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Standing Rock: Nov 2016 - Jan 2017

Maybe it was Thanksgiving weekend, sharing an ironic celebration in a warm home while Water Protectors were shot by rubber bullets, tear gassed and water hosed in freezing temperatures. Maybe it was after my heart shattered when the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) illegally bulldozed sacred Lakota barrel sites or my deep connection to nature, my love for the land and the people who protect it. Maybe it was my own spirituality pulling at my soul. A force greater than that which I could understand at the time. All at once I was swept off my feet with haste, in immediate motion, towards Standing Rock.

The Lakota prophecies talk of a Black Snake. That when the Black Snake crosses the river into the land, the waters will be poisoned, marking the end of the world. It is their eighth ancient prophesy to come into fruition. As our modern society aggressively pursues more crude ways to remove natural res ources from our lands, the Black Snake becomes more than a literal example seen at DAPL, but a metaphor for all extractions that pollute the air, land, and water that life needs to survive.

Greed, blindly following money, illegally forced their bulldozers over sacred land as DAPL prepared to place oil pipelines under the Missouri River. More than 500 treaties between the Native Americans and the United States have been broken, nullified or amended. This land, legally given to the Lakota by treaty, stolen from them when gold was found in their sacred hills, has never been returned.

These portraits document a moment in time where thousands of Water Protectors came to peacefully protest together. A larger collection of my images is currently being explored in book form with the intension of raising awareness to protect our earth through education, action and love.

In the meantime, you can read more about my experience in an interview: here

Mni Wiconi

All images Copyright James Ross Mankoff 2024