages. It’s also about undoing the society we live in because the PIC both feeds on and maintains oppression and inequalities through punishment, violence, and controls millions of people. Because the PIC is not an isolated system, abolition is a broad strategy. An abolitionist vision means that we must build models today that can represent how we want to live in the future. It means developing practical strategies for taking small steps that move us toward making our dreams real and that lead us all to believe that things really could be different. It means living this vision in our daily lives."
Not Afraid To Look by Charles Rencountre and Alicia Rencountre-Da Silva
“The concept of not being afraid to look was inspired by an old trade pipe; ironically, the trade pipe was in the personal collection of President Andrew Jackson. The pipe depicted a small Indian man sitting on the shank of the pipe facing away from the smoker, looking straight at the bowl. The bowl of the pipe was carved as the head of a white man facing the small seated Indian man. The pipe was titled Not Afraid to Look the White Man in the Face…
More than one unnamed Plains artist carved [this particular pipe] during the time of Manifest Destiny. This era was also known as the Indian War period—a time when the United States government moved west and met my ancestors with their army, their munitions and expansionist determination.
I was deeply taken by the concept the pipe represented; the facing - without fear - a force that was taking everything from this little man’s world, and destroying all that he knew about the natural world. No matter how hard I try; I cannot get my head around how devastating this period in time was to American indigenous peoples and everything they stood for and understood…
I was inspired by Not Afraid to Look The White Man in the Face because it reminded me that I have nothing to be afraid of; every day is a good day to die. And fearlessness is a way to move through difficult moments and circumstances. I knew that one day I would make my own rendition of this piece…
Not Afraid to Look the White Man in the Face became Not Afraid to Look - for racism and colonization are not the only threats to our communities, and injustice is a challenge for all people to overcome. The need to connect to our earth and face whatever the forces are that evoke despair, fear, anger, delusion and denial is universally shared. The piece reminds us of our power to endure and face what seems insurmountable, as my ancestors remind me that we can face even genocide and continue in good ways.
How much courage does it take to sit on the earth with no weapons, looking straight ahead into the eye of the storm with no fear? It is much like counting coup on an enemy in the sense that one only needs to touch the enemy, not take his life. Touching the enemy with your eyes, with your gaze, is the highest capacity of honor, courage and compassion.”
Standing Rock and The Dakota Access Pipeline
Water Protectors and the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests
Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, North Dakota (2016)
Foley Square, New York City (2016)