Water is Life


Among the snow-covered teepees and burning embers of the campfire, a strong communal chant can be heard echoing over the grassy plains of North Dakota. “Mni wiconi,” which means, “Water is life” in the Lakota language, is just one of the rallying cries of the protesters—or more appropriately—water protectors fighting to save their sacred land. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a $3.8 billion project from Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), is designed to move 570,000 tons of crude oil per day from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois. The 1172-mile trip, which traverses directly through reservation grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, is argued by some to be a safer option than transporting it by rail. What began as a small protest camp in April has since transformed into an encampment with thousands of people, 300 tribes and supporters from all over the world. The #NoDAPL (No Dakota Access Pipeline) movement, supported by the Standing Rock Sioux, claims that the pipeline will directly impact ancestral treaty lands and will threaten the water supply for the neighboring reservation— especially if there is a spill.


Documenting the #NoDAPL movement, Toronto-based photojournalist Nick Kozak camped out at the Oceti Sakowin Camp between November 23rd and December 6th in an effort to shed light on indigenous people’s continued fight for recognition and retribution. As the number of supporters grew, so did clashes between protesters and local law enforcement. Police employed such tactics as pepper spraying, water cannons, and even dogs to disperse the peaceful water protectors.


Written by Chris Ames, ViewFind

A round dance song is performed outside the Big White Dome at Oceti Sakowin Camp on the evening of the announcement by the United States Army Corps of Engineers that a permit will not be granted to the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline to dig under the Missouri River.

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A view at night of Oceti Sakowin Camp, the main encampment of supporters of the efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, from the so-called Facebook/Media Hill.

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Rachel Weeks of Orouville, California, who has been at Oceti Sakowin Camp for over two months, cooks at what is now known as Rachel's Kitchen which started with her cooking for a small number of people and now serves hundreds.

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A school bus that doubles as a makeshift home with a wood-burning stove and solar panels at Oceti Sakowin Camp. The owner who travelled to Standing Rock in the vehicle has been camped out since August.

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Phone numbers, including one for legal assistance, on the arm of a journalist visiting Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Anyone involved in any way in direct actions was advised to have the numbers on their body in case of arrest.

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An Oceti Sakowin Camp security guard organizes firewood next to the entrance to camp.

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Water protectors stand facing law enforcement and the barricades set up at the bridge along Highway 1806 just north of the anti Dakota Access Pipeline encampments.

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Photographs posted to social media showing the injuries sustained by protester Israel Hoagland on a cell phone at Oceti Sakowin Camp. Israel was shot twice by two-inch rubber bullets on the frontline of the conflict. It was only through the help of on-the-field medics, and the 17 staples they administered to his head and back, that he was able to recover.

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Dayne Law of Boise, Idaho and other veterans approach the law enforcement's front line on the bridge along Highway 1806 north of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to show solidarity with the anti Dakota Access Pipelines movement and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. 

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Two volunteers work together to hammer in a stake to be used for a large army tent at Oceti Sakowin Camp ahead of the arrival of hundreds of US veterans.

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A view of the security booth at the entrance to Oceti Sakowin Camp.

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Elders are helped up a hill after arriving at Oceti Sakowin Camp by boat along the Cannonball River.

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Milo Red Tomahawk speaks about the Dakota Access Pipeline and his life on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, at the community center in Cannon Ball.


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Supporters of the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline and US veterans march towards the bridge on Highway 1806, in an attempt to take it from law enforcement, near the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline project work. Severe weather conditions required everyone to eventually return to the camps next to Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

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