A month and a half ago, I was deeply moved by an urgent plea for support from friends and relatives who are in solidarity with the people of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. As a Native photojournalist, I believe it’s important to let our people tell their own stories. That’s why I drove 1,545 miles to connect with the protectors of this land and report on what is happening here. This tribe has been fighting to protect their clean water, critical habitats, and sacred sites from an oil pipeline that would cross under the Missouri River.
For the most part I’ve been documenting the action on the front lines, but there came a moment when I realized I had to take a step back and see something else. I don’t consider myself a landscape photographer, so learning how to capture the beauty of the land was a challenge.
One day I sat near the Cannonball River and listened to the water. It was then that the spirits of this land told me to just follow my light. This is what I saw.
Horses roam free near the Cannonball River.
Sunset at the Cannonball River in North Dakota.
Mississippi River near Fort Yates North Dakota.
Tree and clouds on Hwy 1806 near Mandan North Dakota.
Prairie near the Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota.
Sunset at Sacred Stone Camp.
A tipi stands over night at Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota.
Unspoiled critical wildlife habitat where the prairie meets the Missouri.
The moon rises at the Oceti Sawokin camp.
Josué Rivas is an award-winning Mexica/Otomi photographer and visual storyteller specializing in stories that challenge the mainstream narrative about Indigenous people. He is the founder of the Standing Strong Project, co-founder of Natives Photograph, and fellow at the Magnum Foundation.