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Meet the Native Americans fighting against the North Dakota pipeline

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.

"We aren't people who only exist in the past ... We didn't buy some costumes at the store." Liz McKenzie is a Dine (Navajo) from New Mexico who 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. Photo by William Brangham

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," says Seeyouma Na Hash-Chid. He rode his motorcycle out from Arizona to support the Standing Rock tribe's protest against an oil pipeline. Na Hash-Chid is a Dine (Navajo), a Vietnam vet, 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

“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 says everyone is very happy with the decision by the Justice Department on Friday to block some of the construction of a large oil pipeline near their reservation, but he thinks the legal fight will go on for months to come, and they shouldn't take anything for granted. He says the Sioux Nation (the Standing Rock are Sioux) have plenty of examples where promises and treaties sounded promising at first, only to have them changed or revoked when the U.S. wanted more of their lands. 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

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 tribe riding through the growing protest camp where hundreds and hundreds of people from tribes all over North America are coming to join Standing Rock's protest against an oil pipeline that they say will destroy some of their sacred lands and potentially contaminate their water supply. When I asked if these big crowds would stick around, the man on the left said "Oh yeah... We're building our shelters for winter right now." 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 8 truckloads of firewood here to North Dakota (in CJ's honor) to support the Standing Rock tribe in their growing protest against the construction of an oil pipeline near their reservation. They also sent a half dozen young men to split and stack the wood, which they're giving away to anyone camping at the protest. 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 the camp started by the Standing Rock tribe in North Dakota. (the Standing Rock are protesting the construction of a major oil pipeline near their reservation.) A large pipe ceremony had just been held in this teepee, with Chiefs or representatives from dozens of native tribes from across North American who've come here in solidarity with the Standing Rock. One man told me that he thinks it's been hundreds of years since so many Chiefs had shared a pipe ceremony together. 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 against an oil pipeline, Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Photo by William Brangham

Celebration during the ongoing protest. Photo by William Brangham

Two boys from Standing Rock tribe overlook the huge encampment of people who've come to support their efforts to stop construction of a $3b oil pipeline near their reservation in North Dakota. 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.

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