Protesters have gathered in North Dakota by the Standing Rock Indian Reservation for months in hopes of halting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River, their primary water source, and across ancestral burial grounds. In the last week, they have faced orders to leave from the state’s governor and the Army Corps of Engineers.
But instead of quietly complying the protesters have fortified their camp, saying they will not be moved. “People are going to refuse to leave,” says Tara Houska, an organizer with Honor the Earth. “This is indigenous land—and it means a lot more than just themselves.”
A clash between police and protesters on Nov. 20 erupted at the Oceti Sakowin camp—home to an estimated 4,000 protesters. Police employed tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bags and cold water against protesters in freezing cold weather. The clash lasted 10 hours leaving many injured. Medic volunteers at the camp describe seizures, cardiac arrests, hypothermia and other serious injuries.
Much of the attention from the protesters, who prefer to call themselves “water protectors,” has centered on winterizing their camp to accommodate the thousands of Native Americans from more than 300 tribes who have convened on the site. They have built teepees, Mongolian yurts and other structures and then lined them to sustain winter temperatures and protect against snow. Composting commodes have been placed throughout the camp. And, facing a threat to have food and water supplies cut off, protesters have stored dried meat and protein bars.
“People have been working on winterizing the camp for a number of months,” says Houska. “They know what winter is like.”
Photographer Giovana Schluter visited the Standing Rock protest site twice in the fall, hoping to catch a glimpse of a movement she thought would be unlike anything she has seen before. Many photographs coming out of the camp show moments of protest and tension as demonstrations escalate. But Schluter’s video portraits capture what she calls the “architecture and the culture” of the camp.
“Everything feels very much like a town,” she says. “The roads are starting to be named. Certain parts of the camp feel like the center of the city. Everyone is settling in for the long haul.”
Rebeccah Winnier, a Yakama woman from White Salmon, Wash., comes from a tribe of fishermen who donated 500 smoked salmon to Oceti Sakowin in October.
Rosa Toledo Flynn, from Chile, is part of the Mapuche group of indigenous people and participated in the resistance to the Pinochet regime. She lives in the South Bronx and traveled to Cannon Ball on a caravan bus.
From the left, Michael Goldberg, from Chicago, Ill., Alex Ander Centeno, from Madison, Wisc., and Zachary Lord, from Belgrade, Maine. The house they are building at the heart of Oceti Sakowin will contain a rocket stove, a more efficient version of a common wood stove. “This stove has buried pipes that heat up the floor, while burning half as much wood as a regular stove,” says Centeno.
Alex Von Love, from San Diego, Calif, is a volunteer at Rosie’s Kitchen, one of the many operating at the camp.
Morgan Peña and Linda Tran, from Santa Cruz, Calif., watch a direct action in honor of Native political activist and musician John Trudell, on, Nov. 19.
Activists walked north of Oceti Sakowin to call for the release of Red Fawn Fallis, a Oglala Lakota woman from Denver, charged with attempted murder for allegedly firing three shots at police officers trying to arrest her during an October protest.
Giovana Schluter is a documentary photographer and videographer.
Justin Worland is a writer at TIME covering energy and environment issues. Follow him on Twitter.