It was the young people who launched the #NoDAPL movement to stop construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline on Standing Rock Sioux Tribe land. Now, people from more than 200 tribal nations and a variety of allies have pledged their support. Some are camping out near the construction site to physically obstruct the project. Many of these self-identified “protectors” (rather than “protesters”) have pledged to occupy the area as long as it takes to defeat the pipeline in its entirety–even through the winter. Here are some of their stories captured at the Oceti Sakowin camp by digital storyteller Ayşe Gürsöz from September 16 to September 21, 2016.

 

Ayşe Gürsöz is an Oakland-based digital storyteller and video journalist. Currently, she’s freelance producing for AJ+ and has produced for The Indigenous Environmental Network and Grassroots Global Justice.  

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    Alex Howland (Jicarilla Apache) and Jasilea Rose Charger (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe) are on the International Indigenous Youth Council that formed in August here at Oceti Sakowin camp in Standing Rock. Says Alex: “I knew I had to come out. This is historic and I didn’t want to tell my grandchildren one day that I just watched it from home. We’re all about prayer here. I pray every day, not just about NoDAP but for everyone here and all people of the world. We’re not going to be the generation that stops fighting.”

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    The youth council meets in this tipi. “We are consensus-based,” says council member Andreanne Catt-Ironshell (Eastern Band of Cherokee Nations). ”We all have to agree on things and we all get a say in what we do. We are all understanding and supportive of each other, and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

     

     

     

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    “I was born into a family of AIM members and [I have] a very cultural family. So I grew up in this way of life and my spirit was called here. I’ll stay here through winter, if that’s what it takes. This is my new home.”—Andreanne Catt-Ironshell (Eastern Band of Cherokee Nations)

     

     

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    Pua Case (at left) is an Indigenous Hawaiian leader of the movement to protect the Mauna Kea mountain from the construction of a 30-meter telescope which activists say would desecrate five acres of sacred land. She traveled with daughter Hāwane Rios from the Big Island of Hawaii to Standing Rock to show solidarity.

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    In preparation for winter, the Mohican Nation, Menominee Tribal Enterprises and the National Gaming Association sent a truck with a full load of timber. ”I’ve lived around here for 20 years, so I know what kind of winters they have. Hunters have died because it drops 15 degrees in 15 minutes,” says protector Vivian Billy (Pomo and Ponca). “We’re going to buckle down now. And the tribal council is preparing for winter.”

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    Flags from more than 200 different tribal nations fly at the Oceti Sakowin camp.
     

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    “I couldn’t do anything else but come here. I would pace. I would feel hopeless at home. Now I came here, and I’m staying here,” says protector Vivian Billy (Pomo and Ponca). “We see ourselves as the traditional peacekeepers, the traditional earth keepers. However, it’s a new awakening now. It’s like we’ve known that our whole lives, but we’ve thought, ‘How come nobody’s really doing anything about it?’ Now, the opportunity has shown itself, and it’s all prophetic. And there’s many more [prophecies] to come.”

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     The Oceti Sakowin camp in Standing Rock.

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    Jasilea Rose Charger (Cheyenne River Souix Tribe) was one of about 30 Native youth who in August ran 2,200 miles from Standing Rock to Washington D.C. to ring the alarm about the Dakota Access Pipeline construction. “We’re standing up for what we believe in. What we believe in is clean drinking water. Us standing together in solidarity, we’re giving each other the chance to raise our voices. Many of us have been too quiet for too long, and we let a lot of things happen to us, our people and our land."