A lot has been happening in North Dakota since the Standing Rock Sioux tribe first stood up against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that threatens the 174,00 sq mile Ogallala Aquifer.
At least 76 law enforcement agencies have been called in to protect corporate interests, against the peaceful water protectors who oppose them. Representatives from an estimated 280 groups of indigenous peoples (a first in U.S. history) as well as 5,000 veterans have showed up in solidarity with the tribe. Peaceful water protectors have been charged with rioting and attempted murder, while laws are being proposed that would make it legal to run over and kill protestors. Water protectors have lost toes and fingers to the brutal cold. One protector nearly lost an eye to so-called non-lethal police another may lose an arm. Camps have been set up and torn down for “trespassing” on land that was ceded to the native people in 1851.
And photography stars have risen. One of them is Ryan Vizzions, an independent journalist who doesn’t use real name but goes by either Vizzions or “Redhawk,” the name they gave him at camp. When I asked him the reason, he told me that when he first started the FB page, journalists were being targeted. Vizzions has been more committed to the Standing Rock cause than to making a name for himself since he first arrived at camp in September, returning permanently in October. He has given up his apartment to spend all of his time on site photographing the conflict and its surrounds. His photographs delve profoundly into the both the conflict and setting, exposing official lies in the process. To press time garnering 279,413 Facebook likes (to Bismarck Tribune’s 41,050). I met him in early September at Standing Rock when the grass was still jewel box green with occasional purple flowers. It is a beautiful piece of land that hosts this epic, environmental battle.