Guy Jones sits with his family at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. They’ve gathered to try and stop a major oil pipeline from being built under the Missouri River that they argue will not only desecrate ancestral lands, but could potentially leak oil directly into their water supply. Photo by William Brangham
For Guy Jones of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian tribe, this past week has marked an awakening for Native Americans.
Jones, along with his family and hundreds of others from tribes across the country, camped at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota in objection to the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The pipeline is supposed to stretch across 1,100 miles, some of it running close to his tribe’s ancestral land.
When people in the Standing Rock Sioux tribe found out, they said the pipeline could desecrate their ancestral burial grounds and also contaminate the Missouri River, their only water supply. These issues were detailed in a lawsuit the tribe filed in July claiming they were never consulted.
On Friday, it came to head when the U.S. Department of Justice ordered a pause of construction near the site to address some of the issues, rebuking a decision from a federal judge in the suit who had denied the tribe an injunction just minutes beforehand.
Jones told the NewsHour he had never seen a greater assembly of Native Americans than in the week leading up the decision. When the Department of Justice issued its order, people at the camp lulu’ed, threw fists in the air and cheered. Several of them told the NewsHour that they will continue protesting through the winter, whatever it takes to ensure their land is safe.
Hear from some of the protesters below, and watch the NewsHour this week for more updates.
Liz McKenzie is Diné (Navajo) from New Mexico. She had a vivid dream one night about being here at the pipeline protest with the Standing Rock Tribe in North Dakota, woke up, packed up a trailer full of supplies to donate, and drove out. Our voice has been heard and people are finally noticing us,” she said, “not as beings of the past, not as costumes you buy in a Halloween store.” Photo by William Brangham
“We have been fighting this fight for generations,” Seeyouma Na Hash-Chid said. He rode his motorcycle out from Arizona to support the Standing Rock tribe’s protest against an oil pipeline. Na Hash-Chid is Diné (Navajo), a Vietnam veteran, and a veteran of earlier environmental fights back home in Arizona. He says people will stay at this vast protest camp through the winter to guarantee the pipeline never gets built. Photo by William Brangham
Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault II said everyone is very happy with the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday, though he added that the legal fight could go on for months to come, and the tribe shouldn’t take anything for granted. Photo by William Brangham
Leslie White Temple-Gipp, right, and her friend Diench stand atop the hill overlooking the sprawling protest camp. Photo by William Brangham
Two members of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian tribe ride through the camp. The man on the left said, “We’re building our shelters for winter right now.” Photo by William Brangham
A young Turtle Mountain girl adjusts a shirt honoring her dead brother, C.J. Strong Bear Boy. Her brother died this winter in a car accident on the way to work after hitting black ice. The Turtle Mountain tribe sent eight truckloads of firewood to North Dakota in C.J.’s honor to support the Standing Rock tribe. They also sent a half dozen young men to split and stack the wood, which they are giving away to anyone camping at the protest. Photo by William Brangham
A woman waves smoke over herself as she enters a large teepee at camp. The teepee had hosted a large pipe ceremony, with representatives from dozens of Native tribes. Photo by William Brangham
Celebration during the ongoing protest. Photo by William Brangham
Two boys from Standing Rock tribe overlook the encampment. Photo by William Brangham
William Brangham contributed reporting.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct the quote by Liz McKenzie.