I have been spending most of my days lately in North Dakota, camping within a teepee on Standing Rock reservation, documenting and volunteering my time to help support the movement. If you are able to read through everything in this post, I believe you will be filled in, for the most part.

There have been a lot of ridiculous, biased articles being posted about DAPL trying to paint these peaceful protests as pointless or fundamentally flawed in some way. So, I wanted to take the time to give everyone my perspective from hours and hours of research on the details of what’s happening out there, as well as personal experiences from time spent on the camp/frontlines.

Please feel free to comment with any questions/feedback and we can make this an ongoing constructive and educational conversation!

Big thanks to Annabelle Marcovici (one of my fellow teepee mates/photographer friends) for helping me formulate and fact check all of this stuff. She has allowed me to use some of her images in this post to provide more illustration. Her work is definitely worth checking out.

© Annabelle Marcovicci

The first protest camp emerged in April 2016 when a few dozen members of the Standing Rock Lakota tribe and other Native American nations rode on horseback and established a spiritual camp called Sacred Stone (where I’m currently camped). Several other large camps, featuring a diverse mix of tribes and non-native supporters, have since emerged nearby. The main camp (Oceti Sakowin) has grown immensely. Most sources estimate that more than 10,000 people are gathered there now, fully winterized for the harsh weather.

What has happened at Standing Rock is creating ripple effects worldwide.

© Annabelle Marcovicci

Protest camps have emerged in other states, and it seems like every day another solidarity action is taking place. The project is primarily finished, except for the Lake Oahe easement that the corps continues to ‘consider’. Meanwhile, Obama has done nothing to interrupt, besides asking for a ‘voluntary halt’, which has not stopped the construction one bit..

Thing is, we may never in history have the chance to raise awareness on these issues like we can during THIS MOMENT, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.

This is first-and-foremost a movement for indigenous rights, but also a path towards raising awareness to protect the health and safety of our waterways and our planet.

© Annabelle Marcovicci

Let’s go back to the start of this pipeline to understand more of the history.

Although federal law requires the Army Corps of Engineers to consult with First Nations tribes about their sovereign interests (Section 106 being a main clause), permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline were quickly approved and construction began without the agreement of Standing Rock. DAPL had already started construction in sovereign treaty territory before consultation meetings finally did take place.

In the September 30, 2014 meeting, the Tribal Council was polite but firm in their conviction that they would oppose the pipeline.
hear the audio recording / read summary
As it turns out, some of the ‘consultants’ who were a part of the Army Core of Engineers also had deep ties with Energy Transfer Co (DAPL).

One of those liaisons, Michelle Dippel: “technically works for a Dakota Access LLC contractor named HDR, a company which helps pipeline companies and other oil and gas industry infrastructure companies secure permits for their projects.”

Talk about a conflict of interest, eh?
more information / source


© Annabelle Marcovicci

It gets worse.

DAPL construction is destroying sacred sites and burial grounds. In some cases, they’re doing so on purpose to cover themselves from liabilities.

According to Jan Hasselman, the attorney with Earthjustice representing the tribe, in September DAPL intentionally destroyed sacred burial sites.
In an interview with Democracy Now, she said:

“We filed some very important evidence in the lawsuit about the discovery of some sacred and major culturally significant sites that were directly in the pipeline’s route. And it was miles away from where any construction was happening. And we filed this evidence with the court Friday afternoon in order to support our claim that there should be a timeout on construction until some of these legal issues can get resolved. We were stunned and shocked to hear that they took that information and, Saturday morning, over a holiday weekend, went out and bulldozed the entire site. We have a sworn declaration from one of the tribe’s cultural experts that describes some of these sites, multiple gravesites and burials, very important archaeological features of the kind that are not found commonly. And we put all that in front of the court. And the next morning, it was gone.”
full interview

Winterized Yurt © Annabelle Marcovicci
Winterized Yurt © Annabelle Marcovicci

The tribe has constantly been reiterating that DAPL has repeatedly desecrated sacred land and tried to cover up their actions, which has all been documented for injunctions in an ongoing case.

As we speak, Dakota Access is constructing on a sacred burial site on Turtle Island, which is across the river from Oceti Sakowin Camp. This isn’t the first time they’ve showed their complete lack of respect there, and I am a witness.

