Water protectors / Mní Nakíčižiŋpi

 

The Dakota-Lakota, known as Sioux, are famous in the history of the United States because under the command of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, the natives defeated General George Custer and his cavalry at the Battle of Little Bighorn (1876). This victory would cost the lives of hundreds of Indians who were massacred by settlers as retaliation. The government negotiated with the natives the treaty Fort Laramie in 1851 and 68, granting them sovereignty and land rights in the reservations in which the Indians had been confined to live. Treaty that has been violated since then until today. Now they are not only taking away the land they are also taking away the water.

 

The Dakota-Lakota were at the forefront of an environmental, political and human rights movement during 2016-17 Helped by indigenous and eco-activists from around the world, they battled the last segment of the Energy Partners Transfer (ETP) pipeline next to the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in North Dakota. The Indians claim that the US government sold its properties to ETP without prior consultation; Violating the treaty of Fort Laramie.  They also claim its waters will be contaminated by the "black snake" (the pipeline). ETP has been accused of committing 64 oil and gas pipeline accidents between 2014 and 2016. According to an ancient Sioux prophecy, of the earth will emerge a black snake that will destroy everything and will contaminate the water.

 

In this contemporary battle, the natives called themselves Mní Nakíčižiŋpi (Water Protectors), and their goal is to protect the water of Lake Oahe that is supplied from one of the most important rivers in the US: the Missouri River. In this peaceful fight, full of ceremonies, songs, prayers and sacred fires, 800 unarmed people have been arrested by the police and the army, and 69 holy sites have been desecrated. Their roads were blocked and their camps have been raided and forced to be evicted.

 

The portraits and images that compose this exhibition are the result of the documentation that I made of this subject during my trips to the camps in the reservation of Standing Rock. In each photograph there is a story or testimony of a water protector that explains the context of the struggle for cultural survival of the Dakota-Lakota and the American Indian Movement through the history of the Laramie Treaty to our days.

 

The title of each text was translated into the Lakota language, since the indigenous have incorporated their language to the protests popularizing it. The Dakota-Lakota is in the struggle for their cultural survival, this is just a new chapter of a story that has not finished writing. Since the battle of the Dakota-Lakota against the black snake is the same battle that their ancestors fought for their rights and their lives.

 

The photographs were made by hand, using a mid-19th century photographic process called platinum-palladium. With the use of this photographic process I intend to move the spectator between the past and the present of colonial domination and dispossession of the land on the Indians in the United States from the XIX to today.

Under Water Protectors you can also see  the tab named NODAPL my digital documentation used for the articles I published in Colombia and USA.