At the Standing Rock Reservation between North and South Dakota, a community of Indigenous activists is working to protect water and water systems across the U.S.

They are known as Water Protectors: a group of cultural organizers who believe in the sacred nature of water and land. 

The launch of the Dakota Access Pipeline was what first brought significant public attention to these Indigenous activists.

The pipeline called for a system that would “connect the North Dakota shale oil fields with the eastern pipeline networks in Illinois,” which would subsequently lead to unclean drinking water and damaged farmland.

After hearing about the news of the DAPL, a tribe of Water Protectors joined with thousands of other Indigenous nations to speak out against it. 

According to National Geographic, in the summer of 2017, tribe members would come to camps around Cannon Ball, North Dakota in traditional Indigenous clothing.

They actively spoke against the implementation of the DAPL and more about their movement to protect the sacredness of water and land.

National Geographic explains that “it had become an international call to protect Indigenous people’s rights, and their land.” 

The group of activists and cultural leaders continue to fight for the protection of water and lands and its inherent sacredness.

While the Dakota Access Pipeline was built after the inauguration of former President Donald Trump, these Water Protectors in North America remain a force for good.

They were recently victorious in speaking out against The Keystone XL Pipeline, another crude oil infrastructure that was canceled on June 9, 2021.

The Water Protectors of Standing Rock remain hopeful that the power of community and cultural activism can make way for safe and efficient infrastructure, and in the process, remind us that water and land are ours to take care of.

A version of this story originally ran in The Water Edition of The Goodnewspaper in October 2020.

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