{This is an area which has been fiercely protested at, if you have seen any articles where the Water Protectors were building bridges/swimming/canoeing across to protest their occupancy, that was Turtle Island. There are sacred, historical remains on top of that hill.}

Now, Dakota Access has placed razor wire on the top (where the mounds were/are) as well as at the base of the hill to prevent crossing. Not to mention all the canisters of tear gas thrown and rubber bullets fired at water protectors as they protested this desecration and disrespect. Despite the Army Corps not issuing the final construction permits (minus the final pullover into the river), DAPL has been emboldened to continue illegal construction and have finished all but a few river crossings.

© Peter JAmus

This pipeline was initially intended to be built near Bismarck, which is predominantly white. The Army Corps’ official justifications for re-routing the pipeline mentioned adverse effects on local waterways and Bismarck’s population. However, read between the lines and you see something much more insidious going on.

Ward Churchill, former professor of ethnic studies at CU Boulder, spent the bulk of his career focusing on the historical treatment of Native Americans by the US government. In an interview, he told RT that he believes the pipeline was re-routed because “there could have been a risk of contaminating water supply for the state’s capital with a ‘predominantly white population…So, they moved it down to just a mile north of Standing Rock because you’ve got expendable population in the minds of the policy makers of the United States.’

Here, Churchill also sees a historical pattern, stemming back to when Native Americans’ land, mineral wealth and water were taken ‘for the benefit of the settler population,’ while they were left destitute and consigned to ‘areas that are not considered habitable’ by the general population.”

This isn’t even Déjà vu for the tribes affected anymore… they are used to this. Open your heart to the last few hundred years of oppressive government affecting them, not to mention all the treaties being created and then just as easily broken (sometimes within a few years, all in the name of gold or other valuable resources).
Educate yourself.

here are a couple of good places to start ↓
timeline of settler colonialism
Great Sioux reservation wiki
Many people believe that the pipeline traverses a path to Lake Oahe (a large reservoir behind Oahe Dam on the Missouri River) through private property and does not cross into the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation.


They are building on unceded Sioux land delimited by the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Regardless of who owns a particular parcel of land, treaties should be regarded as internationally binding and should supersede state and federal property rights. This is where everything starts to become clear. Things are super f*cked.

There have been a lot of reports of this is heading to international court, meaning the represented tribes would hire an international lawyer and straight-up sue the United States of America for f*cking around on their land and building things which they believe still belong to them.

© Annabelle Marcovicci

“If DAPL can go through and claim eminent domain on landowners and Native peoples on their own land, then we as sovereign nations can then declare eminent domain on our own aboriginal homeland.” Joye Braun, an Indigenous Environmental Network organizer.

Mni Wiconi – Lakota for “water is life”

{this is one of the most ubiquitous rallying cries of this movement. I hear it from my teepee almost every thirty minutes. }

This pipeline continues through four states, entering numerous waterways and passing over huge aquifers which supply over 17 million people with their drinking water. Check out the Ogallala Aquifer, a shallow water table aquifer surrounded by sand, silt, clay and gravel located beneath the Great Plains in the United States. Imagine large quantities of oil slowly leaking into these underground aquifers (or as often happens, bursting) into this important water arteries of our country.

“Moreover, only 139 federal pipeline inspectors are responsible for examining over 2.6 million miles of pipelines, that’s nearly 18,000 miles of pipeline per inspector.” said Amanda Starbuck from the Center For Effective Government.

Pipeline companies do not want you to know the enormous amounts of oil and other toxic materials that spill from supposedly ‘safe’ pipelines on a daily basis.

The fact is, since 2009 when domestic oil production began ramping up, “the annual number of significant accidents on oil and petroleum pipelines has shot up by almost 60 percent, roughly matching the rise in U.S. crude oil production…”

“Since 2010, over 3,300 incidents of crude oil and liquefied natural gas leaks or ruptures have occurred on U.S. pipelines. These incidents have killed 80 people, injured 389 more, and cost $2.8 billion in damages. They also released toxic, polluting chemicals in local soil, waterways, and air. Over 1,000 of these incidents occurred on pipelines carrying crude oil.”

Still safe, you think? How about something even safer, perhaps?

more oil spill facts/DAPL lies

© Peter Jamus

Now, try to picture this with me… try to imagine how much damage 470,000-600,000 barrels of crude oil (the amount which will be pumped, daily) would create.

There were 800,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010, and it took four years to clean up, leaving much irrevocable damage).
the last five years in spills
more on the Kalamazoo River oil spill
more information (great article)
Again, I am just citing more recent accidents/articles so it feels current for y’all. There are much more pipeline accidents (which a simple Google search can provide for further context) out there. Most of them are located around the Gulf of Mexico.

