Native Americans have been gathering at Standing Rock in North Dakota for months to protest the construction of an oil pipeline that is being constructed on sacred sites and also potentially threatens the area's water supply. The roughly 1,200-mile-long pipeline would run from oil fields in western North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to southern Illinois. It would run under the Missouri and Mississippi rivers as well as a lake near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
It isn't just a single tribe protesting; members of tribes from across the country have gathered in solidarity. The site is now the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years, according to photographer Robyn Beck, who photographed this image of boys riding a horse at the encampment earlier this year. The gathering began to take shape in July is expected to last through the winter.
The protest against Energy Transfer Partners' pipeline has turned ugly several times, with law enforcement using dogs, pepper spray and other means to keep protesters away from barriers that block key roads. Earlier this week, the protests turned particularly violent. According to NBC News:
Tear gas, freezing cold water and rubber bullets were used to disperse a crowd of 400 protesters at the Dakota Access Pipeline in clashes late Sunday and early Monday that left more than 150 activists and one law enforcement officer injured.
Linda Black Elk, a member of the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council of the Catawba tribe, said she treated protesters for injuries and hypothermia and they were soaked by water in temperatures as low as 23 degrees.
Most of the protesters are concerned primarily with preserving Native American cultural sites, but they also want to protect the water supply for themselves and future generations.