Main point: there is nothing “safe” about pipelines. There is nothing “safe” about oil distribution in general.

© Annabelle Marcovicci

Why should we take such a massive risk when we have so many viable, renewable alternatives that don’t pollute our waterways, destroy our ozone, and degrade the natural environment?

Some articles trying to discredit the water protectors will say there’s already a gas pipeline, The Northern Border Pipeline, in the same location as the planned DAPL pipeline. This is correct, but there is more to it than that.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) allows the Tribe to assign historic significance to areas threatened by development regardless of whether projects are on tribal land or not. The Northern Border Pipeline was built in 1981. It was not until 1992, when amendments to the NHPA were approved, that the tribes were given the right to consult on these projects. The Tribe had no legal say in that pipeline route.

Also, jobs, right? Many out there seem to think this would somehow improve the job industry, right? An estimated 8,000 to 12,000 jobs in construction? As far as permanent jobs once it is completed, those are estimated to be around 30. And even better, the oil from DAPL is going straight to other countries instead of staying in our country. How great is that?! Sarcasm aside, how about we focus on finding and creating jobs for more wind turbines and solar panels all across the United States? In fact, that has already started!


Regardless, in my opinion there is a huge difference between a natural gas pipeline and an oil pipeline pumping 500,000 gallons a day of crude oil. Besides, that pipeline’s existence in no way rationalizes the construction of another, more potentially disastrous pipeline.

© Peter Jamus

Pipeline environmental impacts/legalities aside, I stand with the water protectors against the truly nauseating, unwarranted violence they’ve faced, which speaks volumes about this company, our “democracy,” and the ongoing oppression of First Nations people.

On October 27th, four days after the water protectors declared eminent domain for the frontline camp on highway 1806, law enforcement from seven states arrived there fully equipped with riot gear, all-terrain vehicles, armored vehicles and helicopters. They came equipped for an all-out war against a movement that from day 1 has been prayerful and nonviolent. They arrested 141 water protectors after using attack dogs, beating them with batons and assaulting them with mace.

North Dakota Deploys Armed Forces to Force Dakota Access Pipeline Onto Treaty Land from Unicorn Riot on Vimeo.

© Peter Jamus

Law enforcement ultimately destroyed the frontline camp, along with its teepees and sweat lodges (considered sacred). They pulled people out of sweat lodges while they were praying and barely clothed, which is equivalent to pulling worshipers out of a church service.

Once they were done, they used construction vehicles to dump everything in a giant heap for the water protectors later. A lot of religious items and personal items were destroyed in this process.

© Annabelle Marcovicci

That’s not even the half of it, there have been so many reported and documented cases of escalated violence. Even the United Nations and Amnesty International have condemned the human rights violations taking place there.

More recently, Water Protectors at Standing Rock were attacked by police on November 20. At one point they even used water canons (in below freezing temperatures) to disperse the crowd. Water canons in below freezing temperatures can literally kill people. An elder went into cardiac arrest because of them and nearly died if not for the excellent medics on the ground. Over 300 people were reported to be injured.

© Peter Jamus

One woman who had traveled to Standing Rock from New York City, Sophia Wilansky, 21, had her arm horribly blown up by shrapnel coming from one of the concussion grenade thrown by police into the crowd. She was at the frontlines simply to help deliver water to those present.

So many different tactics have been used during this campaign against protesters. Rubber bullets, tear gas, mace, attack dogs, stalking, surveillance being used on phones, undercover agents, blockades to stop supplies and emergency services from coming in easily and so much more. And all of this is in the name of oil.

All of this racism by law enforcement, this refusal of emergency services… this is for oil.

© Annabelle Marcovicci


An image of the path from Sacred Stone to Oceti Sakowen in the morning fog:

I could go on, I really could. I know that this post may polarize my viewers, but I feel so strongly about what is happening out there, that I felt the need to write this. I hope after you have read this, you feel the need to continue to support the cause going on out there.

If you are drawn to helping with donations toward the camp, please do not hesitate to message me and I can direct you in the best way to do so. Also, if you can, please donate our teepee’s fundraiser. We need a few supplies as well, as we prepare for the brutal weather ahead of us.


Our hope is to stay through the winter and see this thing through. We are putting aside our regular jobs to help as best we can out here. The link is at the bottom. I will be posting a video later as well, talking about all of this and answering questions!

Thank you for reading,

Mni Wiconi!

~Peter Jamus